How to Travel From LA to Palm Springs by Train, Bus, Car, and Plane

TripSavvy / Jerry Lue

Often, when Angelenos find themselves craving a desert getaway or a dose of luxury, they grab their sun hats and head for Palm Springs. This upscale oasis in the Sonoran Desert is 107 miles (172 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles. It's about a two-hour commute whether you take public ground transportation or drive yourself. Taking the train can wind up being a pain with limited departure times and late-night arrivals. And while flying takes half the time of driving, $300 plane tickets make it a somewhat impractical option for the non-celebrity set. Most people either drive or take the bus.

  Time Cost Best For
Bus 2 hours from $10 Minding a budget
Train 2 hours, 30 minutes from $18 Traveling on a flexible schedule
Car 1 hour, 40 minutes 107 miles (172 kilometers) Sightseeing and exploring
Plane 1 hour from $160 Arriving on a time crunch

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From LA to Palm Springs?

The cheapest way to get from Los Angeles to Palm Springs is by taking the bus. Flixbus travels between the two cities several times per day with one-way fares starting at $14.99. The buses run from Union Station in LA to downtown Palm Springs and Palm Springs North. The trip takes about two hours and makes no stops.

Another option, is to travel by Greyhound for $23 or more each way. Greyhound buses depart from the Los Angeles Bus Station Downtown and make several stops along the way. The average commute takes about three hours and the buses only depart once per day (times vary).

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From LA to Palm Springs?

Flying is the fastest way to get from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, but it most definitely is not cheap. Whereas bus tickets cost $13 minimum, a flight would easily set you back $200 to $300 (even more during the summer). Traveling by air is not as practical, but it does attract those with a more flexible budget because it takes only an hour to get from Los Angeles International Airport (or, alternatively, the smaller Hawthorne Municipal Airport) to Palm Spring International. However, this doesn't include the time it takes to check bags and clear security. According to Skyscanner, only three airlines offer direct flights between the two, with United being the most popular. Be sure not to book ones that stop in San Francisco, which can take up to eight hours.

Another option would be to fly into the Ontario Airport, which is 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, there are many transit options to be found on the Ontario Airport website.

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

If you consider the time it takes to go through the security line at LAX, driving might actually seem like the fastest mode of transportation. In any case, it's the most common way to get to Palm Springs from Los Angeles. Covering the 107 miles (172 kilometers) between the two typically takes about an hour, 40 minutes, unless you're traveling from the beach cities, which can add on another 20 or 30 minutes.

There are many ways to get to Palm Springs, but the fastest is to take U.S. 101 S to I-10 E, then State Route 111. No matter which route you take, you'll travel over the San Gorgonio Pass, a dramatic area where the mountains soar above the roadway. This pass can be very windy, snowy, and is also prone to road closures. Check the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) website for conditions beforehand.

How Long Is the Train Ride?

The train is the least convenient and reliable way to travel, seeing as it only runs the route a few times per week. Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train goes directly from Union Station to Palm Springs and the Texas Eagle also makes the trip periodically. Both run late at night, arriving in Palm Springs after midnight. The trip takes about two and a half hours, but beware of itineraries that include transfers, which can take more than five hours.

You could also take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to Fullerton, which connects to an Amtrak Thruway bus to Palm Springs. The Palm Springs Amtrak station is located at North Indian Canyon Drive and Palm Springs Station Road. It’s at least five miles away from 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 rideshare service like Uber or Lyft. One-way train tickets start at $18.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Palm Springs?

Whereas summer temperatures can deliver near skin-melting temperatures of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), the climate of this desert destination is much more hospitable during spring and fall. In March and November, for instance, the temperature lingers around 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius). Winters aren't warm enough to justify taking advantage of the hotel pool, but they certainly wouldn't be considered cold. It would be wise to avoid traveling to Palm Springs from May through September, during long holiday weekends (when Angelenos tend to venture out), and especially during the weekends of Coachella in April.

What’s the Most Scenic Route to Palm Springs?

If you prefer to take the scenic route instead of the freeway, State Route 74—also called the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway—winds 130 miles through the mountains to the desert. First, you'll travel east through the town of Hemet, then the quirky mountain town of Idyllwild, then get on State Route 111, which leads right into Palm Springs.

Alternatively, there's the Angeles Crest Highway, a two-lane road that goes over the San Gabriel Mountains with some major picture-worthy views to boot. To drive it, leave Los Angeles via La Cañada Flintridge, then head into the San Gabriel Wilderness through Wrightwood and San Bernardino. Landslides and maintenance can cause the Crest Highway to close from time to time, so be sure to check the Caltrans website before you go.

The longest and arguably the most scenic drive from Los Angeles to Palm Springs is to first go south to the Gold Rush town of Julian, then take State Route 78 through Anza-Borrego State Park. After that, you can follow State Route 86 north along the shores of the Salton Sea, past Indio's date palm farms to Palm Springs. This route is extraordinarily beautiful and features a bundle of activities; however, you must have at least five hours to spare.

Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?

If you opt against taking a taxi or renting a car, you can take a public bus into city center. Sun Bus route 14 to Desert Hot Springs stops in downtown Palm Springs and runs about once per hour daily. The ride takes about an hour and costs $1. Alternatively, those who are staying at the Hyatt Regency or other major hotels might be able to arrange for a shuttle to take them straight from the terminal to their place of accommodation.

What Is There to Do in Palm Springs?

Palm Springs is an adventurer's paradise, a hub of luxury, and a haven for Old Hollywood landmarks. Dotted around the city are statues of Marilyn Monroe, Sonny Bono, and Lucille Ball, not to mention the former estate of Frank Sinatra. Its high-end resorts have been known to host some of Los Angeles' A-list celebrities. Among them are the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage, La Serena Villas, the 1950s-era Holiday House, and Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love taking the Aerial Tramway (the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world) from the floor of the Coachella Valley to San Jacinto Peak, which offers plenty in the way of hiking and rock climbing. Alternatively, you can hike, picnic, and ride horses through the Indian Canyons, the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

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