Looking for the perfect long weekend road trip from Los Angeles? In 3 days, you’ll get to sip wine, hike in a stunning national park, and live the glamorous life in Palm Springs. Let’s go!
I love Los Angeles. I love it even more when I get to leave it to explore southern California by car! I want to share with you the perfect 3 days trip from Los Angeles that brings you south-east to Temecula and Palm Springs, and ends with some well-deserved time in Joshua Tree National Park.
THE BEST 3 DAY ROAD TRIP FROM LOS ANGELES
This is one of the best long weekend road trips from Los Angeles, or you can reserve 3 days mid-week for less crowds. Beyond the highways and palm trees of Los Angeles there’s a world of wine tasting, aerial tramway, and desert hiking just waiting to be explored, and tourists of all ages and kinds may enjoy the trip.
Maybe you can add it to a San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip, for the most epic California road trip!
The only rule really for this 3 day tour from Los Angeles is to carry a loooot of water with you and have your good old sunscreen ready. You are all going to fall in love with the region, if you aren’t already. Let’s get started!
1st day: Temecula & Palm Springs
Depending on where you’re coming from in LA, it will take you between 1 and ½ to 3 hours with little traffic to get to your first destination of this 3 day trip from Los Angeles, the town of Temecula, so I recommend hitting the road early in the morning (and check the traffic situation).You have to cover about 90 miles/145 km!
The early rise will be worth it, because the best thing to do in Temecula is hitting the gorgeous wineries that surround it – so yes, get some hearty breakfast before jumping in your car. I mean, could the best weekend trip from Los Angeles not feature any wine?!
➤ Spend the first morning of this mini road trip from Los Angeles at Ponte Winery, an easy 15-minute ride east of Temecula. This family estate is one of the sustainable winery leaders in the area, and it offers wine tasting and tours of the property (vineyard included!) to all visitors. After you’ve witnessed their composting, natural pest control, water management, and recycled packaging activities, you’ll want to stay here forever.
At least, you can have lunch at their restaurant, which offers hormone-free meats and sustainably-farmed fish. Make sure to try the charcuterie plate or the ahi sandwich with grilled ruby rare ahi tuna.
Ponte Winery: 35053 Rancho California Road
Another great option to make the most out of your limited time in Temecula is is to join a half-day wine tasting tour. This wine tasting tour is the top-rated one on Viator, and the most affordable one at the same time. You’ll visit 3 wineries and taste 6 wines at each place – you can also have lunch at the second winery (optional). BOOK IT HERE
➤ If you prefer instead to discover the town of Temecula, head to the downtown area, park your vehicle in the free Old Town Parking Garage (28690 Mercedes St), and wander off! You’ll find the Town Square to your left with a gorgeous view of the mountains and the city under the baby blue sky.
For lunch, you should most definitely go to the hip 1909 eatery and bar just around the corner. Try their banh mi salad, made with napa cabbage and daikon radish, and a Wèi Bloody, namely, a Bloody Mary with a Chinese twist (address: ).
1909: 28656 Old Town Front St.
After lunch, your next stop is…Palm Springs!! Situated about 62 miles/100 km north-east of Temecula, this colorful, warm, and exciting town is world famous, and you should spend at least one day and a half here (rather than taking just a day trip to to Palm Springs from Los Angeles which is what many people do!).
After all, if celebrities such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe used to hang around here, there must be a reason!
➤ My suggestion for the afternoon is to check into your hotel of choice right upon arrival from Temecula, then explore downtown Palm Springs on foot, by car, or with the complimentary bikes that most hotels here will offer you.
➤ Taking selfies in front of the Pink Door, a super-Instagrammable colored house door in the south-west part of town should be on your to-do list. Please be respectful! Remember that this is a private house and people actually live here so be quiet, take your photo and go. Keep driving around, there are some other cool houses in the same area.
➤ The go on and visit the Moorten Botanical Garden, which is open since 1938 and is a couple of minutes away from the famous pink door. You can’t miss their amazing selection of cacti and desert plants.
