A road trip is one of the best ways to travel a country. Instead of flying over everything there is to discover you get to experience all of it. On this itinerary everything from star-filled cities and famous tourist attractions to empty deserts and picturesque green mountains are included. The American cross country road trip from LA to New York has it all.
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Cross country road trip from LA to NY itinerary
The road trip from Los Angeles to New York is divided into 5 parts with different themes. The stretches of the trip are Southwestern dreams, Route 66, Cities of music, Appalachian Mountains and Big city life.
- Part 1: Southwestern dreams – Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Zion, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon & Monument Valley
- Part 2: Route 66 – Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City & Springfield
- Part 3: Cities of music – Memphis & Nashville
- Part 4: Appalachian Mountains – Great Smoky Mountains, Asheville & Roanoke
- Part 5: Big city life – Washington D.C., Philadelphia & New York City
- Los Angeles to New York FAQ
You find all stops from LA to New York marked out in different colors on the cross country road trip map below.
- Total driving time: 59 h
- Total distance: 3550 miles (5713 km)
Cross country road trip part 1: Southwestern dreams (yellow on map)
Southwestern dreams goes through the star-filled cosmopolitan areas of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, before heading into the rural desert. Zion National Park, Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon and Monument Valley are places full of natural beauty that will have a place in your heart and mind forever.
On this stretch you get to see two of the most iconic cities in America as well as some of the most impressive nature. Go ahead and dream away, you are in the land of opportunity.
Total driving distance in this leg is about 850 miles (1350 km) and driving time is estimated at 15 h.
A. Let your dreams come true in Los Angeles, California
When you think of the US as the land of opportunity, Los Angeles comes quickly into your mind. Many people have come here to try to live their dreams. Some have succeeded and some haven’t. The way to the top isn’t easy.
Hollywood has seen a great amount of stars rise and fade away over the years. Some really made it while other didn’t. Nevertheless, the Hollywood sign calmly watches over Los Angeles from the Hollywood Hills.
But there is a place in Los Angeles where people get their dreams come true every day. Welcome to Disneyland. Here your childhood dreams come to life. Come by and say hello to your Disney favorites.
Before you take off and say goodbye to LA you should also visit the Santa Monica Pier. Here you can stroll around and take in the beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. Suitingly so the pier sits right at the start and end of the iconic Route 66, America’s highway.
B. Enjoy the metropolitan oasis of Las Vegas, Nevada
- Driving time: 4 hours
- Distance: 270 miles (434 km)
It’s hard to imagine a time when you weren’t allowed to gamble in Las Vegas. But the city hasn’t always been associated with gambling. When gambling was legalized in the state of Nevada in 1931 it meant the start of a boom for the state and the city Las Vegas. Today Las Vegas is a metropolitan entertainment oasis in the middle of the desert.
As the entertainment oasis it is, there’s a lot more in the city to do than to just gamble when you visit on the Los Angeles to New York road trip. You find fine dining at its best and all the shopping you could ask for in Las Vegas. The shows are great and there’s more often than not a good concert to attend to.
Las Vegas with its warm desert climate is also good for outdoor activities. The pretty desert surroundings are there to be explored if you need a break from the city life. The Hoover Dam on the border between the states of Nevada and Arizona is an interesting place to visit. The dam was built to protect from flooding and to provide water and electricity to the area. It’s so huge that the amount of concrete used in building it would be enough to pave a road from San Francisco to New York City.
In the city you find most of the buzz around the famous Las Vegas Strip. But if you look a bit further when you visit on the Los Angeles to New York road trip you’ll find the charm of Fremont Street. On Fremont Street the original Vegas boom took place. So that’s where everything we associate with Vegas today actually started.
C. Beautiful nature in Zion National Park, Utah
- Driving time: 3 hours
- Distance: 160 miles (257 km)
After two cities it’s time for the first national park on the cross country road trip from Los Angeles to New York. And the famous Zion National Park is a great place for a hike to stretch the legs.
