posted on March 29th, 2017


In Los Angeles, sitting in traffic is a way of life. Rush hour is ongoing. Lanes are blocked because of accidents, construction, or bureaucracy. There’s no simple way to avoid standstills on major thoroughfares — unless you make the conscious decision to get off the freeway and find the roads meant for drivers.

Want to know an insider’s secret? Some of the best roads in the country are in Los Angeles. You just need to know where they are.

Get behind the wheel and get going. Here are five great ways to escape the freeway in LA.

Scenic byway: Pacific Coast Highway

Almost everything regarding L.A.’s best roads is connected in some way to the Pacific Coast Highway. Technically (technically), the ribbon of asphalt that runs along LA’s strip of crowded beaches is a highway. But Pacific Coast Highway — PCH as it’s known to locals, Highway 1 as it’s known to tourists — is far from a boring freeway. The portion of PCH you want to drive begins at the easternmost point of Interstate 10, and snakes along the California coastline all the way to northern California. Your speed may be limited to a pesky 45 or 55 mph, but that’s to ensure that you’re focused on the road ahead, and not on the breathtaking views.

Image credit: Pavel Suslov for Turo

Serious drivers only: Las Flores Canyon

Los Angeles has a proud tradition of hidden canyon roads, and few are more famously tucked away than Las Flores Canyon Road. Take a right where PCH meets Duke’s Malibu (a wonderful, beachfront Hawaiian restaurant), and begin the climb up the challenging series of crests and bends. Suddenly, you’ve ascended to a height where you can see the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the Santa Monica Mountains on the other. Taking Las Flores affords you the opportunity to dip into tuner culture — it’s a popular spot with customizers — and see what your car is worth. Take caution in the blind, mountainside hairpins, and keep an eye out for the occasional cyclist. Go on a weekday (Sundays are for driver’s clubs), and the circuit is all yours.

No cell service: Mulholland Highway

Head a bit further north from Las Flores, and you’ll encounter the beginning of what might be LA’s most famous set of curves second to the latest Hollywood star. Mulholland Highway is the kind of road you dream about when you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It sweeps through the Santa Monica mountains and ascends into underpopulated areas north of Malibu for a truly separated driving experience. Make sure to wave as you pass the Rock Store, a famous biker haunt, and Paramount Ranch.

Image credit: Pavel Suslov for Turo

Royalty & banked curves: Sunset Boulevard

Stretching west from mid-Beverly Hills to the Pacific Coast Highway is a section of road that rivals the best European auto routes. Challenging curves, aggressive banking, and quick straightaways on Sunset Boulevard are a welcome departure from most of LA’s straight, clogged highways — and they’re a massive departure from the Sunset Strip just a couple of miles away. Escape from the row of endless open mics and enter a driver’s paradise. Head west along Sunset for the full effect, as the boulevard runs through tony Bel Air before intersecting with (you guessed it) PCH.

A ribbon of skyway: Angeles Crest Highway

No list of L.A.’s best roads is complete without mentioning the skyway to the desert that attracts serious drivers around the world: Angeles Crest Highway, aka California State Route 2. Yes, you can use Angeles Crest as a thoroughfare between its westernmost point of origin in La Cañada and over the San Gabriel Mountains — or you can test your abilities on the paved slices of heaven as the auto world’s engineers do. The danger factor on Angeles Crest certainly sweetens its appeal: Go too fast into a corner, and you’ll find yourself teetering on the brink of a ravine. But if you get it right, Angeles Crest acts as a public playground for enthusiasts of all kinds — and a much-needed respite from LA’s unending traffic jams.

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Jeff Jablansky (@unclewithcars) is a freelance automotive journalist who loves driving as many cars as he can.