Don’t let your Los Angeles to Yellowstone road trip pass in a blur. Take the scenic route through Utah’s breathtaking red-rock landscape and prepare for Wyoming’s outstanding national parks by tracing rippling rivers just calling for you to stop at roadside overlooks.
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- Total distance: 1,129 mi / 1,817 km
- Total driving time: 19 h 45 min
Route info: This itinerary is perfected for a summer drive, when all park roads are open. Typically from early November to late April, only Yellowstone’s North Entrance is open for cars. You can check the current Yellowstone road status before traveling.
1. Los Angeles
Filled with glamour, Los Angeles makes you dream big like no other place. Picture yourself as a big-shot movie star, one of the few who really made it, as you discover its biggest drawcards.
Admire big views at Griffith Observatory
There’re two kinds of great vistas to be had at the Griffith Observatory, set on top of Mount Hollywood. Soak up world-famous views, featuring Downtown LA and the Hollywood Sign, from its perched terraces and trails. Or step inside the Art Deco-style observatory to marvel at astronomical attractions much further away in our universe.
Play your way through the original Disneyland
An essential consideration for those with kids in tow, Disneyland calls itself the “Happiest Place on Earth”. Play your way through the nine fun-filled lands presented by what’s the original Disney park, opened already in 1955 under the close supervision of Walt Disney himself.
Savor Santa Monica Pier’s timeless pleasures
Undulating Pacific views, laid-back food options (think beach burgers, hot dogs, ice creams, cotton candy and popcorn), classic rides and people of all walks of life make the Santa Monica Pier a timeless attraction. That it also happens to mark the western end of iconic Route 66 adds an extra ingredient for road trip lovers.
2. Las Vegas
- Driving distance: 270 mi / 435 km
- Driving time: 4 h
The first few hours on the road might feel a bit underwhelming, but seeing Las Vegas’ flashing neon lights on the horizon is always special. Get under the skin of the entertainment mecca, or, if that’s not your cup of tea, refuel and continue towards Zion National Park.
Roll the dice on the Strip
A 4-mile (6 km) Las Vegas Boulevard South stretch, from Russell Road to Sahara Avenue, makes up the epicenter of Las Vegas’ entertainment scene. Welcome to The Strip, brimming with pleasures, from eye-poppingly themed casinos to heavyweight live performances to restaurants run by elite chefs.
Where to start? Whether you begin with the statues and columns of Caesars Palace, gondola-dotted canals of The Venetian or high-shooting fountains of Bellagio, you’re in for a pulsating time.
Goggle at massive Hoover Dam
Take a 45-minute drive east of Las Vegas to be rewarded by a tremendous engineering feat. Where Nevada meets Arizona, some 4.4 million cubic yards of concrete were used to build the Hoover Dam during the 1930s, a volume enough to pave a road from San Francisco to New York City. Reflect on the huge effort required as you walk its 1,244-foot length, gazing down at its 726-foot (221 m) height.
Tip: Elevate your visit with a guided Hoover Dam tour.
3. Zion National Park
- Driving distance: 160 mi / 257 km
- Driving time: 2 h 30 min
Above the Virgin River, surrounded by green vegetation, magnificent hues of red dance on the sheer walls of Zion Canyon. Strap up your hiking boots and explore this hiker’s wonderland.
Roam along the Virgin River
Every member of the family can join a stroll along the Virgin River. The 2.2-mile (3.5 km) out-and-back Riverside Walk is paved and lacks the dramatic elevation changes that characterize many other Zion trails, but is no less appreciated.
At the River Walk’s turnaround point, experienced hikers enter the river and continue upstream. Discover the iconic Narrows hike yourself or return back to the trailhead, after having dipped your feet, of course.
Sign up for hair-raising Angels Landing
The most storied hike in Zion, possibly even in the USA, Angels Landing is a mind-bending adventure, and not for the fainthearted. Picture yourself navigating an uneven trail mere feet wide, with a 1,000-foot (305 m) drop on each side.
If you haven’t been deterred yet, consider applying for an Angels Landing permit.
