Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

April 3, 2011

What's Your Favorite SoCal-to-Vegas Route?

Posted by Hunter

A couple of friends were traveling from Southern California to Las Vegas recently and their route made me start to wonder how others like to make their way across the Mojave.

What freeways and highways are you using? What are your 'must-stops'? How long does it usually take you?

For me in Santa Barbara, my route goes like this:

1. 101 to the 126 in Ventura
2. 126 to the 5 in Valencia
3. 5 to the 14 near Santa Clarita
4. 14 to the 138 (Pearblossom Highway) in Palmdale
5. 138 turns into the 18 which dumps onto the 15 in Victorville, where you head north to Vegas

Here's a link to the Google Maps version.

The drive is about 350 miles and generally takes about five hours (my best time is 4 hours, 28 minutes - there are a few places you can seriously haul-ass if you want to).

I really like my route - lots of beautiful desert, mostly smaller roads with less traffic - but it's not the path that Google suggests.

If I followed their advice, I'd skirt around Simi Valley and over to the 210, then up the 15. I generally don't like getting that close to Los Angeles traffic unless I'm visiting someone down there. I've used that route and it's not awful but if I can avoid the Cajon Pass, I feel like I'm in better shape.

Like many, I often stop in Barstow (Lenwood) and sometimes Baker, for gas, food and the occasional vomiting (sorry McDonald's).

What's your route? Travel tips? Secret stops?

I'm especially interested in drives from LA proper, Orange County or even San Diego.


Read archived comments (21 so far)
April 3, 2011 5:34 PM Posted by mike_ch

The few times I don't take an airplane (no driver's license), my head explodes trying to comprehend the SoCal road system. I don't understand how you can comprehend it without actually living there.

April 3, 2011 5:50 PM Posted by Hunter

I can totally understand that... and still, some parts of LA get me confused. I guess I'd just say that like anything else, you eventually get used to it.

April 3, 2011 5:52 PM Posted by Rob_in_SB

Hunter I usually do the same route but take the 14 through Lancaster and Mojave to the 58. Two lanes most of the way, can drive pretty fast if you want. Pops out just past Lenwood in Barstow. Drive time same or a little more but drive is really comfortable.

April 3, 2011 5:55 PM Posted by chris from mission viejo

i take from mission viejo ca:

the 5north to the 55 north to the 91 east to the 15 north. exit tropicana then fun time

usually takes me 3 hours 30 mins with no traffic.

must stops are the Alien fresh jerkey shop in baker. its a cheesy gimmick but the jerkey is so good!!!!! very tender.

April 3, 2011 6:09 PM Posted by detroit1051

Must be nice to be 350 miles from Las Vegas. I drove from Detroit once (2,044 miles) and once from Fort Lauderdale (2,500 miles.) It's great to see the country, but when you realize you have to drive back home, it's a little grueling.
My favorite flights were from Detroit to LAS. When the beauty of southern Utah was visible, you knew Las Vegas was only a short distance. Then, when Lake Mead and Hoover Dam appeared, it was a glorious sight., followed by Lake Las Vegas and then the approach to McCarran over Palm Mortuary on Eastern and then the landing. Always thrilling.

April 3, 2011 6:26 PM Posted by Jeff Simpson

After visiting family in southern OC, my route home to Vegas is:

From Rancho Santa Margarita or Mission Viejo:
Toll Road 241 North to CA 91 East
CA 91E to I-15 North
I-15 N to Las Vegas

The 91E and I-15 N stretch to the Cajon Pass (Devore area) is the big variable as far as traffic and time go. Sometimes it can be 40 minutes, sometimes as much as 2 hours or more.
The rest of the trip (from Devore north to Las Vegas) is usually smooth (and fast) unless there are accidents or bad weather in the mountains.
Any stops are usually in Barstow, Baker or Primm.
When I lived in OC during the beginning of the '80s the desolate desert part of the trip was a lot longer. (And the lack of the toll road meant I had to take the CA55n or I-5n to the 91e to I-15n).
The weather, accident and traffic variables can make the trip a pain, but, in general, I think it is a pretty good route and a tolerable trip.

April 3, 2011 6:46 PM Posted by detroit1051

We drove once from Palm Springs on two lane roads through 29 Palms and then by a restored railroad depot in Kelso, CA. Got lost twice. Picturesque, but give me civilization in Las Vegas any time.

April 3, 2011 7:12 PM Posted by Hunter

My wife's aunt used to run the only store in Kelso. I've been to that station a few times. Fun but in the middle of nowhere.

April 3, 2011 8:09 PM Posted by Romaman

I usually like to stop at Barstow and always get a bite at either Chipotle or In In n Out and then take the 15 to Primm. Love to stop at the outlets.

April 4, 2011 7:46 AM Posted by Chris I

I do the exact same drive as you, as I am from Ventura. Every year my wife and I go to Vegas with her parents so we make a few stops along the way so they can stretch their legs. Stop in Acton at the western themed McDonalds for breakfast, then in Barstow at the outlets (my Father-in-law gets new sunglasses every year at the sunglass hut), then the Mad Greek in Baker (if you have a commercial drivers license they give you the "Truckers Discount", free soda and I believe 20% off).

