New York to Los Angeles road trip

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Forget the time-consuming and overwhelming project that planning a coast-to-coast road trip from New York to Los Angeles road trip can be. We are confident that we have nailed the journey with this epic itinerary. Enjoy!

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Route from New York to Los Angeles

Discover several distinct themes along your way from New York to LA.

Start by touring bustling East Coast metropolises. New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC abound with things to see and do for every interest.

Then, connect with nature in the Appalachian Mountains. Cruise along Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway — two of the USA’s most scenic routes — stopping at breathtaking overlooks.

After unparalleled music history, embrace the South’s vast open space. From Springfield, MO, explore desert attractions as you travel west along the Mother Road itself — Route 66.

Finish with the red-rock wonderlands of the American Southwest. Monument Valley may be the most legendary road trip stop of them all, but picking a favorite is a (too) tough task.

Map showing the ultimate route from New York City to Los Angeles
Click for interactive mode.
  • Total distance: 3,677 mi / 5,918 km
  • Total driving time: 62 h 15 min

Keep in mind: These estimates are based on the quickest route from point A to point B. Allow extra time for slower but more scenic stretches along Skyline Drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Route 66, depending on how much of them you want to cover.

1. New York City, NY

Spend some time in New York City before beginning the long journey to Los Angeles. There’s certainly no shortage of things to do in The City That Never Sleeps.

Highlights:

  • Statue of Liberty – Enjoy a boat ride to Liberty Island for close-ups of this monumental gift from France to the USA.
  • Brooklyn Bridge – Traverse East River, between Manhattan and Brooklyn, by foot or bike while soaking up iconic skyline views.
  • Times Square – Be dazzled by the flashing billboards of Times Square, the energy-bursting slice of Midtown that defines NYC.
Yellow cab on street with One World Trade Center on the horizon
Ready to say goodbye to NYC?

2. Philadelphia, PA

94 mi (151 km) / 1 h 45 min

The first stretch of the itinerary, along the predictable Interstate 95, may be the least interesting. Luckily, Philadelphia makes up for it with some early gems.

Highlights:

  • Rocky Steps – Feel like a champion as you run up the steps outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • Liberty Bell – Pose with the bronze Liberty Bell, unable to ring these days but serves as a symbol of freedom and justice.
  • Independence Hall – Visit the exact spot where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.

3. Washington DC

139 mi (224 km) / 2 h 30 min

Make the most of the final big city before the route leads up into the mountains. Is the president home?

Highlights:

  • White House – See the Neoclassical-style building where the USA’s president lives and works.
  • National Mall – Stroll around the landscaped, monument-filled park expanding south of the White House.
  • Smithsonian Institution – Learn something new by exploring some of the Smithsonian Institution’s 17 museums.
The glittering Washington Monument shooting up towards a blue sky
Uncover the National Mall.

4. Shenandoah NP, VA

70 mi (113 km) / 1 h 15 min

Nature lovers, unite! In the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah is the first national park on the itinerary, and it sets you in the right mood with idyllic fields dotted with deer and trees teeming with birds.

Highlights:

  • Skyline Drive – Leisurely drive the 105-mile (169 km) route connecting the must-see spots in Shenandoah National Park, stopping for scenic pullovers and appealing trailheads.
  • Luray Caverns – Briefly exit Shenandoah National Park to descend into the largest caverns in eastern USA.
  • Crescent Rock – Pause at Crescent Rock Overlook (at milepost 44), providing maybe the very best vista around.

5. Roanoke, VA

173 mi (278 km) / 2 h 45 min

South of Shenandoah National Park, the classic Blue Ridge Parkway begins. Roanoke, 120 miles (193 km) down the parkway, makes a first excellent vantage point.

Highlights:

  • McAfee Knob – Tick off a rock overhang perch — on the legendary Appalachian Trail — boasting unforgettable views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • Mill Mountain Star – Walk or drive up to the neon-lit landmark guarding over Roanoke.
  • Virginia Museum of Transportation – Plunge into a specialty museum with a particular passion for travel and transportation.