Zion is one of Utah’s famous 5 mighty national parks. And the hikes you can make in Zion National Park are amazing. The contrasting red sanstone cliffs and the green trees in the canyons just make each other even more beautiful.
In Zion you can pick an easier hike or a more demanding one depending on what you’re after. Riverside Walk is a shorter one that’s excellent for a casual stroll with the family, while Angels Landing is a thrilling strenuous hike.
Springdale is a great place for where to stay when visiting Zion National Park. The Utah town is located conveniently right at the entrance to Zion NP.
D. The awesome Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
- Driving time: 2 hours
- Distance: 107 miles (172 km)
The next stop on the cross country road trip from Los Angeles to New York is another incredible natural wonder. It’s time to be amazed by Horseshoe Bend in Arizona.
This horseshoe like bend in the Colorado River is located in the outer part of the Arizonian town Page. Even though Horseshoe Bend sometimes is called Grand Canyon East it’s not part of Grand Canyon. But Horseshoe Bend is only a little over 5 miles (8 km) away from the start of Grand Canyon National Park.
If you look over the edge from the majestic overlook you see Colorado River down at the bottom of the canyon. The sunlight is reflected by the red cliffs and blue Colorado River. It’s an impressive sight to say the least.
A good idea is to visit Horseshoe Bend either when the sun rises or when it sets. Just remember that it’s about 1000 feet (300 m) from the overlook down to the Colorado River, so make sure that you walk carefully at the edge. You don’t want to miss the rest of the New York to Los Angeles road trip.
E. A truly unique cross country road trip stop at Antelope Canyon, Arizona
- Driving time: 0.5 hours
- Distance: 10 miles (16 km)
The drive from Horseshoe Bend to Antelope Canyon is by far the shortest on the entire California to New York road trip itinerary. It’s not longer than 10 miles (16 km) between the two.
And few geological formations are as fabulous and mysterious appearing as Antelope Canyon in Arizona. The distinctive wavy canyon walls and thick light beams that reach the canyon floor create an unreal appearance. It’s like something from a different world.
The only way to get access to Antelope Canyon is to use a licensed tour operator. Especially during summer when light beams are more frequent the tours are highly popular, so make sure that you book your tour well in advance.
It’s optimal to stay at a hotel in Page for the visits to Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. Then you can enjoy both places to the fullest without having to deal with very early or late drives.
F. The majestic Grand Canyon, Arizona
- Driving time: 2.5 hours
- Distance: 135 miles (217 km)
Grand Canyon is every traveler’s dream. The huge canyon in Northwestern Arizona has a length of 277 miles (446 km), width of up to 18 miles (29 km) and a depth of more than a mile (1847 meters). It’s simply huge and the ultimate road trip itinerary from LA to NY wouldn’t be complete without it.
The elevation differences bring that the the temperature could differ a lot within Grand Canyon National Park. The highest peaks are very cold in the winters, while the canyon floor faces extremely hot temperatures during the warmer months of the year.
Grand Canyon is best visited through either the South Rim or the North Rim. Both parts offer great viewpoints of the park. However, as the altitude is higher in the northern part it’s generally colder and receives more snow. This causes the North Rim to be closed during the colder months of the year, while South Rim is open every month of the year.
Read more: Where to stay near Grand Canyon >>
G. “Run Forrest, run” at Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah
- Driving time: 3 hours
- Distance: 175 miles (281 km)
The last destination on the Southwestern dreams part of the California to New York road trip is Monument Valley.
Monument Valley is located on the border between Arizona and Utah. The red color and huge rock formations standing on the floor of the valley dramatically characterize the area.
This is where Forrest Gump so famously ended his cross-country run in the movie. In Google Maps you even find the Forrest Gump Point, to make it easy for you to stand on the very same inch as Forrest did.
Even as beautiful as America is, we are happy that we drive from LA to New York and not run cross country like Forrest did.
Cross country road trip part 2: Route 66 (red on map)
The second stretch of the road trip from Los Angeles to New York is Route 66. The ultimate cross country trip needs to include Route 66, the mother road, which goes from Los Angeles to Chicago. In this part of the itinerary you get to see some of the very best parts of Route 66 with cross country stops in Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City and Springfield.
