Road-Tripping From LA to Palm Springs? Stop at These 5 Places Along the Way

We’ve got two world-class music venues, a wellness oasis and more

June 16, 2023 6:49 am
seating area outside with chairs and pool and palm trees.
Because the journey is an important part of the trip, too
Yaamava/Steven Robles

This spring has been even cooler than normal, so there’s no better time to pack a bag and go explore all that Palm Springs has to offer. It’s only 110 miles from Los Angeles, but there’s so much to do along the way, so why not stretch it out a few days? You’ll find historic hotels and sparkling new resorts in unassuming Inland Empire cities, restored cabins up in Big Bear, and hot springs and hopping bars in places like Pioneertown. Here, five of our favorite stops on an LA to Palm Springs road trip.

building with interesting architecture
The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa is considered a National Historic Landmark
Mission Inn

Historic Mission Inn 

While Riverside isn’t exactly known as a destination town in California, it’s just far enough along the way toward Palm Springs to warrant a stop — especially for a night in this 150-year-old historic hotel. The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa is a National Historic Landmark, and though it began as a humble adobe boarding house in 1876, it slowly grew over the next few decades and now has more than 230 guest rooms with 27 suites. No two rooms are the same, so every stay is a chance to experience a different aspect of the Mission-Revival style architecture. About 90 minutes away from Los Angeles, it’s a great place to hang out for the night because it comes after the bulk of the worst traffic leaving the city, making the next morning’s drive a straight shot to the desert.

large hotel building with pool below it.
At this 17-floor resort, catch one of your favorite artists or try your luck gambling

Yamaava Resort and Casino

In case you don’t spend a lot of time in the San Bernardino suburbs, you might not be aware that a luxury resort and music venue recently opened in Highland, California. The tribe that owns this land added a brand new hotel and entertainment center to the existing casino and rebranded it as Yamaava in late 2021. With a rare, French speaker system from L-Acoustics, this 3,000-seat venue attracts big names like Missy Elliott, The Smashing Pumpkins and Dave Matthews Band. Plan your trip just right to book into a suite at this 17-floor resort, catch one of your favorite artists on an underplay and try your luck gambling a little. There’s also a world-class spa and two pools within the complex, so it’s well worth hanging around for a night or two.

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Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear 

Considering these two beloved destinations are on the way to Palm Springs, it doesn’t make sense not to stop at either Lake Arrowhead — ”the alps of California,” where you’ll have to know a homeowner to gain access to the private community — or nearby Big Bear for a quick mountain getaway before heading into the heat. There are loads of great places to stay at either destination, but the real appeal of this stopover is driving the back way through the gorgeous mountain roads on Highway 18 through the Lucerne Valley and onto State Route 247. This isn’t the fastest way to get to Palm Springs, but it is the most beautiful — and safer during the summer when there’s no ice and snow to deal with.

bar with artistic structure and bottles behind it
Pappy and Harriet’s is known as one of the last, great independent music venues
Pappy and Harriet’s

Pappy and Harriet’s

Now that you’ve taken the scenic route, you’re heading right through a tiny offshoot of Joshua Tree called Pioneertown. There’s not a whole lot here, aside from a bougie trailer park called Hicksville Trailer Palace where you can rent out an Airstream (Lana Del Rey infamously shot her “White Dress” video here), the western-themed Pioneertown Motel and a music venue so iconic that Paul McCartney and Lorde have both played there. Pappy and Harriet’s has become so much more than a music venue over the years: still billed as a barbecue restaurant, you can certainly get some great grilled meat here, but it’s important to know you’re visiting one of the last, great independent music venues. 

hammock tied between two trees over the sand
If you’re looking for even more zen, check out the Two Bunch Palms spa menu
Two Bunch Palms

Two Bunch Palms

In a town literally called Desert Hot Springs, you can expect a few places that offer access to the piping hot mystical waters — and for that, there’s nothing like Two Bunch Palms. This chic boutique outpost has long been a destination for Angelenos who want to leave the city behind. As an adults-only hotel, the tranquility level at this natural mineral water oasis is exceptional. If you need even more zen, look into their spa menu and pick a treatment. You’ll arrive in Palm Springs more relaxed than you’ve ever been, fully recharged and ready to vacation with the best of them.


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