The 7 most beautiful places from Los Angeles to Kings Canyon

The 7 most beautiful places from Los Angeles to Kings Canyon

My family loves road trips, and most of the time we even set off after we’ve flown to a place and consider our destination as a base. During our most recent road trip, we found that our drive to Yosemite and eventually Sequoia and Kings Canyon from Los Angeles formed a perfect circle as we encountered some of the most beautiful scenery in California. Although our entire California trip was longer, this was the most spectacular section.

You’ll experience contrasts as you travel from the busiest city to the most desolate landscape in the country, from the lowest point on the continent in Death Valley to the highest peak in the adjacent United States, from sand dunes with no vegetation to dark forests with some of the largest trees in the world World. Listed below are the best stops on this road trip through the best of California.

1. Los Angeles

The variety of landscapes and landscapes of the city and its proximity to the sea and the high desert environment make Los Angeles a city that you should definitely visit in California. And its location offers the best starting point for one of the most scenic road trips in the state.

But before you start the trip, visit a few places in the city. Start with the pier on the famous Santa Monica Beach, then dip your toes in the ocean and walk along the sides in the sand. Or walk the paved path along the shore and enjoy the view. For even better views and a pleasant stroll, head to the cliffs of the Pacific Palisades and hike along the path that borders the cliffs.

For a taste of the Hollywood scene, head to the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard, where you’ll see the stars with celebrities embedded in the sidewalk.

If museums are your thing, the Getty Center is one of the best, which has stunning multi-building galleries. Also read our picks of the best art museums in Los Angeles and what to see there.

Pro tip: Traffic in Los Angeles is some of the worst in the world, and parking spaces are scarce and expensive, so instead of driving, park your car and use Uber or Lyft to get around.

Photo credit: Radoslaw Lecyk /

2. Death Valley

As you leave Los Angeles, you’ll move from the busiest city on the coast to one of the most desolate areas in the continent’s hottest, driest desert, Death Valley National Park, which also features the lowest elevation of 282 feet below that Sea level.

Aside from the oasis where the hotels are, it’s the most desolate area I’ve ever visited – and I live in the desert. But this lack of vegetation and water resulted in a display of some of the most beautiful geological features. Colorful rock formations, salt pans and golden sand dunes enchant the senses here.

You can’t do much more than drive through on a summer visit, but the scenery is still worth it. Stop at the sand dunes, ride the 9 mile Artist Drive, and before you set off, stop at Zabriskie Point for some of the best views in the park.

Pro tip: The best time to visit Death Valley is winter. Spring is still bearable and in some areas adds the spectacle of wildflowers. But with temperatures consistently in the triple digits, summer is the time to avoid this national park except for driving through it in an air-conditioned car.

Mount Whitney, California.Mount Whitney (Photo: Emese Fromm)

3. Lone Pine and Mount Whitney

As the gateway to Death Valley and Mount Whitney, the city of Lone Pine lies between the lowest and highest elevations in the neighboring United States

Known as the backdrop for western films, over 400 of which were filmed here, the city features memorabilia at the Museum of Western Film History.

But Lone Pine is more popular because of its proximity to Mount Whitney and its famous Summit Trail. The spectacular Whitney Portal Road begins and leads to the center of town. Only 13 miles long, the road climbs up steep, dramatic switchbacks to 8,374 feet.

Whitney Portal, a wooded canyon surrounded by towering granite boulders, marks the end of the road. This is where the Summit Trail begins, leading to the top of the mountain on a grueling 10.5 mile hike. However, you will need a permit, proper equipment, and mountaineering experience to hike the 14,494-foot mountain.

Instead, enjoy the portal and its surroundings. Take a shorter hike along Lone Pine Creek and picnic in the shade of tall pine trees.

Pro tips: Remember, you are at a great height; If you are prone to altitude sickness you can feel it, with headache and drowsiness being the most common symptoms. Make sure you drink plenty of water and take it easy when hiking. I also visited Whitney Portal in early June 2021. From June 29, 2021, the area will be closed due to the Inyo Creek Fire through November 2021. Check out the status of the National Recreation Trail here as you plan your visit.

Mammonth Village, California.Mammutdorf (Photo: Emese Fromm)

4. Mammoth lakes

The town of Mammoth Lakes sits at the base of Mammoth Mountain at an elevation of 7,880 feet. As the gateway to the scenic mountain and Devils Postpile National Monument, the city and its immediate vicinity offer year-round outdoor activities in an area of ​​incredible natural beauty.

