Best Scenic Drives in Southern California

Scenic Drives in Southern California

Exploring scenic drives in Southern California is a fantastic way to experience the region’s diverse landscapes. From stunning coastal routes to breathtaking mountain passes, numerous drives offer spectacular views. In this article, we’ll share some of the best scenic drives in Southern California that you won’t want to miss.

Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), also known as California State Route 1, is one of the most iconic scenic drives in Southern California. Stretching from Orange County to Ventura County, this coastal route offers stunning ocean views and picturesque beach towns.

Scenic Drives in Southern California
Scenic Drives in Southern California


  • Malibu: Drive through Malibu and enjoy views of pristine beaches and luxurious homes. Stop by Zuma Beach or Point Dume for a relaxing break.
  • Santa Monica: Visit the famous Santa Monica Pier and enjoy the lively atmosphere and beautiful coastline.
  • Laguna Beach: Explore the charming art galleries and beautiful beaches in Laguna Beach.

The PCH provides a perfect blend of natural beauty and cultural attractions, making it a must-drive route for anyone visiting Southern California.

Angeles Crest Highway

For those who love mountain scenery, the Angeles Crest Highway is an excellent choice. This scenic drive takes you through the San Gabriel Mountains, offering breathtaking views of rugged peaks and deep valleys.


  • Mount Wilson Observatory: Stop by the Mount Wilson Observatory for panoramic views and a glimpse into the history of astronomy.
  • Switzer Falls: Take a short hike to Switzer Falls and enjoy the serene beauty of the waterfall and surrounding forest.
  • Newcomb’s Ranch: Visit this historic roadhouse for a meal and a break from driving.

The Angeles Crest Highway provides a refreshing escape from the city, with its stunning mountain landscapes and peaceful atmosphere.

Joshua Tree Scenic Drive

The Joshua Tree Scenic Drive takes you through the unique and captivating landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. This drive offers a mix of desert scenery, iconic Joshua trees, and fascinating rock formations.


  • Hidden Valley: Explore this scenic area with its impressive rock formations and easy hiking trails.
  • Keys View: Drive up to Keys View for a panoramic view of the Coachella Valley and the Salton Sea.
  • Cholla Cactus Garden: Walk through this dense concentration of cholla cacti and admire their striking appearance.

The Joshua Tree Scenic Drive is perfect for those looking to experience the beauty of the desert and the unique flora of the area.

Palms to Pines Scenic Byway

The Palms to Pines Scenic Byway offers a diverse driving experience, taking you from the desert floor of Palm Springs up to the pine forests of the San Jacinto Mountains. This drive showcases the dramatic changes in landscape and elevation.


  • Palm Springs: Start your journey in Palm Springs and explore its mid-century modern architecture and vibrant arts scene.
  • Idyllwild: Visit this charming mountain town and enjoy its art galleries, shops, and beautiful scenery.
  • Lake Hemet: Stop by Lake Hemet for a peaceful picnic or some fishing.

The Palms to Pines Scenic Byway is an excellent way to experience the contrasting environments of Southern California, from the arid desert to the lush mountains.

Big Bear Lake Scenic Byway

Big Bear Lake Scenic Byway is a beautiful drive that offers stunning mountain views, lush forests, and a sparkling lake. This route is perfect for nature lovers and those seeking a tranquil escape.


  • Big Bear Lake: Enjoy various outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, and hiking around the lake.
  • Boulder Bay Park: Stop at this scenic park for a picnic and enjoy the picturesque views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
  • Snow Summit: In the winter, this area offers great skiing and snowboarding opportunities.


Southern California offers a variety of scenic drives that cater to different tastes, whether you prefer coastal views, mountain landscapes, or desert scenery. The Pacific Coast Highway, Angeles Crest Highway, Joshua Tree Scenic Drive, and Palms to Pines Scenic Byway each provide unique experiences and breathtaking views. Plan your next road trip to explore these beautiful routes and enjoy the natural beauty of Southern California.

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