car and sculpture at bottletree ranch

For those over the age of 21 (or let's be honest, holding a foolproof fake), the four-hour drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is practically a right of passage. And while most of the drive is often written off as a barren wasteland, you'd be wrong to drive through the desert without taking the time to actually experience it. Out here, there are plenty of oases that are so often missed, and we've made a list of some of the best stop-off points. 

The Mormon Rocks

Located right off the freeway, The Mormon Rocks are a gorgeous stretch of sandstone smack dab in the middle of the desert. Picturesque and nearly impossible to ignore while on your way out east, they run on for miles, whizzing past your window and filling the space of your rear-view mirror. The main visitors center is located just five minutes off the highway, and you stretch your legs on the one mile loop trail that boasts the best view of the mountains.

Bottletree Ranch

Bottletree Ranch is a bizarre and beautiful modern art piece placed directly in the middle of the desert. Made out of metal frames and colorful glass bottles, this 'bottle forest' is a spot that you truly won't find anywhere else. Owned and run by a charming man named Elmer, entry to the ranch is free, and it's open from sunrise to sunset. Right off the famed Route 66, Bottletree Ranch is worth checking out just to capture a photo of how odd this place really is.

Calico Ghost Town

Calico Ghost Town is everything you would expect a ghost town to look and feel like. The entire place will take you back to a period when California was considered the wild west, and while it can be a bit of a tourist trap at times, there are still plenty of worthy photo opportunities. Cost for admission is $8 for adults, and is open from 9:00am-5:00pm. Just make sure you have a couple of hours to explore, as visiting Calico in its entirety isn’t a quick stop.

Peggy Sue’s Diner

This spot is about as ‘classic American diner’ as it gets. Like Calico, Peggy Sue’s is a bit of a flash back, but to the 1950s when cheeky diners were a dime a dozen. Here you'll find a wide variety of classic diner food, and with so many easy fast food stops on the way to Vegas (hi In-N-Out) it might be good to treat yourself to a proper meal. They even have antique souvenirs that put some of the cheap Vegas trinkets to shame.

Mojave National Preserve

Home to sprawling Joshua Tree forests, gorgeous desert peaks, and even ancient mines dating back to the 1860's, the Mojave National Preserve is one of the largest national parks in the United States. While it's a little far off the road for a quick stop, it's definitely worth a detour if you have a day to spare. If not, there's one spot close to the highway: the Cima Dome. The hike up to the top is no easy task, but if you're mentally and physically prepared, you'll be rewarded with stunning views across the vast desert.

The Neon Museum

Just outside the strip, the Neon Museum is like visiting a graveyard of neon signs that had once lit up Las Vegas. Located in the restored lobby of the abandoned La Concha Motel, these signs date as far back as the 1930s, and show a long history of the evolving Vegas Strip. After that, it's a short trip down the highway for the famous (or infamous) city of sin.

No trip through Vegas is complete without experiencing the emerald waters of the Black Canyon with Vegas Glass Kayaks: