Discover some amazing weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles and escape the city’s hustle and bustle to embrace nature’s beauty within a few miles of driving. Los Angeles itself can feel like a never-ending road trip, but one of the best things about this city is its proximity to breathtaking natural landscapes just outside its urban sprawl. One of the things we love the most about L.A. is the ability to leave the city at any time and find oneself immersed in nature’s splendor.
This list offers a range of destinations suitable for different types of travelers, whether you’re looking for a weekend escape to places like Vegas or Big Sur, or a day trip to nearby locations like Joshua Tree to get some fresh air. While Los Angeles is a great destination in itself, one of the advantages of living or visiting this Southern California city is the convenience of being able to drive just a few hours and find yourself in a completely different environment.
When it comes to weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles, the possibilities are endless. Thanks to its convenient location near beaches, mountains, national parks, and even the Mexico border, Los Angeles is a great starting point for adventurous road trips. So, whether you’re a local or a visitor to the City of Angels, there’s no better place to embark on a road trip and discover the best of what California has to offer.
Here are the weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles:
1 hour from Los Angeles (34 miles)
For those looking for weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles, Malibu is a great option, located just over 30 miles away. However, keep in mind that driving across from downtown can take much longer than anticipated, especially during busy times, where it can easily take an hour and a half to get there. On a quiet Sunday morning, you can make it in just 40 minutes. Once you get past Santa Monica and the Pacific Palisades, Malibu stretches some 30 miles along the Pacific Coast highway and feels like a world away from the busy streets of LA.
While many might associate Malibu with the rich and famous and their expensive ocean-facing villas, there is much more to this destination. Malibu boasts several large parks, canyons, and beaches to explore, as well as stunning wineries such as the Malibu Solstice Vineyard, where the wine is excellent, but the views might be even better!
If you’re a beach lover, Malibu has miles of coastline to explore. While the Malibu Pier is a popular destination, be sure to drive a bit further to the El Matador State Beach for a more secluded experience. Keep in mind that suitable footwear is necessary to get down the steep path, and there are no facilities or lifeguards on this rocky beach, but the scenery is stunning, and you can relax in peace and quiet for hours.
2. Laguna Beach and Orange County
1 hour from Los Angeles (50 miles)
If you’re looking for weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles, Orange County has plenty of options to offer. Laguna Beach, for instance, boasts some of the best beaches in the county, including Woods Cove Beach and Victoria Beach with the iconic La Tour tower. From the famous Huntington Beach Pier to the Spanish Village by the Sea of San Clemente, Orange County is well-known for its amazing beaches.
A perfect escape from the city, Laguna Beach is located an hour or less away and offers a diverse range of beaches, from picture-perfect white sand beaches to romantic rock-lined coves, spanning a 7-mile length of the Pacific coast. It’s also known as a hub for artists and water activities, and if you’re planning to stay for the weekend, there are plenty of hotels and beachside resorts available. On the other hand, if you’d like to stay onshore, there are numerous hiking and mountain bike trails with breathtaking views.
3. Santa Catalina Island
1 hour 30 minutes from Los Angeles (25 miles + a ferry)
Here’s a weekend road trip itinerary from Los Angeles that includes Santa Catalina Island as a destination. The island is easily accessible, requiring only a 30-minute drive from Los Angeles to either Long Beach or San Pedro. From there, you can take a high-speed ferry that will take about an hour to cross the 22 miles of water to reach the island. There are two destinations to choose from on Santa Catalina Island: Two Harbors and Avalon. The only ferries that go to Two Harbors depart from San Pedro, but Avalon is a great place to explore the island from.
While on the island, you can rent a golf buggy or take a Jeep tour to explore the surrounding areas. Alternatively, there are plenty of trails to explore on foot. In addition to enjoying the scenic views and indulging in a delicious lunch at one of the many great restaurants, you can also partake in activities such as zip-lining, lounging on a beach, or visiting a winery. If you decide to stay overnight, there are several hotels in Avalon where you can spend the night and enjoy the island during the quieter evening and morning periods when the crowds have dispersed or not yet arrived.