6. Asheville, NC

244 mi (393 km) / 4 h

Be inspired by another delightful Blue Ridge Parkway town. Backdropped by rolling mountains, Asheville blends nature and thrilling man-made attractions.

Highlights:

  • Downtown Asheville – Have a good time in the historic downtown Asheville, brimming with art galleries and atmospheric places to grab a bite.
  • Biltmore Estate – Dream big at the Biltmore Estate, an 8000-acre complex crowned by America’s largest privately owned home.
  • Pinball Museum – Set new high scores at pinball machines and classic video games as if it were 1987.
Woman walking through lush pergola in Biltmore Village
Visit Biltmore on your way across the country.

7. Great Smoky Mountains NP, NC/TN

87 mi (138 km) / 2 h

Welcome to the most visited national park in the USA. Pioneer history, roadside overlooks, rippling streams, black bears — it’s all here waiting for you.

Highlights:

  • Clingmans Dome – Reach Tennessee’s highest point, at 6,643 feet (2,025 m), where an observation tower provides 360-degree views that, on a (rare) clear day, expand some 100 miles (160 km).
  • Cades Cove – Stop at historic structures and keep an eye out for black bears as you cruise through the most famous valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Dollywood – Break off the outdoor adventure with a theme park dedicated to sharing the Appalachian heritage in both entertaining and delicious ways.

8. Nashville, TN

223 mi (359 km) / 3 h 45 min

You can’t miss the theme in Nashville. On the way from NYC to LA, delve into Music City — the world’s country music capital.

Highlights:

  • Lower Broadway – Dance to music spilling out from bars — honky-tonks — onto this high-spirited street in downtown Nashville.
  • Country Music HoF – Gain a unique insight into the cultural importance of country music and, of course, see who have made it into the hall of fame.
  • Grand Ole Opry – Sit back and enjoy the show that made country music famous.

9. Memphis, TN

212 mi (341 km) / 3 h 15 min

Tennessee’s friendly music rivalry will most likely always be there. We’ll leave it up to you: Is Nashville or Memphis — the home of blues and birthplace of rock and roll — the biggest music mecca in the state?

Highlights:

  • Sun Studio – Appreciate the history of the recording studio where countless superstars, including Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, were discovered.
  • Graceland – Step into the stately two-story 1939 mansion / entertainment complex that Elvis Presley used to call home.
  • Beale Street – Listen to live music on Memphis’ number-one street, extending 1.8 miles (2.9 km) east from the Mississippi River.
Empty street in downtown Memphis, Tennessee
Walk the streets of Memphis.

10. Springfield, MO

286 mi (460 km) / 5 h

It’s time for your Route 66 adventure to begin. As Springfield, MO, is the official birthplace of the history-steeped highway, you couldn’t have picked a better spot.

Highlights:

  • Fantastic Caverns – Bring a blanket to avoid freezing as you travel by tram along an ancient underground seabed where the temperature remains a constant 60°F (15°C).
  • Route 66 Car Museum – Picture these classic beauties traveling along Route 66.
  • Wonders of Wildlife – Journey through a labyrinth of carefully curated exhibits covering both land-based and underwater environments.

11. Oklahoma City, OK

285 mi (459 km) / 4 h 15 min

Ready for the Wild West? A second stop along Route 66, Oklahoma City bills itself as the modern frontier.

Highlights:

  • National Cowboy & Western Museum – Immerse yourself in the Old West’s history, art and culture, an experience elevated by fascinating artifacts and artwork.
  • Oklahoma City National Memorial – Pay your respects to the victims of the horrific 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
  • Arcadia Round Barn – Be thrilled by the sight of a red, round barn next to Route 66.

12. Amarillo, TX

260 mi (418 km) / 4 h

Hit the brakes in the arid Texas Panhandle. The midway point of Route 66, Amarillo caters to road trip lovers.