April 4, 2011 9:51 AM Posted by Sam

As a San Diegan who has made the drive countless times in these past three years, the only real decisions you face are:

1) When to cut from the 5 over to the 15. I take either the 52 or the 56, but basically, I cut over as soon as possible.

2) Whether to take the 15 or the 215. I am a 215 guy, as I feel like you encounter less traffic.

Bottom line, the key is to leave San Diego before 12 - otherwise, you will hit traffic. I like to leave at 9 AM, and I consistently get to Vegas by 2/2:30, driving 9 mph over the limit the whole way.

Only stop is In-N-Out and gas in Barstow.

Will be doing this drive in early May, can not wait.

April 4, 2011 9:56 AM Posted by stevecovington

We live in Riverside County so we usually take the 10 to the 62, driving through Morongo Valley, Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley and 29 Palms... Godwin Road>Amboy Road>RT66>Kelbaker Road>Kelso/Sima Road>Morning Star Mine Road>Ivanpah Road>Nipton Road>I15...

We've timed it, and for us, this is usually the fastest route to Vegas... So used to it now, it's a great, quiet drive.

April 4, 2011 11:05 AM Posted by BillyInLasVegas

I have family all over West LA but I always stay in North Hollywood and my favorite way back to Las Vegas is:

CA-134 to I-210 East
I-210 to I-15 N
I-15 N to Las Vegas

But my grandparents who make about 6 trips a year to fabulous Harrah's Las Vegas like to take this route:

Again from North Hollywood to Mojave then Barstow then Las Vegas..
CA-170N to I-5N
I-5N to CA-14N
CA-14N to CA-58
Stop at Barstow
CA-58 to the I-15N
I-15N to Las Vegas!

April 4, 2011 12:18 PM Posted by socalduck

When living in Yorba Linda/ Anaheim Hills area, we simply hopped on the 91 E at Imperial Hwy to I-15N. If traffic cooperates, it can be done consistently in about 3.5 hours. I never would attempt it anytime after noon on Friday; the 91 becomes a parking lot, including the FastTrak lanes.

Outbound, we usually try to make only one stop, and that is at Baker. Del Taco is the preferred food stop. Mad Greek is about the only decent sit-down option, but is WAAAY overrated, IMO.

The return trip always seems like an eternity (and on Sundays or after a major holiday, it often IS an eternity). On the way back, we usually stop at the outlets in Primm, and a second stop in Barstow.

I like stevecovington's route; I may have to try that out sometime just for a change of scenery. I actually enjoy the drive to Las Vegas, I just dread the drive home.

April 4, 2011 3:08 PM Posted by chuckmonster

From Downtown I take I-10 East to I-15 North where I get off at Sloan, bury the body, and get back on the freeway to LV.

April 4, 2011 6:41 PM Posted by detroit1051

Must be a CA type of thing. Never heard anyone east of the Mississippi call highways "the 10" or "the 15" or "the 62", etc. We always call 'em I-95, I-94, I-75, etc.

April 4, 2011 7:22 PM Posted by Hunter

That's funny... you're right, I don't know any CA natives that don't say 'the 101' or 'the 5'... Chuck is showing his east coast heritage.

April 4, 2011 7:52 PM Posted by par88

From the LA South Bay, we take the 91 over to the 605, then N to the 210 and E to the 15. When there's little or no traffic, we've gotten there in 3.5 hrs. About the same as flying when you take into account driving to the airport, parking, waiting to board, getting to the rental car bldg at McCarron, etc.

April 4, 2011 10:38 PM Posted by Mark

From Culver City I jump on the 10, merge left on the 15, exit on Frank Sinatra.

April 5, 2011 3:07 PM Posted by TIavEN

From Glendale I take the 134 to the 210, then 15 N. I'll usually exit at Lenwood in Barstow to grab coffee, but I like going the 3.5-4 hours without exiting. Any other route takes much longer.

April 5, 2011 10:39 PM Posted by Mike E

From Irvine, CA, I take the exact same route Jeff takes. Traffic free (and it usually is), I can get to Cajon's summit in about 50 minutes and Vegas in 3 and a half hours or so.

The bathroom is the very last place in the home I visit before getting behind the wheel. That way, I can usually do the trip in one shot while still keeping hydrated through the desert. If nature still calls, my favorite stop is the recently renovated Valley Wells rest area (the last proper rest area just before Vegas). It's clean, quick, safe, and the surrounding area is stunning.

Not that I advocate this, but with the first of the two proper rest areas on the way to Vegas currently under renovation, timing a bathroom break can be a little tricky. That said, there are some fairly large trees at the very edge of the 15 North several miles before Baker. They provide shade and privacy to such a degree that you'd almost swear they were put there to assist bladder relief. However, they're also an excellent spot for CHP to hide out and I always make sure I'm not the fastest car on the road during this stretch.