1 hour 30 minutes from Los Angeles (90 miles)
Discover the ultimate family-friendly adventure with these weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles, as you embark on a journey to the third Legoland in the world, located in Carlsbad, California. Since opening its doors in March 1999, Legoland California has continued to be a popular destination for visitors of all ages, boasting over 60 rides across various zones. With plenty of activities available for even the youngest Lego fans, Legoland is the perfect road trip destination for families.
From roller coasters to visiting an actual Lego factory, Legoland has a plethora of attractions to keep everyone entertained. And, with longer opening hours on weekends and during the summer months, families can make the most of their visit. However, it’s always a good idea to check the park’s schedule beforehand, as it may be closed on certain days for special events. While Legoland is open year-round, the water rides are best enjoyed during the warmer months.
In addition to the amusement park, visitors can also check out the Sealife Aquarium, which features a walk-through tunnel and Lego-themed tanks. You can even admire famous US cities made entirely out of Lego, including San Francisco, New York, and New Orleans. So, if you’re seeking an unforgettable road trip adventure from Los Angeles that’s packed with fun for the whole family, Legoland California is the perfect destination.
5. Santa Barbara
1 hour 40 minutes from Los Angeles (95 miles)
Looking for weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles? Consider visiting the charming city of Santa Barbara, located about 2 hours north of LA. It’s widely regarded as one of the best places to live in California and even the whole of the US. Many celebrities, including Oprah and Brad Pitt, have made Santa Barbara their home away from home. The must-see attraction in Santa Barbara is the Old Mission Santa Barbara, a Franciscan mission with beautiful gardens.
Apart from that, Santa Barbara is all about the relaxed lifestyle, making it a perfect place to unwind. There’s a great selection of restaurants and bars, and a historic waterfront featuring the Stearns Wharf pier and the palm-lined East Beach. Although Santa Barbara is a great destination all year round, it can get busy during the summer months, as Angelinos escape the city and tourists flock to the area.
Are you thinking about visiting Arizona? For an amazing adventure, check out our list of the the best and fun things to do in Buckeye (Arizona), as well as the best things to do in Clarkdale (Arizona).
6. Palm Springs
1 hour 45 minutes from Los Angeles (107 miles)
Looking for a getaway destination from Los Angeles that’s popular all year round? Consider Palm Springs, located just a short drive away in the Californian desert. This city gained popularity in the mid-20th century as the playground of the rich and famous, and many of the buildings and infrastructure still reflect that era’s straight-lined modernist style. In fact, Palm Springs loves this style so much that it hosts a Modernism Week event every October.
During the summer months, the average highs in Palm Springs can reach over 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit), so you’ll want to take advantage of the available pools to cool off. Most hotels have luxurious pool and spa facilities, but if your accommodation doesn’t have one, you can usually pay to use the ones in the larger hotels. Be sure to experience the Aerial Tramway, which takes you up the mountain in a rotating gondola. This tramway is the largest of its kind in the world and takes you from Coachella at the bottom to the top of San Jacinto Peak.
7. San Diego and La Jolla
2 hours from Los Angeles (120 miles)
Looking for the perfect weekend road trip from Los Angeles? Consider heading down the coast along the San Diego Freeway to San Diego, which is just a 2-hour drive away. There’s so much to do in San Diego that you can easily stretch your trip to a long weekend. The beaches are the best place to relax, whether you want to soak up the sun or catch some waves. Make sure you try the local fish tacos and ride the bright red trolleys. And, if there’s one attraction you must visit, it’s the world-famous San Diego Zoo, where the pandas are the stars. It’s best to visit early or late in the day, as they tend to sleep through most of the day.
The Gaslamp neighborhood is where you’ll find most of the action in town, with restaurants and bars of every kind. Sit outside and enjoy the evening breeze as you watch the sunset. If you head north of downtown San Diego, you’ll find the wealthy neighborhood of La Jolla, which is perfect for a stroll or an upscale lunch at a gourmet restaurant. Don’t miss the seals and sea lions that have made La Jolla Cove their home!
8. Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake
2 hours from Los Angeles (100 miles)
Looking for an outdoor adventure? Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake, both just 2 hours from Los Angeles, are the perfect destinations for day trips or weekend getaways. Although only 15 miles apart, the mountainous terrain means that it takes around an hour to drive from one to the other. Despite their proximity, they offer different experiences, making them both amazing places to visit all year round.
Big Bear Lake is a large lake with a plethora of outdoor activities, from boating and water sports to skiing in the winter at Snow Mountain and Bear Mountain resorts. Lake Arrowhead, on the other hand, is more relaxed and upmarket, with most of the lake shoreline being privately owned.
It offers fancy retreats and restaurants rather than active outdoor pursuits, but you can still take a stroll along the lake at Lake Arrowhead Village and go on a boat tour if you desire. Lake Arrowhead is located lower down than Big Bear Lake, making it easier to drive up to, and has less snow in the winter. If you have a weekend to spare, why not check out both lakes and compare and contrast the experiences!
2 hours 20 minutes from Los Angeles (130 miles)
Solvang, a charming village built in Danish style, is located just over 2 hours up the coast from Los Angeles. The town was founded by Danish settlers in 1911 and was incorporated as a city in 1985, but has still maintained its cozy village ambiance despite a population of only around 5,000. Solvang’s Danish heritage is evident in every corner, from the quirky European-style architecture to the iconic Danish windmill and small shops.
The town boasts two museums dedicated to its Danish roots, one preserving the history of Solvang and its residents, and another showcasing the works of Hans Christian Andersen, the famous Danish writer. Solvang’s Danish connections are so strong that it has been visited twice by the Danish royal family, and the Danish ambassador even attended the town’s 100-year anniversary celebration. Visitors can also explore the Santa Inés Mission, which dates back to 1804, and take advantage of the numerous vineyards in the Santa Ynez valley near Solvang.
10. Joshua Tree National Park
2 hours 20 minutes from Los Angeles (130 miles)
Looking for weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles? Look no further than Joshua Tree National Park, the closest National Park to the city. Despite its name, this park is mostly rocks and sand, with a few cacti and shrubs sprinkled throughout the landscape. Be sure to bring everything you need, including plenty of water.
Accommodation options in the park are limited, but there are over 300 campsites available. Once you have your pass, set up camp and enjoy all that the park has to offer. The best time to visit is in the spring when temperatures are mild and some of the desert plants are in bloom. Avoid visiting in the summer when temperatures can soar, making hiking and camping uncomfortable.
With endless hiking trails and walking paths, you’ll never run out of things to do in the park. Some of the most popular destinations include Intersection Rock and Arch Rock formations, located on opposite ends of the park. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at rock climbing, or take a stroll up Keys View, the highest point in the park. On a clear day, you can see as far as Signal Mountain in Mexico!
11. Salton Sea
2 hours 20 minutes from Los Angeles (160 miles)
Looking for weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles? Consider visiting the Salton Sea, which is the largest lake in California and is located 236 ft (72m) below sea level. Originally created accidentally by engineers trying to divert the Colorado River in 1905, the Salton Sea is now largely empty and devoid of people, making it a unique and secluded destination to explore.
Although the tourism industry has declined in recent decades, there are still plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, bird watching, and camping at one of the many available camping spots. Additionally, there are quirky attractions like the International Banana Museum and artist installations in and around Borrego Springs or Salvation Mountain to check out. Just be prepared for the desert heat, as summer temperatures can average over 100°F (40°C) so make sure to bring plenty of water to stay cool.
12. Ventura and the Channel Islands National Park
2 hours 30 minutes from Los Angeles (68 miles + a ferry)
Looking for weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles? Consider heading to Ventura or San Buenaventura, a picturesque coastal town located just over an hour away from L.A. Here, the ocean is the main attraction and activities center around the harbor. Rent a pedal boat or any other floating vessel and keep an eye out for seals lounging on piers or boats.
For a unique experience, take a boat excursion to the Channel Islands, a group of islands starting about 20 miles from Ventura that make for a full-day trip. Although it may not seem like a typical road trip, you still have to drive part of the way! The Channel Islands are the least visited National Park in the country, making it an excellent day trip option.
