Los Angeles to New York City roadtrip - the best route and sights

March 8, 2012

Getting ready to travel America, Any suggestions of places to go visit and things to see?!
2 of us road trip to New York from LA we are looking to see Natural wonders & tourist attractions, traveling from 16/4 til end 31/5
I'm based in Auckland, New Zealand

World  •  United States  •  New York
March 10, 2012


Hi! Your road trip sounds absolutely exhilarating; and I'm quite excited to plan this mammoth journey for you. The route from LA to NY is probably the best way to take in the sights and sounds of the USA, with unbelievably scenic routes, natural parks and wonders; and a plethora of other attractions along the way.  

Route 66 (Source: ejharaldseid)

There are many options with regards to what route you can take between the two cities; and which one you choose largely depends on the kind of places you want to see along the way. Since you've mentioned you're a nature lover, we'll take some of the most scenic routes, with many options for visiting beautiful national parks and attractions along the way. 

Grand Canyon DEIS Aerial: Chuar & Temple Buttes (Source: Grand Canyon NPS)

Also, since you've allocated a considerably long time for this trip, I've taken the liberty of planning quite an extensive and long route; so you can make most of this journey!

The route I've thought of for your journey is as follows: LA - Arizona - Utah - Colorado - Illinois - New York - New York City 

New York City skyline (Source: wilhelmja)

The Destinations:

We'll go through the things you can see/do on your journey towards the east coast one state at a time. That way, you'll have a clear idea of the distances being covered; and the time you can afford to allocate to each destination. 

Eriks airconditioned road trip car (Source: Stig Nygaard)

The 3 major interstate highways on this route are the I-80 E, I-40 E and the I-70 E. We'll be travelling through bits of all 3; and as they're all very well connected to each other, any change you would want to make in your itinerary can be easily accommodated. 

This is roughly what the route looks like, with some minor changes that I have mentioned below:


1. Arizona

Arizona, or the Grand Canyon State, has a lot to offer in the way of surreal but beautiful landscapes. The state sometimes seems to be a strange mix of old Western ways amidst new cosmopolitan towns and cities. However, as a traveler, you must visit Arizona for its wealth of natural wonders.

How to get to Arizona from LA:

From LA, you want to take the I-10 E interstate. The distance is around 520 miles; and will take around 12 hours (depending on stoppage time and driving speed). Inside California state, you'll find more traffic regulations; and lower speed limits, but once you reach near the state border, you'll be able to pick up speed.

Things to See:

i) Sedona: It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the Southwest. Whether you want to experience some new-age mysticism among Sedona's famed 'energy vortexes', or just marvel at the surreal, almost otherworldly landscape, this is definitely the place for you. You can hike up to the base of Cathedral Rock; or collect a lifetime's worth of photos at the breathtaking Oak Creek Canyon.

Oak Creek Canyon (Source: Coconino National Forest)

ii) Meteor Crater: One mile across and 600 feet deep, this is the place where a gigantic meteor crashed into the earth around 50,000 years ago, before the dawn of mankind. It is truly an awe-inspiring experience to be able to stand at one of the viewing points at the edges of the crater and look at the sheer size of the crater.

Meteor Crater, Arizona 6 (Source: Ken Lund)

Address: Located off I-40 at exit 233, 6 miles south on the paved road.

Timings: Daily 8 AM to 5PM

iii) The Grand Canyon: Of course, no visit to Arizona is complete without a visit to the Grand Canyon. There are a lot of activities to do here, depending on how much time you give to the visit. You take hikes or walking tours, do some white-water rafting, bird and wildlife-watching; or even take a 45 minute helicopter ride to enjoy unbeatable views of the canyon. This is a list of the various sites at the Grand Canyon National Park. The lodgings inside the park are also really good, so may consider staying there, instead of a hotel/motel in the city.

Address: Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Tel No.: (928) 638-7888

2. Utah

Utah, to the north of Arizona, is a land of opposites. While a lot of the land to the south is covered in sand dunes, dry and arid land, the northern parts have beautiful, thick forests; and offer skiing and snowboarding opportunities. The landscape in this sparsely populated state is described by many visitors as awe-inspiring and beautifully strange. 

hking "The Wave", Arizona (Source: Rick McCharles)

How to get to Utah from Arizona: 

If the Grand Canyon National Park is your last stop in Arizona, the distance from there to Utah is much shorter from any other part of the state. You can either take the UT 95-N or the US 89-N to reach Utah. The distance on both these routes is a little more than 460 Miles.

Things to see in Utah:

i) Bryce Canyon National Park: 'The Grand Staircase' or a series of rock formations on the northern edge of the Grand Canyon forms the Bryce Canyon in Utah. The experience of visiting this place is a completely different one from the Grand Canyon; and has many more trails for hiking and biking. At Bryce, you can even hike all the way down the canyon. But whatever you wish to do there, the spectacle of Bryce is not to be missed, with steeples, cliffs and crevices; and oddly-shaped hoodoos forming the Pink Cliffs.

Queen's Garden trail winding through Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah (Source: Alaskan Dude)

Address: Highway 63/1 Park Road, Bryce Canyon, UT 84764

Telephone: 435-834-5322

ii) Arches National Park: The Arches boast the world's largest concentration of naturally formed sandstone arches. The park has ample trails for hiking. If it gets too hot during the day, you can even take a night-time hike among the arches, when the moonlight gives them a ghostly look. There are many paved roads all over the park, along with hiking trails; so getting around is easy. 