Highlights:

  • Route 66 Historic District – Wander through a 13-block area dating back to Route 66’s glory days, complete with antique shops and eateries.
  • The RV Museum – Feel the love for road trips at this seasonal museum presenting myriad retro recreational vehicles and other collectibles.
  • Cadillac Ranch – Grace your Instagram with a picture of these nose-first buried Cadillacs, a 15-minute drive west of Amarillo.
Nose-first buried Cadillacs near Amarillo, TX
Snap a picture of these retired Cadillacs.

13. Albuquerque, NM

289 mi (465 km) / 4 h 15 min

Absorb some final Route 66 vibes before steering north for another type of scenery. Whether you crave sightseeing or just a steady meal, Albuquerque has you covered.

Highlights:

  • Old Town – Roam through a historic Spanish-inspired enclave with eclectic boutiques, restaurants and museums orbiting around Old Town Plaza.
  • International Balloon Fiesta – Consider yourself lucky if you visit in October, when vivid hot air balloons dot the Albuquerque sky.
  • 66 Diner – Order a burger and shake at this atmospheric ’50s-style joint, directly on Route 66, of course.

14. Monument Valley, AZ/UT

316 mi (509 km) / 5 h

There it is! On the Arizona-Utah border, enormous buttes protrude from the red desert in an otherworldly fashion.

Highlights:

  • Forrest Gump Point – Snap a picture where Forrest Gump stopped running in the namesake movie (tip: watch it before you go).
  • Monument Valley Tribal Park – Get up close with the unearthly rock formations that characterize Monument Valley.
  • The View & Goulding’s Lodge – Wake up with a breathtaking view, something you can do at the aptly named The View and Goulding’s Lodge.

15. Grand Canyon, AZ

177 mi (285 km) / 3 h 15 min

There’s no other place like this anywhere on the planet. Arrive at the easily accessible, year-round South Rim and see for yourself.

Highlights:

  • Rim Trail – Goggle at the magnificence in front of you from the many effortlessly reached overlooks along the Rim Trail.
  • Bright Angel Trail – Tick off every hiker’s bucket-list trail, connecting the South Rim with the North Rim.
  • Grand Canyon Train – Roll in at the Grand Canyon with the historic Grand Canyon Railway, departing from Williams.
Girl on trail leading into the depths of Grand Canyon National Park
Hike into the Grand Canyon, or just enjoy the view from the rim.

16. Antelope Canyon, AZ

137 mi (220 km) / 2 h 30 min

No, Antelope Canyon doesn’t come close to the massive scope of the Grand Canyon. Yet, these twisting and swirling canyon walls may entice the photographer in you even more.

There are two distinct parts: The Upper Canyon and Lower Canyon both offer those signature shapes (and require a tour guide). In summer, though, the upper section is the star-attraction as it offers the chance to see eye-popping sunbeams penetrate the canyon.

17. Horseshoe Bend, AZ

9 mi (14 km) / 15 min

A rewarding excursion doesn’t need to be long, as shown by Horseshoe Bend. Park your car and take a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) out-and-back stroll to soak up one of the American Southwest’s most iconic views.

When you reach the overlook, admire the Colorado River some 1,000 feet (305 m) below and the sheer cliffs that have resisted the river’s tireless carving. If you didn’t come during a boiling summer’s day (there’s no shade at the overlook), linger around for a bit to let the moment sink in.

18. Bryce Canyon NP, UT

155 mi (249 km) / 2 h 45 min

A world-record population of peculiar rock spires — known as hoodoos — draws visitors to Bryce Canyon. If you visit between April and October, take advantage of the park shuttle to avoid spending your valuable time looking for parking spots.

Highlights:

  • Rim Trail – Be inspired by the many hoodoo-rich vistas along the rim of the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater, the busiest slice of the national park.
  • Thor’s Hammer – Face the most photogenic hoodoo in Bryce Canyon, only a few minutes’ hike from the trailhead at Sunset Point.
  • Southern Scenic Drive – Go on a mini road trip to the southern part of Bryce Canyon, territory the shuttle won’t take you to.
Enormous hoodoo protruding from a hill in Bryce Canyon National Park
Conquer Bryce Canyon National Park.