During the boat ride, you may spot dolphins, whales, and flying fish, while on the islands themselves, you can see condors, bald eagles, seals, and Island Foxes, which are native to the area. Hike one of the trails that run along the islands or rent a kayak to explore the sea caves, but be sure to check the waves before you set out.
13. Rosarito Beach
3 hours from Los Angeles (150 miles)
As you are so close to the Mexican border, it would be a missed opportunity not to consider including at least one road trip option that takes you across the border from Los Angeles. One such option is Rosarito Beach, located just south of Tijuana, which is a classic resort destination that offers a perfect mix of glamour and authentic Mexican street food.
While Tijuana is well known for its lively nightlife, Rosarito Beach is a popular destination among Hollywood A-listers and has become more mainstream in recent years. Even though you are in Mexico, you can still expect to find lively parties and open-air nightclubs in the area, which are great fun to experience. Additionally, there are plenty of great resorts where you can relax, soak up the sun, and indulge in some locally caught lobster.
However, it is crucial to remember to bring your passports and get the correct car insurance for the duration of your trip. It is best to do this online before you go! The border crossing into Tijuana is the busiest land border crossing globally, and queues can take up to an hour or two. To avoid the long queues, it is advisable to travel during off-peak periods, such as weekends or early afternoons.
14. Death Valley National Park
3 hours 30 minutes from Los Angeles (315 miles)
If you’re looking for weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles, consider visiting Death Valley National Park, which holds the hotly contested title of recording the world’s hottest ever temperature – both for air temperature and ground measurements – with the highest air reading at 56.7 °C (134.1 °F). However, it’s worth noting that the desert gets incredibly hot during the summer months, with daily averages from June to August reaching the 120s (over 45 °C), making it uncomfortable to visit during peak season.
Despite the conditions, the park remains popular with tourists, and it’s the largest national park in the United States outside of Alaska. Unlike other parts of California, Nevada, and Arizona, Death Valley boasts large sand dunes rather than rocky deserts. It’s also home to flowering wildflowers that bloom in the spring. Late fall or early spring camping trips offer a chance to experience the park’s status as an International Dark Sky Park, where you can enjoy unobstructed views of the stars, particularly during the new moon.
15. Las Vegas
4 hours from Los Angeles (270 miles)
For a weekend getaway from Los Angeles, Las Vegas is likely the most popular destination. With a four-hour drive or a one-hour flight, Sin City’s endless entertainment options are easily accessible. The drive through the Mojave Desert is enjoyable, and there are plenty of food options along the way if you need to grab a bite after work on a Friday.
Whether you’re visiting to gamble, dine at exquisite restaurants, enjoy bars and clubs, or simply stroll around and shop, staying on the Strip is the way to go. If you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere with less slot machine noise in the lobby, consider the south end of the Strip. The Cosmopolitan is a casino-free option, and the Aria Hotel is a great place to stay.
The main attractions, such as the Bellagio Hotel and Fountains, are close by, and the themed Luxor, Excalibur, and New York hotels are just a block south. You can leave your car at the hotel since taxis are inexpensive, most places are within walking distance, and the Monorail makes getting around a breeze. Additionally, you can enjoy a drink or two while exploring the city!
16. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
5 hours from Los Angeles (270 miles)
The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are located about a 4-hour drive from Los Angeles and mark the southernmost point of a series of parks that run along the Sierra Nevada mountains, including Yosemite and Tahoe National Forest. While Kings Canyon National Park is an additional hour’s drive, making the trip 5 hours from Los Angeles, the Sequoia National Park is a must-visit destination.
The parks are best known for their giant sequoia trees, with the majority of the world’s tallest trees growing in a forest between the Marble and Middle Forks of the Kaweah River. The Sequoia National Park is home to the General Sherman Tree, which is the largest tree in the world by volume, standing at 275 feet tall and 36 feet in diameter. It’s a breathtaking sight, though be prepared to wait in line to take a photo!
If you have time, climb the 400 steps to the top of Moro Rock and take a drive along Highway 180 (Kings Canyon Scenic Byway). The 50-mile route takes you through a scenic canyon between the two parks and is considered one of the most picturesque roads in the United States.
