7 Best Day Trip Destinations From Los Angeles (All Under Two Hours Drive Away)

One of the benefits of living in Los Angeles is being able to take advantage of its convenient geographic location. The city’s close proximity to awe-inspiring locations means you could be hiking through a tranquil forest, standing at the top of a mountain, gazing at desert landscapes, or be exploring exotic islands within a couple of hours.


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Although Los Angeles has a lot to offer, so much in fact that it could take an entire year to visit L.A.’s bucket list worthy attractions, sometimes you just need a change of scenery.

Whether you are a life-long resident seeking unfamiliar territory, or an out-of-towner excited to explore outside of Los Angeles, these beautiful destinations are guaranteed to impress and captivate you.

Here is a list of fun day trip ideas from Los Angeles along with suggestions on how to spend your day there. They’re close enough that should you fall in love with any of these places (like we have) you can easily visit them over and over again!

If you are looking for fun day trip ideas from Los Angeles, these destinations are an easy two hours drive away!

1. Angeles National Forest

Angeles National Forest is a fun day trip from Los Angeles.

Soaring high above the city of Los Angeles is Angeles National Forest, home to the towering San Gabriel Mountains and over 700,000 acres of wilderness. The forest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and the perfect day trip destination if you’re looking for adventure!

Angeles National Forest encompasses high desert terrain, rocky canyons, and lofty mountain peaks. The chaparral shrub forests give way to pine and fir-covered slopes in the higher elevations providing a range of different environments for you to explore.

There are over 500 miles of hiking trails to discover here. Some of these trails offer outstanding views over Los Angeles such as the Strawberry Peak hiking trail. If you enjoy challenging hikes, the trail to Mt Baldy’s 10,064-foot summit is another hike you should put on your bucket list.

But you don’t have to partake in strenuous activities to enjoy Angeles National Forest, there are several lakes where you can pull out a picnic rug and absorb the serenity. Crystal Lake, Castaic Lake, and Pyramid Lake are popular summer destinations for many Angelinos.

The best way to start exploring this wilderness retreat is by jumping on the 66-mile Angeles Crest Highway, a scenic drive which in itself is worthy of a day trip!

2. Malibu

Zuma Beach, Malibu, California.

If you’re craving a beach day, head to Malibu! Malibu’s coastline offers miles of sandy beaches and secluded coves to soak up that California sunshine!

In fact, there are so many beaches in Malibu that you’ll have a hard time deciding which one to spend the day at. A popular choice is Zuma Beach with its beautiful white sand. Surfrider Beach is a good option for you if you want to give surfing lessons a try.

Further north is El Matador Beach and Leo Carillo Beach, both top choices if you are looking to escape the crowds.

In Malibu, you don’t have to be sitting on a beach to enjoy the sparkling ocean, there are other places you can take advantage of the terrific ocean views like from Malibu Pier, the Adamson House Museum, or Point Dume.

There are also numerous hiking trails that lead to dazzling ocean views! Our favorite hiking trails in Malibu with ocean views are Malibu Bluffs Trail, the Rising Sun Trail, Sandstone Peak, and Mugu Peak.

Do you want more ideas on how to spend your day in Malibu? See our guide to the very best things to do in Malibu!

3. Catalina Island

Catalina Island, California.

In less than two hours, you can be whisked away to Catalina Island, a gorgeous island off the coast of Los Angeles that is reminscent of somewhere in the Mediteranean.

The island features a rugged landscape that includes enormous mountains, rolling hills, coastal cliffs, and sandy beaches. But Catalina Island’s best feature is its fascinating sea life! And since Catalina is known for having the clearest waters in all of California, it is one of the best places to go snorkelling and scuba diving.

If you don’t want to get wet though, you can still get a glimpse of underwater life on a mini-submarine tour of the ocean floor or from a glass bottom boat.

The hub for water activities on Catalina Island is Descanso Beach. Here you can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards… and beach chairs too!

Getting to the island is an adventure in itself. You’ll need to hop on the Catalina Express, a ferry service that will take you from the mainland to the island in just one hour and fifteen minutes. An easy day trip from L.A.!

4. Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, California.

Santa Barbara, known for its upscale Spanish-style architecture, red-tiled rooftops entwined with bougainvillea, and panoramic ocean views, is an idyllic place that many people dream of visiting.