19. Zion NP, UT

85 mi (137 km) / 2 h

Lace up your best hiking shoes. What makes Zion National Park so great are the hiking opportunities, and there’s a hike to explore for every roadtripper.

Highlights:

  • Riverside Walk – Follow the Virgin River until the canyon, after just over a mile (1.6 km), gets so narrow that the trail becomes one with the river.
  • The Narrows – Continue upstream if you don’t mind getting wet, but be sure to check the weather forecast and flash flooding risk beforehand.
  • Angels Landing – Apply for a permit to hike the most famous trail in Zion National Park, a hair-raising adventure requiring a good balance and comfort with heights.

20. Las Vegas, NV

165 mi (266 km) / 2 h 45 min

Vegas, baby! So near having completed your epic coast-to-coast trip from New York to Los Angeles, celebration is in order.

Highlights:

  • The Strip – Party the night away on the casino-lined Las Vegas Boulevard, or enjoy family-friendly amusements like watching spouting fountains and taking a gondola ride.
  • Hoover Dam – Marvel at the colossal 1936 structure that not only cost millions of dollars but also over 100 human lives, an hour’s drive southeast of Las Vegas.
  • Seven Magic Mountains – Photograph these colorful boulder stacks as you travel onward to Los Angeles.

21. Los Angeles, CA

271 mi (436 km) / 5 h

Congrats on a huge achievement — you have now traveled all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Arrive in LA with new memories that will last a lifetime, and crown the itinerary with a few more goodies.

Highlights:

  • Santa Monica Pier – Celebrate your feat where Route 66 meets the Pacific Ocean and a classic amusement park contributes with casual eateries and joyful laughter.
  • Disneyland – Let your childhood dreams come true in the original Disney park, opened in 1955.
  • Highway 1 – Begin a new journey on California’s famous Highway 1, meandering along the coastline past sun-drenched beaches and through ancient redwood forests.
People enjoying the sunset at the Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles
You did it!

Where to stay between New York and Los Angeles

While the itinerary is complete, you still need to make sleeping arrangements. These places to stay can elevate your experience (and frequently sell out in advance).

Check in at The Mimslyn Inn for comfort halfway down Skyline Drive. On top of the convenience, stately Tuscan columns — imagine the quintessential Southern mansion — add a “wow” factor.

Opt for The View Hotel or Goulding’s Lodge if you want that unearthly Monument Valley scenery on your doorstep. Considering the massive distances in this area, securing accommodation ahead of time is extra important.

Best time to go from New York to Los Angeles

You can enjoy the road trip from New York to Los Angeles at any time of the year. However, what you’ll encounter along the route depends on the season you go.

Mild weather and few crowds make spring an excellent time to drive from New York to Los Angeles. Just keep in mind that secondary roads in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are closed well into spring.

When school is out for summer, the visitor numbers skyrocket in the itinerary’s national parks. Anticipate busier (and sweatier) trails than usual and steeper accommodation rates.

With comfy temperatures and kids back to school, fall may be the best time to hit the asphalt. A colorful bonus is the fall foliage scenery, especially noticeable between Shenandoah NP and the Great Smoky Mountains.

The roads along the route are generally well maintained and a winter adventure is highly feasible, too. Your biggest obstacle is the freezing conditions in the Appalachian Mountains — inclement weather may close roads.

New York to Los Angeles road trip FAQ

How long is the New York to Los Angeles road trip?

This ultimate New York to Los Angeles road trip is 3,677 miles (5,918 km) long, taking 62 hours and 15 min excluding the time you need for the stops along the way.

How many days do I need to drive from New York to LA?

We recommend setting aside at least 4 weeks for the New York to LA road trip. It might sound like a lot of time, but it still puts you at over two hours’ driving per day on average.

Which are the best stops between New York and LA?

Each stop on the itinerary has its own charm. Still, a favorite is Bryce Canyon, filled with unique rock formations in quantities you won’t find anywhere else.

Keep planning your California trip

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