17. Big Sur and Highway 1
5 hours 30 minutes from Los Angeles (295 miles)
To plan a weekend road trip from Los Angeles, consider driving to the Big Sur, which is closer than San Francisco but still requires a similar amount of time due to the scenic coastal route. The Big Sur extends along the coast between Piedras Blancas Light Station and Carmel-by-the-Sea, and offers breathtaking views of misty beaches, rocky coves, redwood forests, and steep cliffs.
Driving along Highway 1, known as one of the most beautiful roads in the US, may also give you a chance to spot the largest birds in North America, California condors, soaring overhead. One of the must-see sights along the Big Sur is the Bixby Bridge, which spans the Bixby Creek at a height of 280 feet (85m) and offers spectacular views of the coastline. This bridge is famous for being featured in many ads, movies, and games, and you can stop on either side of it to take pictures.
18. Phoenix and Scottsdale
5 hours 30 minutes from Los Angeles (380 miles)
Phoenix and Scottsdale are within easy reach from Los Angeles as the journey covers only 380 miles along straight roads through the desert, making for a surprisingly quick road trip. In recent years, Phoenix has become a popular destination for tech startups and hip culture, offering plenty of interesting sights and activities. The town is particularly known for its thriving art and food scenes, with highlights including the Heard Museum and street art exhibitions on the first Friday of the month.
If you’re a nature enthusiast, make sure to visit the Desert Botanical Garden where you can wander through the impressive collection of giant saguaro cactus plants and various desert shrubs. However, it’s important to note that summers in Phoenix can get extremely hot, causing some locals, including retirees, to move out to more moderate climates such as San Diego. While the heat is dry, visitors should still take precautions by carrying sunscreen and water with them at all times if traveling between June and August.
19. Yosemite National Park and Mammoth Lakes
6 hours from Los Angeles (330 miles)
Yosemite National Park, a popular destination in the United States, attracts many visitors from California and nearby states. While most tourists flock to the 7 square mile section of Yosemite Valley, covering some 748,000 acres, other parts of the park offer a more serene experience. The pine forest-covered scenic valley is home to famous landmarks like El Capitan and Half Dome summits.
However, the designated wilderness in the majority of the park houses wild animals such as bears, so be sure to follow safety guidelines. Additionally, some hiking trails may only be accessible seasonally. If you’re looking for more stunning scenery, consider visiting Mammoth Lakes on the east side of Yosemite. Here, jagged snow-covered mountain tops and tranquil lakes await.
To get to Mammoth Lakes from Yosemite, you must cross California’s highest mountain pass, the Tioga Pass. As it sits at 9,943 feet (3,031 m) above sea level, it’s best to cross after spending a night in either location to adjust to the elevation.
20. San Francisco
6 hours from Los Angeles (380 miles)
If you’re looking for weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles, San Francisco is an ideal destination that should be on your list. While it may be a bit of a stretch for a weekend due to the long drive to get there, you can make it into a longer trip by adding Monday or extending your stay. San Francisco has a lot to offer with its steep streets and neighborhoods perched atop hills, beaches, parks, museums, and other attractions that will keep you occupied.
To ensure you experience the essential sights, be sure to visit the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presidio neighborhood on its south side, explore Fisherman’s Wharf, and ride on the iconic cable cars. Driving the most direct route along the I-5 will take around six hours, while the coastal route is more scenic but adds another two and a half hours to the journey.
Our guide to the top tips for planning a budget-friendly family trip to Disney World is guaranteed to be a delightful resource for those seeking an ultimate and fun adventure!
Safety Tips to Follow for a Weekend Road Trip from Los Angeles
1. Plan your route ahead of time and research any potential hazards or road closures.
2. Make sure your vehicle is in good condition before you leave, and check the oil, brakes, tires, and headlights.
3. Pack an emergency kit in case of an unexpected breakdown or accident, including a first aid kit, flashlight, and extra water and food.
4. Always wear your seat belt and obey traffic laws, including speed limits and traffic signals.
5. Avoid driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and designate a sober driver if necessary.
6. Take breaks and switch drivers if you’re feeling tired or fatigued.
7. Use caution when driving in rural or remote areas, and be aware of wildlife crossing the road.
8. Keep your valuables out of sight and lock your car when you’re not inside.
9. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid unsafe areas or neighborhoods.