Pink Door: 1099 E Sierra Way
Moorten Botanical Garden: 1701 S Palm Canyon Dr
Looking to explore what was once known as the “Hollywood Playground”? You can join the Palm Springs Celebrity Grand Tour. This 2.5 hour tour will show you the celebrity homes and some of the most famous landmarks of Palm Springs, while also telling you about the architecture and the Native American heritage of the region. BOOK IT HERE
➤ Spend your first evening out in Palm Springs with a scrumptious dinner of sautéed eggplant and veggie egg rolls at the Vietnamese/new-American restaurant The Rooster and the Pig.
Another great option are the quick and yummy tapas of Tac/Quila, where you can eat “the heart and soul of Mexico.” My favorite plates are the tacos with white fish ceviches and the camarones al mojo de ajo plate.
The Rooster and the Pig: 356 S Indian Canyon Dr.
Tac/Quila: 405 N Palm Canyon Dr
➤ After dinner, if you have it in you, dance the night away at the one-of-a-kind tiki lounge and cabaret, Toucans. Offering a running world-class drag show, weekly theme nights, and exciting cabaret entertainment, at Toucans you may sip a tasty cocktail or do bottle service as well as dance all night long.
Toucans: 2100 N Palm Canyon Dr
WHERE TO STAY IN PALM SPRINGS
▶ LUXURY HOTEL: You cannot miss the Parker Palm Springs if you’re looking for a luxury experience in a hotel with exquisite interiors and top-notch facilities. Between stand-alone villas, secluded bright suites, or pool-side rooms with crisp décor, you won’t know what to love the most.
Check availability and rates here.
▶ BOUTIQUE HOTEL: Saguaro Palm Springs is your boutique hotel that combines young, colorful, stylish rooms with a private balcony (and sometimes a garden!) and common areas such as a pool and a gym.
Check availability and rates here.
▶ MID-RANGE HOTEL: Ace Hotel is another mid-range boutique hotel in the area that is worth checking out. Here, dogs are always welcome, and you’ll find cozy Western décor and a spa with organic treatments.
Check availability and rates here.
▶ ON A BUDGET: The Riviera Palm Springs is where Palm Springs’ legendary past meets comfort on a budget, cool retro design and mid-century flair, and a spa where to escape the local heat.
Check availability and rates here.
2nd day: Palm Springs
Welcome to the second day of your short trip from Los Angeles!
➤ I recommend dedicating at least part of your morning to a tour of the windmills near Palms Springs (already visible from the I-10 highway by the San Gorgonio pass). These modern and wonderful renewable energy sources have become an iconic symbol of the Coachella Valley (where Palm Springs sits) since their inception in 1982.
The best way to do this is joining a one-hour long self-driving tour with audio directions and explanations. You’ll learn the history of the renewable energy industry and get to take stunning photos of this unique environment. You could just take a couple of pictures on your own (from behind the fence), but it wouldn’t be the same. BOOK IT HERE
➤ For a good brunch, head back to town and get a table at Cheeky’s for comfort cuisine prepared through a fresh and inventive menu. Like the smoked salmon scramble and fennel salad, the cocktails are bomb – and if you’re sharing this 3 day getaway from Los Angeles with family, everybody will be very content with the fresh pressed juices.
Cheeky’s: 622 N Palm Canyon Dr.
Is your afternoon going to be a jump into nature or art?
➤ Depending on your passions, I can recommend the Palm Springs Art Museum for its eclectic art and architecture collections. The museum specializes in mid-century modernism, artists from California, and native art as well as local architectural masterpieces such as Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center designed by E. Stewart Williams.
Palm Springs Art Museum: 101 N Museum Dr
➤ For nature lovers, on the other hand, my suggestion is to give a go to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the world’s largest rotating car above the cliffs of Chico Canyon. Tickets are $26.95 for adults and carts depart every 30 minutes.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway: 1 Tram Way.
After the 10-minute long journey, you’ll arrive on top at the Mountain Station, from where more than 50 miles of hiking trails start. Just be careful with the heat and bring water with you! If you do want to hike in the Canyon, it’s best to do it early in the morning before the sun hits. For this 3-day trip, you can just switch the windmills with the tramway visit.
