If you need to get from Los Angeles to Palm Springs—or vice versa—you have a few options. Like most people who make the trip, you can drive there. You can also take a bus, an airplane, a train, or try a truly twenty-first-century transport service.
Some of the ways to go sound good at first but turn out to be complicated and time-consuming when you get into the details. This guide can help you pick the best way to make the trip.
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By Car: The Freeway
Most people who travel between LA and Palm Springs do it by driving in a car. It's both the fastest and least expensive way to go, assuming you can find an inexpensive car rental if you need it.
The two city centers are a little more than 100 miles apart, but don't let that fool you. The Los Angeles metro area may be larger than you think. Your starting point could be 20 to 30 miles from downtown LA, which will add to your drive to Palm Springs.
This may sound weird, but the good thing about driving in LA is that it has a lot of freeways. You can take multiple routes to get almost anywhere. The best way to go depends on both where you start—and when. Your best bet for choosing a route is to use an online mapping site or a mobile app.
No matter which route you take from the Los Angeles area to Palm Springs, you'll travel over the San Gorgonio Pass on I-10. It's a dramatic area where the mountains soar almost 9,000 feet above the roadway. It's also prone to road closures.
The pass can be very windy, and it's high enough that it gets snow a couple of times each winter. Check for wind warnings and road closures before you start, especially if you're towing a trailer. Your best resource for that is to search for Highway 10 on the CalTrans app or CalTrans website.
Along the way from LA to Palm Springs, you can shop at the Cabazon Outlets, do a little gambling at the Morongo Casino, or pull off the road to see the Cabazon Dinosaurs, one of those kitschy roadside attractions that some of us can't resist.
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By Car: The Scenic Route
If you like to explore the backroads instead of taking the freeway, try these routes to travel between Los Angeles and Palm Springs the scenic way:
The so-called "Palms to Pines" Highway literally takes you from the mountains to the desert in just 130 scenic miles. If you're coming from Los Angeles, go east through the town of Hemet and then Idyllwild, taking CA Hwy 74 through Palm Desert and CA Hwy 111 to downtown Palm Springs.
The Angeles Crest Highway seems like you're on top of the world. To drive it, escape the Los Angeles basin through La Cañada Flintridge and then into the San Gabriel Wilderness through Wrightwood and San Bernardino.
Landslides and maintenance can close the Crest Highway from time to time, and your best way to be sure it's open is to enter Highway 2 in the CalTrans app or at their website.
Most Scenic (and Longest) Route: You can also take our favorite route to Palm Springs, which turns a two-hour drive into five hours but is extraordinarily scenic: Go south from Los Angeles to the Gold Rush town of Julian. Take CA Hwy 78 through Anza-Borrego State Park, then follow CA Hwy 86 north along the shores of the Salton Sea, past Indio's date palm farms to Palm Springs.
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Palm Springs has an airport. In fact, it's an international airport with the abbreviation PSP. But don't let that fool you into thinking that it's convenient (or cheap) to fly to Palm Springs.
In fact, flights are limited into PSP and often expensive.
If you're thinking about flying to LAX and then taking another flight to Palm Springs from there, don't. Flights from LAX to Palm Springs typically involve a stop in San Francisco (more than 350 miles north) and can take from three to eight hours. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands or are trying to rack up some frequent flyer miles, it's not a practical way to make the trip.
Depending on where you are coming from, Ontario Airport may be a better option. It's only 70 miles from Palm Springs and offers more flight times and airlines (including Southwest). If you don't want to drive to Palm Springs from Ontario, you can find lots of transit options on the Ontario Airport website.
Other Southern California airports in the area include Orange County (100 miles), San Diego (140 miles), Long Beach (110 miles), Burbank (120 miles) and LAX (120 miles). Shuttles from those airports will be expensive, and if you don't want to drive, you'll be making a long trip that involves the bus, train, or other options listed below.
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You won't find any public transit buses making the trip from LA to Palm Springs, but you will have a couple of options for commercial bus services. The bus trip from LA to Palm Springs takes about 3.5 hours
Greyhound Bus: If you check the Greyhound bus website for travel from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, it may appear that they don’t go there. In fact, they do. Sort of. The bus goes to Thousand Palms, which is about 12 miles from downtown Palm Springs. From there, you might have to take one or two local buses or use a ride-sharing service to get to Palm Springs itself.
Greyhound's downtown LA station is at 1716 E. 7th Street. The station in Thousand Palms is at 72-840 Varner Rd which is a stop only, with no ticket office.
Amtrak Thruway Bus: Although Amtrak is a railroad and not a bus company, you can use their Thruway Buses for travel between some Los Angeles locations and Palm Springs. It’s easier to use the website Wanderu to find them than it is to search on the Amtrak site.
Amtrak buses arrive at the Palm Springs at the train station at 100 N. Indian Canyon Drive or at 3400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way.
Flixbus can also get you to Palm Springs from Los Angeles. They have five stops in LA but you have to dig into their website to find that the Palm Springs stop is at 6600 N Indian Canyon Drive. They offer prices so low you’ll be wondering how they manage to make money.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Prime Time Shuttle offers shuttle service to Palm Springs from all of the area airports listed above, but don’t think that’s the cheapest alternative for a non-driver.
In fact, their rates are so high that you’d be better off to take another flight instead.
From LAX, you could ride the Flyaway express bus to Los Angeles Union Station and take Amtrak from there. The Flyaway bus boards on the Arrivals Level in front of each terminal under the green "FlyAway, Buses and Long Distance Vans" signs.
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On the few days a week it runs, you can take Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train directly from LA’s Union Station to Palm Springs.
The Texas Eagle also makes the trip a few days a week.
Both of those trains run late at night, arriving in Palm Springs after midnight.
The rest of the time, you can take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to Fullerton, which connects to an Amtrak Thruway bus to Palm Springs.
Using any of those trains will take about 2.5 hours.
The Palm Springs Amtrak station is located at North Indian Canyon Drive and Palm Springs Station Road. It’s at least 5 miles from there to the busy part of Palm Canyon Drive and further if you’re going to one of the other desert cities. There’s no public transit connection, so you will need to take a taxi or use a shared ride service like Uber or Lyft.
If you want to go to downtown Palm Springs (190 N Indian Canyon Dr) or the Palm Springs airport bus stop instead of the less conveniently located Palm Springs train station, ride the Pacific Surfliner to Fullerton station and connect to the Amtrak Thruway bus to Palm Springs. That trip will take you about 4 hours.