When you drive the main street of America you really feel that the journey is more important than the destination. It’s as much about the trip as about the destination. There are things to see and experience in every corner if you just keep your eyes open and look for them.
Total driving distance in this leg starting from Monument Valley and ending in Springfield in Missouri is about 1150 miles (1850 km) and the driving time is estimated at 18 h.
As the driving time is estimated as the shortest possible time from point A to point B, much but not all of Route 66 is included. Because for some parts a parallel highway can be used. Add some extra time if you want to remain on Route 66 for the whole stretch.
A. Enter the time machine in Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Driving time: 5 hours
- Distance: 318 miles (511 km)
Albuquerque in New Mexico is traditional Route 66 stop and a great place to let your vehicle temporarily rest on the California to New York drive.
Old Town of Albuquerque is a beautiful area to take in and great place to stretch your legs when you visit. Park your car and enjoy the beautiful old mission church, public square and the art galleries. Walk by yourself or take a guided tour if you want more information about the history of Albuquerque.
For food and a fun experience at the same time a good idea is to enter 66 Diner. There you will feel like you have entered a time machine back to the golden days. The venue includes rounded counters with checkered black-and-white tiles, classic diner bar stools, comfy booths and a vintage jukebox loaded with old time favorites. And the staff contributes with their authentic looks. There’s nothing not to like about this retro place. And their cold and thick milkshake is famous. But watch out, you might get a brain freeze!
In downtown Albuquerque you find the KiMo theatre, a theatre and historic landmark that was opened in 1927. It’s a unique place for film, musical performances and theatre. But it’s also worth it to stop on the LA to NY cross country drive just to have a look at the historic venue.
And if you’re lucky enough to be around in October you should fit in a visit to the yearly International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. Imagine hundreds of hot air balloons in different colors rising up over the New Mexico landscape.
B. US Route 66 Historic District and the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas
- Driving time: 4.5 hours
- Distance: 289 miles (465 km)
The cross country road trip from Los Angeles to New York continues on Route 66. After Albuquerque it’s time to continue the drive east towards Texas and Amarillo.
When you are in Amarillo you have arrived at the midway point of the historic Route 66. And a visit to the US Route 66 Historic District in Amarillo is the perfect way to celebrate that.
In the Route 66 Historic District of Amarillo you can get a throwback to the early days of road tripping across America. Here you find original buildings with eye-catching signs along the street. And enjoy the atmospheric shops and places to eat. If you want a Route 66 souvenir to bring with you home, this is a good place to look for it.
Cadillac Ranch is a roadside attraction in Amarillo in Texas since 1974. It consists of half-buried Cadillacs with their noses in the ground. They have been in the ground longer than they were on the road. Nevertheless, to see them and the piece of art they have become is an iconic stop on the LA to NYC road trip.
C. More Route 66 fun in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Driving time: 4 hours
- Distance: 260 miles (418 km)
You notice that the drier landscape in Texas gives way for prairies as we are about to enter the state of Oklahoma. Next stop on the California to New York road trip is Oklahoma City.
In the city two fun and interesting cross country road trip stops for your tour of the world’s most famous route are America’s only round barn and the cowboy museum.
Arcadia Round Barn in Oklahoma City is said to be the most photographed landmark along Route 66. Come here for a cross country stop to appreciate the engineering details of the only barn in America that’s truly round. If you’re interested make sure to enter the small museum to learn more about the history of the barn.
Another institution in Oklahoma City is the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum that proudly collects, preserves and exhibits an impressive collection of Western art and artifacts. The museum is a must see for the Western fan, horse lover, art enthusiast or simply anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the cowboys.
D. Go into Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, Missouri
- Driving time: 4.5 hours
- Distance: 286 miles (460 km)
The cross country road trip from LA to New York continues with a last Route 66 stop. The itinerary goes northeast through Tulsa and then across the Missouri border to Springfield.
