Los Angeles to Las Vegas Road Trip

Los Angeles to Las Vegas

The path to Vegas includes the desert and also the desert, so you better hydrate (and grab a gyro because why not).
Beck Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Interior
The Los Angeles to Las Vegas drive is well-populated with frequently recommended and very compelling stops like sculpture gardens and oddly-named roads, but some of us need a drink to get through 270 miles of barren landscape. It goes without saying that beverages and high-speed travel require balance, responsibility and perhaps a designated driver, but there’s nothing wrong with a timeout for a Coors Light in the middle of nowhere.

Though options are, of course, limited on a Los Angeles to Las Vegas road trip through the Mojave Desert, thankfully a few hidden gems exist to break up the trip. The options below are presented in a Los Angeles to Las Vegas order starting just outside of city limits and stretching to the shadow of The Strip. There are some tourist-friendly options here because the desert dive bar inventory is what it is, but despite the scarcity of choice, overlooked options do exist.

The Stops

1. Screaming Sally's Saloon

18169 Cajon Ct, San Bernardino, CA 92407
Google Map
(909) 804-2656

Once called the Screaming Chicken Saloon, it would be difficult to envision a better first stop upon leaving Los Angeles’ grip. A hand-painted sign reading “SALOON” attached to a defunct gas station shelter is the off-highway lure to visit Screaming Sally’s Saloon, housed in what was once a mechanic’s bay complete with sliding garage doors. The cavernous space is covered with dollar bills from floor to ceiling, the main room punctuated by a wood-burning fireplace refilled daily. Even more unexpected is stadium-style seating behind the bar, part of a rolling patio that crosses a number of outdoor spaces and sometimes houses live music.

2. Lee's Tavern

481 W Yermo Rd, Yermo, CA 92398
Google Map
(760) 254-2821

If there is one must-see dive bar experience on a Los Angeles to Las Vegas road trip, Lee’s Tavern is the unquestioned selection. In the shadow of the original Del Taco location, Lee’s Tavern is marked only by a single sign that reads “Liquor” hung over a plain door in the middle of an equally plain wall. Despite the sign, Lee’s Tavern looks perpetually closed, but inside a row of fixed stools support the dusty kind of bar one would expect to find in the middle of the desert. A vintage shuffleboard machine and equally aged jukebox complement the ancient décor that includes signage for the bar’s signature drink, a potent Bloody Mary.

3. Tita's Burger Den

38434 W Yermo Rd, Yermo, CA 92398
Google Map
(760) 905-8205

Just a few feet from Lee’s Tavern, Tita’s Burger Den is famous as the original location of the first Del Taco. Nearby Barstow, California, hosts the longest-running, continuously-operating Del Taco still in existence for those Del Taco purists among us, but the no-frills appeal of Tita’s Burger Den is potent too. Burgers are served here, obviously, but so too are tacos and burritos thanks to the space’s Del Taco-based roots. The structure itself is little more than a squat building with sun shade perched over a limited set of picnic tables. Tita’s Burger Den looks exactly like what it is, a walk-up taco and burger spot in the middle of nowhere. For those making the Los Angeles to Las Vegas drive on a weekend, know that Tita’s Burger Den is closed Saturday and Sunday.

4. The Mad Greek

72112 Baker Blvd, Baker, CA 92309
Google Map
(760) 733-4354
Web Site Link

Nothing sparks a hankering for Greek food like a drive through the desert. Paradoxical as it may seem, The Mad Greek was founded in 1974 as part of what was once a larger Inland Empire-centered chain. Two locations remain, the Baker, California, location certainly the flagship experience, an explosion of blue and white along Baker’s single thoroughfare. Signature offerings include, you guessed it, a gyro and the Onassis Burger, a cheeseburger topped with pastrami. The Mad Greek offers the chance for a two-destination stop thanks to the building’s location just a few feet away from the 134-foot “Tallest Thermometer in the World.”

5. Terrible's Roadhouse

1 Goodsprings Rd, Jean, NV 89019
Google Map
(702) 874-1767
Web Site Link

Is a road trip really a road trip if no one raids a gas station snack selection? There are countless gas stop options between Los Angeles and Las Vegas despite the sparse surroundings, but Terrible’s Road House is notable thanks to its status as the largest Chevron station in the world. Terrible’s Road House is a bit of a spectacle inside and yes, it is a tourist magnet, but why pass up the chance to ride an indoor carousel or kiddie train in the middle of the Mojave? The snack selection is rivaled only by the set of candy choices, some if it found in old-style barrels that encourage irresponsible bulk purchases.

6. Pioneer Saloon

310 NV-161, Goodsprings, NV 89019
Google Map
(702) 674-6809
Web Site Link

Yes, Pioneer Saloon is a bit of a tourist trap at this point thanks to savvy moves by the Goodspring bar’s current owners, but the history and lore of Pioneer Saloon cannot be overlooked. Built in 1913 thanks in part to stamped tin ordered from Sears Roebuck, Pioneer Saloon is the oldest operating bar in the semi-vicinity of Las Vegas (1851’s Genoa Bar & Saloon near Lake Tahoe is the state’s oldest bar). Turned into a family-friendly, movie set-like experience over the years, the centerpiece is still the bar itself, a mahogany piece built in Maine during the late 1800s and shipped around South America to San Francisco before making its way to Goodsprings, Nevada. Bullet holes the result of a card game gone wrong and ghost sightings add some authentic appeal to this last stop before Vegas.