Driving from San Diego to Vegas doesn’t have to be a long stretch of continuous desert. The San Diego to Las Vegas drive is one filled with beautiful landscapes, historic landmarks, and fun adventures. While some attractions will require you to take more time than your average pit stop, they’re worth the visit. There’s nothing wrong with an extended road trip to Sin City!
Pack your bags, gather the group, and fill the tank, because we have all the recommendations to have the best San Diego to Las Vegas drive.
Depending on the route you take on your San Diego to Las Vegas drive, expect to spend at least five hours on the road. Without traffic delays, driving on the I-15 N is the quickest and most direct route, clocking in at about 4 hours and 50 minutes over the course of 330 miles. After driving north a bit, you’ll hit Los Angeles and get to experience LA to Vegas road trip stops like the Calico Ghost Town and Zzyzx Road.
Alternatively, if you want to take a longer road trip to see more of Southern California, take the I-10 E to the CA-62 E. This route is approximately 360 miles from San Diego, and takes around five and a half hours. This route takes you past Joshua Tree National Park and through the Mojave Desert.
An average of 35,650 people drive through the California/Nevada state line at the I-15 Primm exit daily, causing some traffic patches. Friday is the most popular day to start a road trip to Vegas, and running into the road tripper traffic can add an extra hour (or more) to your drive time. Leaving on a weekday or driving in the less-popular hours of the day (hello, 4am drives and coffee!) can help you avoid traffic jams. More cars will be on the road during holidays, school breaks, or during Las Vegas events as well, so take those into account when planning your scenic drive.
Stretch your legs before sitting in a car for hours, and take a hike on the Mt. Woodson Trail. While this isn’t so much a pit stop as it is a pit adventure, being a 6.6-mile round trip trek, Potato Chip Rock is an iconic San Diego landmark.
Before you get too far away from home, test your luck at Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula. This casino floor is the largest on the West Coast with 200,000 square feet of gaming space. This is also a great way to prepare yourself for Vegas casinos!
Soon after the casino is Temecula’s wine country. Grab a bite to eat and a glass of wine at one of the many award-winning wineries in the area. Just remember: drink responsibly if you are driving.
Also known as the Cabazon Dinosaurs, these massive roadside dinosaurs greet drivers on their way to Palm Springs. Take a pit stop and snap some pictures with Dinny, the Brontosaurus and Mr. Rex, the Tyrannosaurus Rex!
Take a break from the confines of your car to experience nature… from above. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s largest rotating tramcar. It’s only a 20-minute round trip, making it the perfect pit stop length.
Take a step back in time in Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs. This museum was hand-built by Cabot Abram Yerxa in the 1940s, and now houses artwork and artifacts from American Indian, Alaska Native, and homestead cultures.
One of the most unique desert landscapes is Joshua Tree National Park. This stretch of land is known for its grand rock formations and unique Joshua trees. If you’re driving through at night, the dark sky is perfect for stargazing.
Officially known as the White Cross World War I Memorial, this stop on your San Diego to Las Vegas drive is a unique memorial to honor fallen soldiers. Since being erected in 1934, the cross has been a great place to pay respects.
Before hitting the casinos and hotels of Las Vegas, Primm welcomes drivers at the California/Nevada state line. Primm is home to three casinos, an outlet mall, and even a roller coaster. Stop to get gas and visit for a while!
Lions and a giraffe that paints… no, this isn’t some bizarre Vegas show. This Las Vegas lion sanctuary has been home to lions since 1989 and has since been educating visitors on the care and conservation of big cats.
Part of the Vegas experience is the adventure of getting there. If you’re planning your next trip to Las Vegas, consider hitting the road and making an adventure out of it.