Springfield in Missouri is the birthplace of the iconic Route 66. The route was born here an April day in 1926 when a telegram was sent from Springfield to federal officials saying that the to be iconic number 66 for the route through Springfield was accepted.
The birthplace of the most famous route in the world today welcomes visitors to the only ride-thru cave in America and to the city’s Route 66 Car Museum.
Fantastic Caverns in Springfield is great cross country stop. The temperature inside the cave keeps a comfortable constant temperature of about 60 °F (15 °C). And Fantastic Caverns is a ride-thru cave. So you’ll be able to see the whole cave from the comfort of a Jeep-drawn tram. After a lot of driving it’s appreciated to sit back and let someone else handle the transport for you.
In Springield you also find the Route 66 Car Museum. Here you come to admire the more than 60 vehicles ranging from Jaguars, Rolls Royces and a Morgan.
Cross country road trip part 3: Cities of music (blue on map)
After exiting Route 66 it’s time to get to know the Cities of music in Tennessee on the drive from Los Angeles to New York. Memphis is the home of blues and the birthplace of rock and roll. And Nashville that long time ago earned the nickname Music City is the country music capital of the world
Total driving distance in this leg starting from Springfield is 500 miles (800 km) and driving time is estimated at 8 h.
A. The home of blues and birthplace of rock and roll in Memphis, Tennessee
- Driving time: 5 hours
- Distance: 287 miles (461 km)
As the home of blues and the birthplace of rock and roll you have some music history catching up to do when you visit Memphis in Tennessee on the California to New York drive.
The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum can help you with that. Here you explore the history of rock ‘n’ roll and soul music. From the beginnings all the way to the worldwide influence. Musical artifacts from the early days help you to understand the developments from the past til the present.
And in Blues Hall of Fame you can deepen your knowledge about blues further. The blues institution highlights its inductees in five different categories while educating and entertaining visitors about blues.
Of course there needs to be a Music Hall of Fame in Memphis as well. It contains all the artists from Memphis that have created the Memphis legacy and shook our planet with their great music.
The most famous Memphis product ever must be Elvis Presley, the undisputed king of rock ‘n’ roll. He lived in his mansion Graceland and today you have the chance to explore his home and legacy.
Highlights are artifacts such as platinum records and clothing memorabilia including jumpsuits. Elvis’ automobile collection including a pink Cadillac and a Dino Ferrari is another highlight. And don’t miss to see Elvis’ airplanes to see how he made his longer journeys.
B. Discover the Music City and capital of country music in Nashville, Tennessee
- Driving time: 3 hours
- Distance: 212 miles (341 km)
Nashville earned the nickname Music City a long time ago and the city is the country music capital of the world.
You just have to walk in downtown Nashville and Lower Broadway for a few minutes to understand why the city is the undisputed country music capital of the world. There, live music is offered day or night. The bars, the honky tonks, let their music stream out to the streets contributing to the special atmosphere in the city. Enjoying all the live music on Lower Broadway is a great way to experience Nashville.
To immerse yourself more in the country music, a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is strongly recommended. It’s home to exhibits and artifacts highlighting the history and significance of country music. Experience the evolution of one of the fastest growing genres within music. And see how the country genre has influenced many other genres. A visit here also further explains why Nashville is the center of the country music industry.
The Ryman Auditorium is a concert venue in downtown where many legends have performed. What place could be better for a concert than Music City? You can also tour the Ryman Auditorium and hear stories from when Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and even Elvis performed on the Ryman stage.
If you want to go to a country music show when you make the LA to New York road trip, then consider going to the Grand Ole Opry. It boasts to be “the show that made country music famous”. The Opry lets you hear both country music greats and newcomers.
Cross country road trip part 4: Appalachian Mountains (green on map)
The fourth leg of the cross country road trip from Los Angeles to New York takes you up in the northeastern direction through the colorful and mighty Appalachian Mountains. Start with the Great Smoky Mountains before you continue with The Blue Ridge Parkway and road trip stops in picturesque Asheville and Roanoke.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most scenic roads in America and a good way to discover the Appalachian Mountains. You can enter the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Cherokee in North Carolina and it goes all the way up to Afton in Virginia.