If you’re searching just the best views and picture backdrops in the area, the best time to really use the tramway is late afternoon. That golden sunset light is something not to miss.
➤ Your dinner can also very well happen here, at 8000 ft of height! The Pines Café is open after 4pm for those who purchase a $36-bundle ticket that grants you a ride on the tramway and access to this cafeteria-style restaurant menu.
For something more formal, with the same level of spectacular view, check out the Forest View restaurant and order a rib-eye steak with a side of white truffle butter and asparagus.
➤ Put a sophisticated end to your evening by enjoying your second night out with a cocktail or two back in town at Truss & Twine, an atmospheric bar at the center of the town’s nightlife main street. The gin-based Hanky Panky and Fallen Angel cocktails are definitely worth the visit.
Truss & Twine: 800 N Palm Canyon Dr.
If unfortunately you have limited time, cut the trip here and make it into a 2 day trip from Los Angeles. But if you can, I absolutely recommend not skipping the next destination as it might be the highlight of this short road trip from Los Angeles…
3rd day: Joshua Tree National Park
Pack your back and kiss goodbye to Palms Springs, because it’s time to drive east and continue one of the best long weekend trips from Los Angeles. Joshua Tree National Park embraces the area where the Mojave and the Colorado deserts meets and it’s identified by its namesake, the unmistakable Joshua Tree.
READ ALSO: The Ideal 3 Days in Joshua Tree Itinerary
There are 3 entrances to the park, and coming from Palm Springs, you will want to take the South Entrance. Exit Palm Spring on the highway I-10 south, pass Indio and drive for about 27 miles/44 km until Cottonwood. You’ll then take the ramp to leave the highway and enter the park on your left.
You’ll officially enter the park when you reach the Cottonwood Visitor Center, where you’ll be able to purchase the 7-day vehicle permit ($30), which you’ll want to display on your car.
From Palm Spring, it should take you about 1 hour. Before you leave town, however, make sure to visit a food mart to shop for water, sunscreen, and your lunch. A quick sandwich along with nuts and a trail mix will do the trick while hiking. Also bring a jacket, it can get cold in the desert.
One day in Joshua Tree National Park may seem like not enough time to do everything but the park will surprise you. From the south entrance, the Mastodon Peak trail offers a great 5-mile hike of moderate difficulty with spectacular views and interesting geology (it’s about 2-hour long).
The Lost Palms Oasis is a much more demanding hike that you can do when it’s not too hot out and you have a good amount of time (it’s about 7.5 miles/12 km in length). This area is also one of the best birding spots in the whole park, so just take a seat, take out your binoculars, and look up!
Joshua Tree National Park is also so surprising and unique that a spontaneous hike works also fine, as long as you have water on you, sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen, a map or a compass, and have checked the weather. In other words, be conscious of where you’re going while enjoying the nature surrounding you!
If you prefer to visit Joshua Tree National Park by jeep , then this tour is for you. On this half-day tour from Palm Springs you’ll get off road in a 4×4 and you’ll get to see places which you normally wouldn’t see. Some people say it’s a moon-like landscape. BOOK IT HERE
Once you’ve walked, photographed, breathed through the wind, pondered upon the sight of Joshua trees, and drunk all of your water, you’re probably ready to head back – this Joshua Tree & Palm Springs road trip is over. Jump on your car and turn around, Los Angeles is about 226 km west.
MORE TIME? AN IDEA FOR A 4 DAY ROAD TRIP FROM LOS ANGELES
Book yourself a night at a glamping site in the area! Castle House Estate is my personal favorite option.
READ ALSO: 13 Epic Glamping Spots in Southern California
Book 1 or more nights at any of these locations within the National Park to re-energize in solace, suntan with comfort after a long hike, and experience cosmic shows while gazing at the night, starry sky.
Both Joshua Tree and Palm Springs have warm temperatures all year long, so this is also one of the best winter road trips from Los Angeles.
I hope this post was useful to organize your Temecula, Palm Springs & Joshua Tree road trip, in my opinion one of the best 3 day road trips from Los Angeles you can go on (in addition to the always great option of a weekend in San Diego). If you have any doubts, let me know in the comments!
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