10. Follow health safety guidelines
For those looking for an ultimate and enjoyable adventure, our guide on discovering the best things to do in Colville, Washington, and the best cheap family vacations in Florida is sure to be a delightful resource!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some popular weekend road trip destinations from Los Angeles?
There are many popular weekend road trip destinations from Los Angeles, including Las Vegas, San Diego, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, and Lake Arrowhead.
How long does it take to drive to these destinations from Los Angeles?
The driving times vary depending on the destination, but most of these locations are within a few hours’ drive from Los Angeles. For example, Las Vegas is about a 4-5 hour drive, San Diego is about a 2-3 hour drive, and Palm Springs is about a 2-hour drive.
What are some activities to do on a weekend road trip from Los Angeles?
There are many activities to do on a weekend road trip from Los Angeles, including hiking, camping, exploring national parks, visiting museums and art galleries, enjoying scenic drives, relaxing on the beach, and trying new restaurants and bars.
What should I pack for a weekend road trip from Los Angeles?
It depends on the destination and the activities you plan to do. But in general, you should pack comfortable clothing and shoes, sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, a water bottle, a camera, and any necessary gear for outdoor activities like hiking or camping.
Can I take my pet with me on a weekend road trip from Los Angeles?
It depends on the destination and the accommodation you choose. Some hotels and campgrounds are pet-friendly, but others may have restrictions or additional fees. It’s important to research pet-friendly options ahead of time and make sure you have all necessary supplies for your furry friend.
What are some budget-friendly weekend road trip options from Los Angeles?
There are many budget-friendly weekend road trip options from Los Angeles, including camping in national parks or state parks, visiting free museums and attractions, and exploring nearby beaches and hiking trails. Additionally, you can save money by packing your own food and snacks, staying in budget-friendly accommodations, and taking advantage of deals and discounts.
Can I rent a car for a weekend road trip from Los Angeles?
Yes, there are many car rental companies in Los Angeles that offer affordable rates for weekend rentals. You can book a rental car online or at the airport, and choose from a variety of vehicles depending on your needs and budget.
Is it safe to travel on weekend road trips from Los Angeles?
Yes, it’s generally safe to travel on weekend road trips from Los Angeles. However, it’s important to take necessary precautions like following traffic laws, wearing seat belts, and avoiding driving under the influence. Additionally, it’s important to be aware of any weather conditions or road closures that may affect your trip.
What is the best time of year to go on a weekend road trip from Los Angeles?
The best time of year to go on a weekend road trip from Los Angeles depends on the destination and the activities you plan to do. For example, if you’re planning to visit a national park or go camping, the best time is usually in the spring or fall when temperatures are mild. However, if you’re planning to visit a beach destination, summer may be the best time to go.
Do I need a special permit to visit national parks on a weekend road trip from Los Angeles?
It depends on the national park and the activities you plan to do. Some national parks require permits for activities like hiking, camping, or backcountry travel. It’s important to research the specific requirements for each national park you plan to visit and obtain any necessary permits ahead of time.
Can I take public transportation on a weekend road trip from Los Angeles?
While it’s possible to take public transportation to some destinations from Los Angeles, it may not be the most convenient option for a weekend road trip. Renting a car or driving your own vehicle is usually the easiest and most flexible way to explore the surrounding areas.
Weekend road trip itineraries from Los Angeles are a fantastic way to recharge, escape the hustle and bustle of the city, and explore the natural beauty that surrounds this vibrant metropolis. From scenic drives along the Pacific Coast Highway to hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains and national parks like Yosemite, the opportunities for adventure are endless.
So pack your bags and hit the open road – there’s no better way to experience the diverse and breathtaking landscapes of Southern California. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adrenaline-pumping activities, or breathtaking scenery, Los Angeles and its surroundings have everything you need for a perfect weekend getaway. So start planning your next adventure and get ready to make unforgettable memories on your next weekend road trip itinerary from Los Angeles!
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