During our road trip in early June, the Devils Postpile National Monument was still closed, so we couldn’t drive up. If you want to visit it, check the status before you go. But even without them, Mammoth Lakes itself was a highlight of the trip.

Driving towards Devils Postpile will bring you to Mammoth Lakes Ski Area. You can spend some time here, enjoying outdoor activities, shopping, or taking the ski lift for the scenic ride to the top of Mammoth Mountain.

Take the scenic drive around town, then head to the Mammoth Lakes Basin, where you’ll find several crystal clear mountain lakes surrounded by deep pine forests. Here you can enjoy hiking on paths from easy to strenuous.

Don’t leave town before strolling through quaint Mammoth Village in the center of town for great dining and shopping.

5. Lee Vining and Mono Lake

Lee Vining is a really small town and a gateway to the east entrance of Yosemite National Park when it is open. Located at the foot of the Tioga Pass, near Mono Lake, the city offers a perfect alternative to staying in the park.

You can stay in a hotel here if you don’t have reservations at the park or are looking for cheaper alternatives. Lakeview Lodge was our choice. For dinner, you may be surprised to be sent to the Whoa Nellie Deli by locals, especially if you find it is at a gas station. But don’t let that put you off; We had one of the best meals of our entire trip there.

Aside from using the small town as a gateway to Yosemite, this is a great place to spend time exploring Mono Lake, an ancient salt lake. Get free, naturalist-led hikes through diverse habitats and learn about California’s most unusual lake. You wander between strange tufa towers (limestone) and bubbling springs, salt shrimp habitats, wetlands, willows, mugwort and poplar trees. This is also an excellent area for bird and wildlife viewing.

Yosemite National Park.Emese Fromm

6. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park was the main destination of our road trip, and since we needed reservations to enter, we timed everything else. If you visit Yosemite you will have to do the same as visitors now need a reservation to enter the park. Also, to enjoy this road trip you need to make sure that the Tioga Pass is open.

In the park, explore the higher elevations along Tioga Road. Take a hike in Tuolumne Meadows for great views of the waterways and often wildlife. Spend time on the shores of Lake Tenaya, where you can hike the edge path, swim (although the water is always cold), fish, or kayak. Picnic near the rushing Yosemite Creek and stop at Olmsted Point for great views.

Down in Yosemite Valley and throughout the park, enjoy a couple of hikes with great views of the famous falls, surrounded by green meadows and towering granite boulders. As the most famous area of ​​the park, Yosemite Valley is extremely popular and can be congested. However, if you get there early or late in the day, you should be fine. This is also where you will find the park’s visitor center and store.

For the most spectacular (and famous) views of the Yosemite Valley, head to Glacier Point, where you can take several short hikes to various lookout points.

Giant sequoia trees.Twin sequoias, Kings Canyon National Park (Photo: Emese Fromm)

7. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

As spectacular as Yosemite is, the highlights of this trip for me were the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The dramatic landscape of these parks includes towering mountains, deep canyons and rugged foothills, but the most amazing thing about them is that they are home to the largest trees in the world.

Sequoia National Park is home to the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world by volume, 275 feet tall and over 36 feet in girth at the base. An asphalt but steep path leads to it, which you cannot miss. The famous giant is part of the larger sequoia grove, the giant forest, which offers an extensive network of hiking trails, from 1 and 2-hour hikes to half-day and longer hikes.

In the Grant Grove of Kings Canyon you will find the impressive General Grant Tree. The hike through Grant Grove, home to many of the largest sequoias in the park, was probably my favorite in the park. No wonder, because, according to the National Park Service website, “a higher percentage of fully grown sequoias in this grove reach sizes of three, fifteen and twenty feet in diameter than any other grove.” The path also leads through a fallen sequoia tree and offers a glimpse into the hollow tree trunk.

Pro tip: return to Los Angeles via Bakersfield

The easiest way to get back to Los Angeles from Kings Canyon is to drive through the California desert and the city of Bakersfield. The desolate area is in stark contrast to what you’ve just experienced and offers a slow transition through farmland into the world of cities.

Joseph Hubbard

Joseph Hubbard is a seasoned journalist passionate about uncovering stories and reporting on events that shape our world. With a strong background in journalism, he has dedicated his career to providing accurate, unbiased, and insightful news coverage to the public.

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