By Rachel B. Levin
December 10, 2014
Top Scenic Drives in Los Angeles
Credit: Jake Stangel

In the tangle of Los Angeles's gridlocked freeways, it might seem like the last thing you want to do for recreation is take a drive. But don't despair: there are patches of LA road where the traffic disappears and the classic California vision of racing across open highways while passing through awesome scenery is still possible. Mostly this happens at the city's margins: curvy seaside pathways, hairpin foothill and mountain roads, and narrow byways that connect the city center to its more pastoral suburbs. Taking a drive along the coast is one of LA's most picturesque pleasures, especially at sunset. But the mountains are just as close, and within an hour you can find yourself in a wonderland of evergreen trees and crisp air with city views. No matter which way you head, you won't want to miss a split second of the fantastic scenery. Go ahead: rent a convertible!

Pacific Coast Highway

You'll want to put the top down for this iconic stretch of highway that hugs the coast, whipping you past stunning Pacific Ocean vistas along the way. The Los Angeles portion of Highway 1 takes you from the wide sandy beaches of Santa Monica to the dramatic cliffs of Malibu.

Mulholland Drive

Twisting through the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, this famous ribbon of pavement offers breathtaking views of the LA basin and the San Fernando Valley, with scenic lookouts along the road. It also happens to be the address of some of the most exclusive celebrity homes in the city!

Arroyo Seco Parkway

Snaking from downtown Los Angeles to Pasadena, this was the West's first freeway. Today, it seems quaint compared to LA's more modern behemoths, as it passes under picturesque bridges and through historic tunnels beneath Elysian Park. As the tree-lined road approaches Pasadena, you'll catch views of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Palos Verdes Drive

This extraordinary coastal drive takes you through the magnificent topography of the Palos Verdes peninsula (scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed here). Rugged cliffs, alcove beaches, and the wide Pacific Ocean await you along the windy asphalt. You might even spot some migrating gray whales as you cruise!

Angeles Crest Scenic Byway

It seems improbable that just minutes from downtown Los Angeles you can enter an expansive forest, but that's exactly what this gorgeous byway allows you to do. Climb up to elevations of 7,900 feet as you twist through towering trees while admiring views of the city and Mojave Desert below.