Home Book trading 7 most beautiful places to visit from Los Angeles to Kings Canyon

7 most beautiful places to visit from Los Angeles to Kings Canyon



My family loves road trips, and more often than not we hit the road even after flying to a location, considering our flight destination as a base. On our last road trip, we noticed that our route to Yosemite and finally Sequoia and Kings Canyon from Los Angeles made a perfect circle while traveling through some of the most beautiful scenery in California. While our entire trip to California was longer, this was its most spectacular segment.

You’ll experience contrasts as you drive from the liveliest city to the country’s most desolate landscape, from the lowest point on the continent in Death Valley to the highest peak in the contiguous United States, sand dunes void of vegetation to dark forests featuring some of the tallest trees in the world. Here are the best stops on this road trip through the best of California.

1. Los Angeles

The variety of scenery and landscape of the city and its proximity to the ocean and the high desert environment, make Los Angeles a must-see city in California. And its location provides the best base for one of the most scenic road trips to take in the state.

But before you start the trip, visit a few places in the city. Start at the pier at famous Santa Monica Beach, then dip your toes into the ocean and walk in the sand along its sides. Or walk the paved path along the shore and enjoy the view. For an even better view and a pleasant walk, head to the cliffs of the Pacific Palisades and walk along the path bordering the cliffs.

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

If these are the museums your favorite, you’ll find some of the best at the Getty Center, featuring impressive galleries across several buildings. You can also read about our picks for the best art museums in Los Angeles and what to see there.

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

Photo credit: Radoslaw Lecyk / Shutterstock.com

2. Death Valley

As you move away from Los Angeles, you’ll move from the coast’s busiest city to one of the most desolate parts of the United States. The hottest and driest desert on the continent, Death Valley National Park also includes the area with the lowest elevation at 282 feet below sea level.

Aside from the oasis where the hotels are located, this is the most desolate area I have ever visited – and I live in the desert. But this lack of vegetation and water has resulted in a showcase of some of the most beautiful geological features. Colorful rock formations, salt marshes and golden sand dunes delight the senses here.

There isn’t much more you can do on a summer visit than walk across, but the scenery is always worth it. Stop at the sand dunes, ride the 15 km long Artist Drive, and before you leave, stop at Zabriskie Point to take in some of the best views in the park.

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

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

3. Lone Pine and Mount Whitney

Gateway to both Death Valley and Mount Whitney, the town of Lone Pine sits between the lowest and highest elevation in the contiguous United States.

Known as the backdrop for Western films, over 400 of which have been filmed here, the city displays memorabilia of them at the Museum of Western Film History.

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

Whitney Portal, a wooded canyon surrounded by towering granite cliffs, marks the end of the route. This is where the Summit Trail begins, which leads to the top of the mountain on a strenuous 10.5 mile hike. However, you do need a permit, proper equipment, and mountaineering experience to climb to the top of the 14,494-foot mountain.

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

Pro tips: Remember you are at high altitude; if you are prone to altitude sickness you may experience it, with headaches and dizziness being the most common symptoms. Make sure to drink plenty of water and slow down if you are hiking. Additionally, I visited Whitney Portal in early June 2021. As of June 29, 2021, the area is closed until November 2021 due to the Inyo Creek fire. When planning your visit, check the condition of the National Recreational Trail here.

Mammonth Village, California.
Mammoth Village (Photo credit: Emese Fromm)

4. Mammoth Lakes

The town of Mammoth Lakes sits at the foot of Mount Mammoth at an elevation of 7,880 feet. Gateway to the scenic Mountain and Devils Postpile National Monument, the town and its immediate surroundings offer year-round outdoor activities in an area of ​​incredible natural beauty.

On our road trip in early June, the Devils Postpile National Monument was still closed, so we couldn’t get there. If you want to visit it, check the condition before you go. But even without that, Mammoth Lakes was one of the highlights of the trip.

Heading towards Devils Postpile you will reach Mammoth Lakes Ski Resort. You can spend time here, enjoy the outdoors, shop, or take the ski lifts for the scenic ride to the top of Mammoth Mountain.

Take the scenic drive that circles the city, then head to the Mammoth Lakes Basin, where you’ll find several crystal-clear mountain lakes surrounded by deep pine forests. Here you will enjoy hiking possibilities on trails ranging from easy to difficult.

Don’t leave town before strolling through the quaint village of Mammoth in the town center for excellent dining and shopping opportunities.

5. Lee Vining and Mono Lake

A truly small town, Lee Vining is a gateway to the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park, when it is open. Located at the foot of the Tioga Pass, near Mono Lake, the town offers a perfect alternative to overnight stays in the park.

You can stay in a hotel here if you don’t have a reservation in the park or are looking for cheaper alternatives. Lakeview Lodge was our choice. For dinner, you might be surprised to hear the locals send you to the Whoa Nellie Deli, especially when you realize it’s at a gas station. But don’t let him put you off; we had one of the best meals on our entire trip there.

As well as using the small town as a gateway to Yosemite, you can spend time here exploring Mono Lake, a former salt lake. You’ll have the opportunity to take free walking tours led by naturalists through different habitats and experience California’s most unusual lake. You will walk among strange tuff (limestone) towers and bubbling springs, artemia habitats, wetlands, willows, sagebrush and poplars. It is also a great place for bird and wildlife viewing.

Yosemite National Park.
Emese Fromm

6. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park was the main destination for our road trip, and since we needed reservations to get in, we timed everything else around it. If you are visiting Yosemite, you will need to do the same, as visitors now need reservations to enter the park. Also, to enjoy this road trip, you need to make sure the Tioga Pass is open.

In the park, explore the higher elevations along Tioga Road. Take a hike to Tuolumne Meadows for great views of the waterways and often wildlife. Spend time on the shores of Lake Tenaya, where you can hike the rim trail, swim (though the water is still cold), fish, or kayak. Picnic by Yosemite Creek and stop for wonderful panoramic views at Olmsted Point.

In Yosemite Valley and throughout the park, enjoy a few hikes with wonderful views of the famous waterfalls, surrounded by lush green meadows and towering granite boulders. As the most well-known area of ​​the park, Yosemite Valley is extremely popular and can get crowded. However, if you arrive early or late in the day, you should be fine. You will also find the Visitor Center and the park shop there.

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

Giant sequoias.
Twin Sequoias, Kings Canyon National Park (Photo credit: Emese Fromm)

7. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

As spectacular as Yosemite is, the highlight of this trip for me has been Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The spectacular scenery 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 tallest trees in the world.

Sequoia National Park is home to the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest tree by volume, measuring 275 feet tall, with over 36 feet in circumference at the base. A paved but steep path leads there, not to be missed. The famous giant is part of the largest grove of redwoods, the Forest of the Giants, offering an extensive network of hiking trails, from 1 and 2 hour hikes to half-day hikes and more.

In Kings Canyon’s Grant Grove, you’ll find the magnificent General Grant Tree. Home to many of the largest redwoods in the park, the hike through Grant Grove was probably my favorite in the park. No wonder, because according to the National Park Service website, “a higher percentage of mature redwoods in this grove grow to sizes ten, fifteen and twenty feet in diameter than any other grove.” The trail also crosses a fallen redwood tree, providing an interior view of its hollow log.

Pro tip: Return to Los Angeles via Bakersfield

The easiest way to get back to Los Angeles from Kings Canyon is through the California Desert and the town of Bakersfield. The desolate area contrasts sharply with what you just experienced, providing a slow transition from farmland to the world of cities.