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Summer heat can be a travel buzzkill. Take a cool-down road trip

Illustration of three types of ice cream, a car, and a town sign.
(Li Anne Liew / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, fellow Escapists. Some weekend trips go off without a hitch. Others require turning lemons — car problems, crowds, sweltering heat — into lemonade.

And if high temperatures this summer turn out to be your lemon, you’ll find a few sweet, lemonade-like solutions in this hot-weather edition of Escapes.

I’ve loved hearing about your summer travels so far. Last week, reader Bob Brown reached out with his plans for August. “God willing, I’ll ride my acoustic bicycle from Thousand Oaks over the Santa Monica Mountains and along Pacific Coast Highway to San Diego. Then Amtrak home,” he said via email.

Where are you heading this summer? Have you discovered any spots you’d like to share with fellow readers? Send me an email with your recommendations anytime!

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A woman stands behind a counter in a small shop. Above her is a menu sign. Customers carry cups with soft ice cream.
The Orange Works Cafe, in Strathmore, Calif., is locally famous for its grove-to-scoop orange ice cream (and other flavors using local fruit).
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Ice cream stops — or stops for sorbet, water ice or some other type of cold, nondairy dessert — are an essential part of any summer road trip (truthfully, I’m still dreaming about the spirit-reviving soft serve I got from Frosty Chalet in Lone Pine on my way home from Mammoth Lakes last summer).

Instead of stopping at one or two ice cream spots on your next summer road trip, why not kick things up a notch and try a DIY dessert tour?

Take a look at your itinerary and budget some time to stop at three ice cream shops in three different places over the course of your travels. Pull out a pen and notebook, or use your Notes app, and have everyone in the car rate each ice cream they try on a scale from 1 to 10. Pay close attention to creaminess, flavor, presentation and other factors — and when you’re done, share your results with your car companions.

Need some ice cream inspiration? Here are a few places I like to stop on a Highway 1 road trip.

  • I made a beeline to McConnell’s the first time I visited Santa Barbara. Turns out it’s a classic for good reason. You can find its pints across Southern California but you might as well stop by its State Street location while in town.
  • Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab has multiple locations in Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo and beyond. Order the Motor Oil, made with dark chocolate and Kahlua ice cream, with fudge swirls, if you want to lean into the road trip vibes.
  • Harmony Valley Creamery is a mainstay in pint-sized Harmony, Calif. My go-to order is the Shoreline Swirl, salted caramel ice cream.
A pool is seen from inside a cabana with a low table and champagne chilling in a bucket.
The W Hollywood hotel pool.
(W Hollywood)

“L.A. is brimming with phenomenal hotel pools, and you don’t have to spend $500 a night to take a dip.”

These wise words come from Times contributors Rosemary McClure and Jessica Benda, who recently rounded up a list of 10 trendy hotel pools with day passes, ideal for locals who wish to cool off without booking a top-dollar room.

The same tip holds true when you’re on the road — you don’t need to splurge on an expensive hotel room to spend an afternoon kicking back in a cabana.

Sites such as ResortPass, mentioned by McClure and Benda, are good places to find day passes for hotel pools. Simply plug in where you’re traveling — Santa Barbara, for example — and you’ll find a handful of refreshing options at hotels such as the Waterman and the Rosewood Miramar Beach.

If you prefer Airbnb and Vrbo rentals over traditional hotels, you might also consider trying Swimply, an online marketplace where you can book private pools by the hour. Heading east to the desert this summer? I found at least two dozen pools listed in the Coachella Valley — this saltwater oasis in Cathedral City particularly caught my eye.

People lounge and swim in a pool of water surrounded by boulders and evergreen trees.
Visitors swim in a spot near the Wawona Swinging Bridge in Yosemite Valley.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Are you searching for more adventure than a hotel pool can provide?

Then I suggest you throw on some athletic shoes or hiking boots and hit the trail to some of California’s best swimming holes.

“California’s coastline and beaches typically get all the attention, but consider an old-fashioned swimming hole to cool off on hot days,” writes Times contributor Mike Morris in his roundup of swimming holes.

Just outside Yosemite National Park is the Rainbow Pool, a picnic spot managed by the Stanislaus National Forest. The swimming hole along the South Fork of the Tuolumne River includes a waterfall.

The Santa Paula Punch Bowls are a bit closer to home — and a convenient stop on a visit to Ojai. The eight-mile round-trip hike to the swimming holes, and their natural water slide, starts near Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula.

“If you go, be mindful of fast-moving water,” Morris cautions, “check the park websites for current conditions and restrictions, and make sure to pack out all of your trash.”

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Two people and a low fence are silhouetted in the glow of city lights spread out in the background.
A nighttime view of Los Angeles and Griffith Park from Mt. Hollywood.
(Photo by Mary Forgione; Los Angeles Times illustration)

Staying in L.A. this weekend? Skip hiking during the sweltering middle of the day and opt for a night hike instead.

This spring, Times contributor Matt Pawlik — who is currently writing The Wild newsletter — rounded up a list of his favorite L.A. trails to hike at night. Included on this list are classic spots, such as Griffith Park, as well as some lesser-known hikes.

Pawlik’s description of a short beach trail in Leo Carrillo State Park snagged my interest: “Get a highlight reel of the nighttime Malibu coastline via a star-studded 2.25-mile hike through Leo Carrillo State Park, which features a canyon climb, Pacific panorama, a beautiful beach and a cool campground,” he writes.

Don’t miss his step-by-step instructions for tackling this hike, as well as his other recommendations.

Night hikes are possible in lots of places outside L.A. too. On your next visit to a national park, I recommend checking to see whether you can sign up for an expert-led night hike — such as this overnight stargazing trip organized by the Yosemite Conservancy.

A few more words of caution before you go: As Pawlik recommends, bring a flashlight or headlamp, pick a familiar trail and don’t veer off, bring extra layers, and go with a group. And try to start the hike at golden hour — that way, you’ll have a little extra light to help you get acclimated while enjoying the sunset.

🎸 Road song

"Home by Now,” by MUNA. Play it when you get stuck in traffic on your way back to L.A.


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