More info: Where to stay in Zion NP
4. Bryce Canyon National Park
- Driving distance: 84 mi / 135 km
- Driving time: 2 h
Twisting and turning, Zion–Mount Carmel Highway provides stunning vistas of red cliffs and bighorn sheep as you cruise towards Bryce. Still you have no idea what awaits when entering Bryce Canyon National Park.
Rock sightsee along Bryce Canyon Road
A Southwest icon, Bryce Canyon boasts the biggest concentration of hoodoos on the planet. These eerily-looking spires, often with a head-like top, come in thousands here.
Immerse yourself in the scenery by hopping from sight to sight along 18-mile (29 km) Bryce Canyon road, cutting the 36,000-acre park in two. It connects an array of breathtaking roadside overlooks, with most hoodoos on display in the Bryce Amphitheatre area.
Tip: During the busy summer season, the Bryce Canyon shuttle makes getting from point A to point B effortless.
Let Thor’s Hammer represent Bryce
From the Sunset Point Overlook, descend into the magical landscape below you for unforgettable close-ups. Soon, 10 minutes down the Navajo Loop Trail, you approach the most renowned member of Bryce’s hoodoo community, Thor’s Hammer.
More info: Where to stay near Bryce Canyon
5. Salt Lake City
- Driving distance: 268 mi / 431 km
- Driving time: 4 h 15 min
Approaching Salt Lake City, founded by Mormons during the mid-1800s, you have the imposing Wasatch Range to your east. While the scenery alone warrants a stop, the symbolic sights in the city’s heart add context.
Roam around Temple Square
Temple Square is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as just the Mormon Church. Leisurely walk around the 35-acre area to view historic monuments and carefully manicured gardens revolving around the Salt Lake Temple, a wowing six-spired structure that it took 40 years to build.
If the experience stirs your appetite for more, sign up for a guided Temple Square tour.
Dip your feet in the Great Salt Lake
Salt Lake City takes its name from the nearby Great Salt Lake, which with a salinity ranging between 5% and 27% is the saltiest lake in the Western Hemisphere.
To feel the resulting buoyancy, take a 20-minute drive west of Downtown Salt Lake City to Great Salt Lake State Park. Or stop by at Antelope Island State Park, where a bison herd adds extra excitement, on your way north towards Bear Lake (adding an hour of driving).
6. Bear Lake
- Driving distance: 122 mi / 196 km
- Driving time: 2 h 15 min
If you don’t drive to Yellowstone via Logan Canyon Scenic Byway, running from Logan to Garden City, you’re missing out. Flanked by sheer limestone walls, it beautifully traces the Logan River before culminating with Bear Lake.
Be wowed at Bear Lake Overlook
After a steady ascent, it’s easy to be distracted when the enchantingly blue Bear Lake suddenly pops up on the horizon. But keep your focus for a while longer and turn right for the Bear Lake Overlook.
From the viewing area, gaze across the landscape below you, marveling at the turquoise color that has earned Bear Lake the nickname the “Caribbean of the Rockies”. While this is a great spot for a picnic, be sure to leave some room for a sweet treat at the lake’s shoreline.
Rate the famous Garden City raspberry shake
Resting on Bear Lake’s edge, small Garden City is committed to milkshake like no other town. Pick from countless eateries providing the famous raspberry shake (you can’t miss the signs) as well as a wide range of other, braver flavors.
Stop for antlers: Between Bear Lake and Grand Teton, the drowsy town of Afton welcomes roadtrippers with the world’s biggest elk-horn arch, comprising more than 3,000 antlers. In the same spirit, Town Square in Jackson, the gateway to Grand Teton, is guarded by four antler arches.
7. Grand Teton National Park
- Driving distance: 150 mi / 241 km
- Driving time: 3 h
After a lovely Snake River stretch of Highway 89, you arrive in the first of Wyoming’s two great national parks. Exploring Grand Teton, you might wonder how on earth this can be a less known sibling.
