Scenic Drives in Los Angeles: Drives Heading Inland

Angeles Crest Highway | Photo courtesy of intuned_gato, Flickr

Mountains and deserts, sweeping views of the city, glimpses of the mansions of the rich and famous: these are the rewards for heading inland for one of LA's scenic drives. Whether you're looking for roads off the beaten path or a bit of solitude, inland drives in LA offer plenty of overlooks and opportunities to stop, stretch your legs and enjoy the outdoors. From Mulholland Drive's classic curves to Angeles Crest's secluded wilderness, the SoCal road beckons.

Mulholland Drive from Interstate 405 to Laurel Canyon Boulevard (7.5 miles)

The Vehicle: BMW 5 Series — the ultimate driving experience to handle the twists and turns, and look cool while doing it.

The Story: This drive takes you along the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains, offering amazing views of the San Fernando Valley and the Hollywood Hills. The parade of homes along the way showcases the LA lifestyle and the triumph of engineering and architecture over nature. Glass houses on stilts stand cautiously on the hillside, and architectural wonders with futuristic designs cover the landscape. According to some sources, famous residents who live here include Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio. The road was named after William Mulholland, the head engineer who oversaw the construction of the massive aqueduct that brought water and subsequent growth to the city after being completed in 1913.

Reasons to Pull Over: Several scenic overlooks where you can enjoy the energy of the city below. Need we say more?

Angeles Crest Scenic Byway (55 miles)

The Vehicle: Subaru Outback. Four-wheel drive is ideal for off-trail side trips.

The Story: This is the drive for those who want to get away from it all. Winding 55 miles along the San Gabriel Mountains, past misty valleys, forests and even desert, this drive gives you an entirely different picture of the LA area. The views are the draw of this secluded, often steep tour, where winding mountain passes give way to stunning vistas, and visitors are treated to a spectrum of natural wonders. On this route, you’ll see spectacular views of the San Gabriels and the Angeles National Forest. And the entrance to this byway is near the city, so you won't have to drive far to experience the wilderness.

Reasons to Pull Over: Spend some time fishing in nearby Jackson Lake; take to the trails for horseback riding or hiking; pack a lunch and have a picnic overlooking the mountains; check out the view from the Mt. Wilson Observatory.

Palms to Pines Scenic Byway (56 miles)

The Vehicle: Land Rover. Ready for any type of terrain.

The Story: This scenic drive through the wilderness takes you from the Sonora Desert to the snow-capped mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest in about an hour, offering an impressive variety of wildlife and ecosystems en route. Along the way, desert palms gradually give way to quaint forest lakes, which in turn give way to the rocky peaks of the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains. You’ll also be treated to fabulous, sweeping views of the nearby San Jacinto Wilderness area to the east, and mountain and canyon views to the north and west.

Reasons to Pull Over: Learn about early Native American culture at Cahuilla Tewanet Overlook; fish for trout in Lake Hemet; grab a bite in the picturesque mountain village of Idyllwild.