Delicate Arch (Source: msn678)

Address: Arches National Park, PO Box 907, Moab, UT 84532

Telephone: (435) 719-2299

iii) The Wave: This is the rock formation that has been repeatedly been made into computer wallpapers all over the world; and made Utah famous. This surreal sandstone rock formation is colorful, has no distinct shape or form to speak of; and has rugged, trackless hikes. A visit to the wave is highly recommended, as there is literally no place like this anywhere else in the world.

The Second Wave - just as impressive as the first! (Source: Alaskan Dude)

Location: In the Coyote Buttes area of the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness on the Utah/Arizona border. So, if you do plan to visit, make this the 1st destination on your way put of Arizona. 

3. Trail Ridge Road through Colorado

On your way from Utah to the eastern states, you could drive through the Trail Ridge Road in Colorado. Trail Ridge is the name given to a stretch of Highway 34; and is the highest continuous highway in the US. It stretches from Grand Lake, Colorado in the west to Estes Park in the east; and goes through the Rocky Mountain National Park

_MG_9949_50_51Enhancera (Source: markbyzewski)

Trail Ridge is considered to be one of the most scenic drives in the country; and you can definitely afford to take a detour on your way east, as it doesn't take you too much off your original route.

The Arches National Park in Utah is the closest point to the Trail Ridge in Colorado.

4. Chicago

Now that we've traversed through the deserts and wilderness of the western states, it's time to visit some great cities of the USA. One of them ,is undoubtedly Chicago

TheBean_January_7_2011_view05 (Source: --Mike--)

The city of Chicago has a rich culture and a vibrant art and entertainment scene. High-end restaurants and art galleries co-exist with neighborhood diners serving the famous local deep dish pizza; and lowbrow art houses.

How to get to Chicago from Trail Ridge Road, Colorado:

If you do decide to take the Trail Ridge Road in Colorado, then you can take the I-80 E all the way to Chicago. It is one of the main and longest highways in the country; and the drive will be fairly quick . The distance is around 1,047 Miles; and may take an entire day, depending on the time spent at stop-overs. Here is what the route looks like:

How to get to Chicago from Utah:

If you decide to go straight to Illinois from Utah, then the route from the Arches National Park (the eastern-most attraction on the Utah itinerary) would be around 1,363 Miles.

Things To See in Chicago:

i) Lake Michigan: The lake is one of the landmark attractions of the city; and there are countless things you can do there. The Lake Shore Drive provides a great view if you're travelling by car. The beaches are also a great place to relax and enjoy the vistas. The sand on these beaches are smooth and off-white; and are called the 'singing sands' because of the squeaking noise it makes when you walk on it. You can also take a boat ride of the calm waters from one of the piers.

Lake Michigan, Chicago (Source: Herkie)

ii) John Hancock Center: The John Hancock is the third highest skyscraper in Chicago, at 1127 feet. This is the best place to go if you want to enjoy unbeatable views of the city and the lake. For an admission fee, visitors are taken to the observatory on the 94th floor. There is also an audio guide about the history of Chicago; and a skywalk platform. Two floors up, you'll find a lounge, which has no entry fee, so you can enjoy the same view while sipping drinks. 

Chicago - view from John Hancock Center (Source: Harshil.Shah)

Address: 875 N Michigan Ave

Telephone: 888-875-8439

For a more comprehensive list of things you can see and do during your time in Chicago, including cultural and entertainment attractions, you can visit here and here

5. Last leg of the road trip

The last part of your trip will be the commute between Illinois and New York. The journey is of around 790 Miles; and you can again take the I-80 E. However, in the more metropolitan parts of Illinois and New York, traffic will probably be slow moving, with considerably low speed limits. Therefore you may want to ration your time for this trip accordingly.   

New York City Serenade (Source: joiseyshowaa)

If you have the time, you may consider dropping in to see the Niagara Falls on the New York side of the border. The falls from there are just as majestic; and you can take a soaking tour on the famed 'Maid of the Mist' passenger boat.

The distance is of around 530 Miles; and you can take either the I-69 N or the I-94 E. The distance is around 410 Miles; and you can take the I-86 E.

Niagara Falls (Source: Kevin Timothy)



You can expect the weather during your entire trip to be quote pleasant, as the winter season will be on its way out, with signs of spring creeping in. This is good news if you're planning a lot of outdoor activities, especially hiking in the western parts. This is a state-wise prediction of the kind of weather you can expect:

Arizona: Avg. low- 55.3F, Avg. high- 84.5F; light rainfall

Utah:  Avg. high-  72 F, Avg. low- 41 F; light rainfall

Illinois: Avg. high- 45 F , Avg. low- 28 F; windy and cold

New York: Avg. high- 60 F, Avg. low- 43 F; light rainfall

This is a helpful website for tracking weather in real time.

Weather, New York (Source: Gary Soup)

I do hope that all the information provided helps you plan your journey better. If you have any more queries regarding more things to see/do; or even alternate routes, do write back to us. What about accommodation and the best restaurants along the way?

Route 66 (Source: mtarlock)

Bon Voyage!


Answered by I love the vicarious experience of reading & writing about travel. I can't wait for the day when I can afford to travel the entire world! Vinita Menon

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