Immerse yourself in Jenny Lake
There’s no shortage of options to soak up Grand Teton’s most scenic lake. Hike along the shoreline, embark on your very own paddling adventure, hop onto the boat shuttle for an effortless 15-minute crossing or just lay out a blanket and admire the view.
Tip: The boat shuttle cuts off 2-plus miles (3.2 km) each way for the popular Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point hikes.
Wander through Mormon Row
In a mildly sloping cove, Mormon Row consists of structures left behind by what was a thriving community during the early 1900s. Roam around the historic homesteads, contemplating what a harsh yet beautiful setting those who lived here enjoyed and stopping at the T.A. Moulton Barn to capture your own screensaver.
Goggle at Oxbow Bend
The rising Teton Range and winding Snake River come together at Oxbow Bend. At the roadside viewpoint, let Mount Moran’s reflection in the Snake River put you under a spell, possibly accompanied by crowds of professional photographers and thirsty moose and bears.
Where to stay in Grand Teton
Grand Teton National Park gives you two appealing main options: Stay in Jackson, an easy 35-minute drive from Jenny Lake, with all the amenities you can ask for, or opt for the lodging within the park.
More info: Where to stay in Grand Teton National Park
8. Yellowstone National Park
- Driving distance: 75 mi / 121 km
- Driving time: 1 h 45 min
You’re there! Coming from the south, you access Yellowstone via John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway. Dive into all Yellowstone has to offer, from the geothermal features to the wildlife bonanza to the marvelous waterfalls.
Clap your hands in the Upper Geyser Basin
With more than half of the world’s geysers, Yellowstone National Park is a geothermal wonderland. The focal point, the Upper Geyser Basin holds 150-plus of them, including the biggest star. Say hello to the Old Faithful, spouting on average once every 90 minutes in front of a cheering crowd.
Scan Lamar and Hayden for wildlife
Yellowstone boasts a wide range of iconic American mammal species — like bison, elk, moose, bears and wolves — but also quantities that leave visitors speechless. Head into the two wildlife hotspots, Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley, and you’ll soon encounter your first herd, sloth or pack.
Be amazed by vivid Grand Prismatic Spring
Although 370-foot (113 m) Grand Prismatic Spring is the third largest spring in the world, the layers of colors, created by microscopic organisms and ranging from blue in the middle to orange-red outer layers, are what etch in your memory. Wander the wooden boardwalk hugging the spring for close-ups but also be sure to take in the vivid spectacle from above at nearby Grand Prismatic Overlook.
Admire Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
When you think there couldn’t possible be more on offer, Yellowstone scoops up the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Inspect the imposing wonder carved by the Yellowstone River and crowned with two tumbling waterfalls, 308-foot (93 m) Lower Falls and 109-foot (33 m) Upper Falls.
Where to stay in Yellowstone
Yellowstone is huge, and it takes over 2 hours to traverse the park from end to end. Stay within the park to avoid exhausting in-and-out drives.
More info: Where to stay in Yellowstone National Park
Which route back from Yellowstone to Los Angeles?
To return to Los Angeles, exit Yellowstone through the West Entrance and continue south through Idaho Falls.
Then, consider adding a few new experiences for the way back.
- Stop in Lava Hot Springs, ID, to recharge in natural pools.
- Indulge in the potato at Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, ID.
- Hike or ski in Park City, high above Salt Lake City, UT.
- Detour out west and explore Death Valley National Park, CA.
Frequently asked questions
This ultimate LA to Yellowstone road trip is 1,129 miles (1,817 km) long, taking 19 hours and 45 minutes. Add extra time for the stops you make along the way.
A road trip from Los Angeles to Yellowstone rewards you with stunning scenery along the way. Flying to Yellowstone (quickest) or Salt Lake City (to cut down the drive) are fine options, especially for those short on time.
Some of the prettiest stretches between LA and Yellowstone include Zion–Mount Carmel Highway, between Zion and Bryce, Logan Canyon Scenic Byway, leading to Bear Lake, and the stretch of Highway 89 along the Snake River.
At a minimum, spend four days driving from LA to Yellowstone. If you have less time available, consider flying up to Yellowstone instead.