Speed limit on the Blue Ridge Parkway is never higher than 45 mph and the roads are free from commercial traffic. And there’s so much to see along the way that you need to budget wisely for all the stops there are to make.
Total driving distance in this leg starting from Nashville is 550 miles (900 km) and driving time is estimated at 9.5 h.
As the driving time is estimated as the shortest possible time from point A to point B, large parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway are not included. Because to a large extent parallel roads that are faster and more direct can be used. Therefore it’s recommended to add some extra time to see more of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A. Impressive surroundings at the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
- Driving time: 3.5 hours
- Distance: 195 miles (313 km)
The Great Smoky Mountains are a mountain range and a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains. The part of the name “Smoky” comes from the natural fog that frequently hangs over the mountains, appearing just like smoke plumes from a distance.
Within Great Smoky Mountains National Park you find beautiful nature and the roads make up for incredible sightseeing opportunities.
Cades Cove is one such unique spot in the park that you can reach by car. It’s an isolated valley which was home to settlers once upon a time. It’s very scenic with the valley floor contrasted by the rugged mountain tops.
And the park is full of wildlife. Bears, white-tailed deer, hogs, turkeys, skunks and raccoons are some of the animals that are spotted all the time.
The city of Gatlinburg is located just at the entrance of the Smokies and it’s a very convenient place to stay in for your visit.
In Gatlinburg you have good access to the amazing nature in the Smokies, great dining options and a great variety of activities for the days you prefer not to spend in the wild. Here you can fully unwind for a few days before you continue the road trip across America.
Make sure that you don’t miss to enter the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Cherokee when you drive from the Great Smoky Mountains to the next stop on the cross country road trip itinerary. It’s one of the most scenic roads in America and certainly one you don’t want to miss.
B. Visit the largest privately owned home in Asheville, North Carolina
- Driving time: 1 hour
- Distance: 37 miles (59 km)
Asheville in North Carolina is located along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s favorite drive. The Blue Ridge Parkway is an experience unlike any other drive on the road trip from LA to NY. Enjoy a slow-paced and relaxing tour revealing the Appalachian landscape. Explore long-range vistas with rugged mountains and idyllic landscapes.
But Asheville is not only about the Blue Ridge Parkway that the town is sits along. There are many reasons to visit Asheville. It’s a very picturesque town with good places to eat, drink and sleep.
A highlight in Asheville is the chance to visit the largest privately owned home in America. At 178,926 square feet (16623 m2) the Biltmore Estate is truly impressive. It was built in the late 1800s by George Vanderbilt II and belongs to the Vanderbilt family to this day.
C. See the Hollywood sign of the Appalachian Mountains in Roanoke, Virginia
- Driving time: 4 hours
- Distance: 243 miles (391 km)
Roanoke is a great stop when you explore the Blue Ridge Parkway on the drive from California to New York. It has entrances to the parkway from many different corners of the city. And Roanoke is literally surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here nature is always near.
Like Hollywood has its Hollywood sign, Roanoke has the Roanoke Star. On top of Mill Mountain, the star that is a symbol for Roanoke looks out over the city and its surroundings.
You can drive, hike or bike up to the star that’s almost 90 feet (30 m) tall. Up at the top of the mountain you get a close-up view of the star as well as a reward in form of the impressive panoramic view of Roanoke and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
And a little further outside Roanoke you find more incredible vistas. The most spectacular of them all and a real Blue Ridge Parkway highlight is the McAfee Knob. It’s a a rock overhang perch on the Appalachian Trail. If you decide to make the hike you’re up for unbeatable Appalachian views.
Cross country road trip part 5: Big city life (grey on map)
The road trip across America from Los Angeles to New York ends with the stretch Big city life and a visit to some of the most influential cities in the US. Meet the president in Washington D.C., stop by at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and finish in style in always busy New York City.