Fortunately for L.A. residents (and those visiting the city of angels), this dreamy coastal enclave is a mere 90 minute drive away. Which makes it a perfect day trip destination from Los Angeles!

Begin your day trip to Santa Barbara with a walk along Stearns Wharf where you can take in amazing coastal views and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch. If you’re the adventurous type, you could book a kayak tour and explore Santa Barbara’s sapphire-blue waters. You never know, you might spot a dolphin or two.

Next head to nearby State Street for a spot of shopping, then find a wine bar to sample wine from local vineyards. Afterall, Santa Barbara is wine country. End your day watching a magical sunset at west-facing Butterfly Beach.

Of course there is so much more to do in Santa Barbara that you may want to spend an entire weekend here. For example, vino connoisseurs may want to spend a full day visiting wineries in Santa Barbara. Adventure seekers can partake in outdoor activities that include parasailing and ziplining.

Here’s a guide to all of the best tours in Santa Barbara and vineyards in the area to help you plan your day trip (or weekend getaway).

5. Carpinteria

Carpinteria is an easy day trip from Los Angeles.

Carpinteria is a laid-back beach community on California’s Central Coast. Its location sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains provides a charming backdrop to this coastal town.

This place is the perfect day trip destination for you if you are seeking small town vibes and a relaxed atmosphere. A place where you can decompress and hear your own thoughts.

Enjoy a peaceful stroll along Carpinteria’s bluffs, visit harbor seals on a secluded beach, go birdwatching, and walk through rare coastal wetlands at Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park. Or just sit back and soak up the sunshine at Carpinteria Beach.

All of this is possible on a day trip to Carpinteria! Being only 80-miles north of Los Angeles means that you can escape the hustle of L.A. in just 90 minutes!

Being a casual sort of town, you can expect to find a variety of casual dining options where there is no need to feel under-dressed. Some of the popular places to grab a bite to eat here include Island Brewing Company, Teddy’s By The Sea, and our favorite spot for breakfast or brunch, Brass Bird Coffee & Kitchen!

6. Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area

Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles.

Los Angeles has some of the luckiest residents in the world. Why is that you ask? Because there is no other metropolis that is surrounded by acres upon acres of nature.

Where you can be strolling through the city streets of one of the most populated cities in the United States, and then be standing on top of a 3,000-foot mountain less than an hour later. A city that is encompassed by sky-high mountains. A city where cougars and coyotes roam.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Los Angeles is not only the largest urban national park in the USA, but also the largest urban national park in the world.

These mountains offer year-round recreation for all. Whether you are a resident or from out of town, if you are looking for something exciting to do in L.A., the Santa Monica Mountains are guaranteed to inspire you.

There are more than 500-miles of trails to discover. You can hike, bike, go rock climbing or horseback riding. Visit hidden waterfalls, historic ranches, and former movie set locations.

With so many different parts of the park to explore, you’ll have to take multiple day trips to uncover what the Santa Monica Mountains have to offer. A good place to start is King Gillette Ranch where you can learn about the park’s history and ecology at Santa Monica Mountains Visitor Center.

Adjacent to King Gillette Ranch is Malibu Creek State Park where you can hike to a secret rock pool. You can find hidden waterfalls at Solstice Canyon and Escondido Canyon Park. And if you really want to feel a world away from L.A., take a day trip to the lesser-known Rancho Sierra Vista Park.

7. Channel Islands

Best Day Trips From Los Angeles: Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands encompasses five unique islands which are protected under national park status. The archipelago, which includes Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel, is often referred to as the Galapagos of North America.

On these islands are rare species of animals and plants found nowhere else on earth. The untouched landscape is surrounded by the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary which preserves a breathtaking underwater world waiting to be explored.

Due to its remote location, Channel Islands National Park is one of the least visited national parks in America. Even though getting there can be a challenge, a day trip from Los Angeles is totally doable.

For those who make the effort to visit, once you arrive you will be met with a range of outdoor recreation opportunities. You can hike, kayak, snorkel, dive, birdwatch, go tidepooling, and so much more.

This is the perfect place to take a break from the daily grind, especially for the adventurous and outdoor inclined.

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