Total driving distance in this leg starting from Roanoke is 500 miles (800 km) and driving time is estimated at 8.5 h.
A. Pay a visit to the White House in Washington D.C.
- Driving time: 4 hours
- Distance: 240 miles (386 km)
In the center of the capital of the US you find the National Mall. It’s a park where you find many major historical buildings and monuments.
A few of the landmarks in the National Mall there are the Capitol Building, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial and of course the White House.
There is so much to see that you can’t fully appreciate it all if you only have a day. But everything within the National Mall is available by foot. So take this opportunity and let the car rest while you explore not only the history of Washington D.C, but also the history of the entire country.
And who knows, maybe the president waves at you when you approach the White House?
Read more: An evening walk in Washington, D.C. >>
B. Feel like Rocky as you head to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Driving time: 3 hours
- Distance: 142 miles (228 km)
Being located so close to the giant New York City and the capital Washington D.C, you can argue that Philadelphia doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s hard not to be overshadowed by an enormous place like NYC or the importance of Washington.
The mighty Liberty Bell in Philadelphia doesn’t make a sound nowadays, but the inscription “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” is as clear as it was the last time it rang. Go to the Independence Hall and inspect the symbol for freedom with your own eyes.
If you have seen the Rocky movies you also have seen the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Join other travelers and jog up the stairs just like Rocky as you visit in the Los Angeles to New York road trip. And don’t forget to take a picture with Rocky himself at the bottom of the stairs.
For food you definitely need to have a Philly cheesesteak. Maybe you have had one before, but they taste better in Philly than anywhere else. The thinly sliced steak, cheese, fried onions and hoagie roll will make you crave for another one.
C. Finish the cross country road trip in New York City
- Driving time: 2 hours
- Distance: 98 miles (157 km)
Now you have completed the drive across the country, but you have the last destination left to discover. And it’s not any stop, it’s New York!
In Philadelphia the Liberty Bell is the symbol for freedom. In New York it’s the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island. With a boat tour you can get all the way out to the island to get a close look.
Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most if not the most famous bridge in the world. From the bridge you have a fantastic view over the Manhattan skyline. Especially after the long drive it feels good to put on your shoes, walk the bridge and admire the views.
The skyscrapers on Manhattan are from different periods of time. Empire State Building and the Chrysler building are older buildings while One World Trade Center represents the new. For the bird eye perspective of NYC you can go up to the top of Empire State Building and admire the massive city from up there.
From the top of Empire State Building you can see Central Park, the green oasis in the middle of the city. There you can find peace even a busy day.
And if you like art you have come to the right city. The art scene in New York is outstanding and will please the most spoiled art-lover. There’s the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and of course much more.
Relaxing Central Park and quiet museums meet a great contrast in the always buzzing Times Square. Here the pulsating energy of the city is seen day or night.
New York with all it has to offer is a great place to end your road trip. But if you want to continue driving consider making the trip to Niagara Falls at the border between the US and Canada for another powerful experience.
American cross country road trip FAQ
You find the answers to some frequently asked questions about the American cross country road trip from Los Angeles to New York.
The distance from Los Angeles to New York is roughly 2800 miles (4500 km) and takes 41 h to drive if you take the quickest route. However, that’s not the most scenic route from California to New York. The driving distance of the suggested cross country route from Los Angeles to New York is 3550 miles (5700 km) and takes 59 h to drive. It’s longer but you also get to see more scenic places compared to if you take the quickest route.
It’s recommended to have 4 weeks or more to fully enjoy the trip. With an estimated driving time of 59 h you will drive on average 2 h a day if you have a full month.
The short answer is that it doesn’t matter. You can do the itinerary from either direction. Road tripping from New York to Los Angeles is as good as doing it Los Angeles to New York.
The estimated driving time for the cross country road trip from LA to NYC was calculated with Google Maps by taking the shortest amount of time from point A to point B and rounding upwards to the next half hour. Any stops during the cross country road trip are not included in the driving time.