California has it all; pristine beaches, near perfect weather, amazing food and landmarks to boot. We might be partial, but we think the west coast is the best coast. The only downside? California is huge and geographically isolated. The options for day trips are limited compared to the east coast.
We've done all your standard Southern California day trips; San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, etc. In search of something different, we stumbled upon a day trip that was right under our nose.
Salton Sea, CA.
Salton Sea is easily accessible from Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs. Since we're based it San Diego, the drive took us 2.5 hours.
It's history is fascinating; a resort town left in ruins and frozen in time.
Salton Sea is the largest lake in California, smack dab in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. It's truly in the middle of nowhere and at times it feels like you are the only human for miles and miles. Equal parts liberating and eerie considering how many people live in Southern California
The Salton Sea, located on top of the San Andreas Fault, was accidentally created in 1905 by engineers from the California Development Company. Engineers were trying to divert water from the Colorado River into the Imperial Valley but the river overflowed and the water changed course creating the massive body of water that sits 235 feet below sea level.
Other tributaries in the area continued to feed the lake and wildlife started to thrive. Fish were introduced in 1920 and the Salton Sea turned into a major luxurious tourist destination. Fishing and boating were popular draws to the area. In the height of the tourist boom, the Salton Sea even had a yacht club.
Fun Fact: In the 1950's, the Salton Sea was a more popular tourist destination than Yosemite.
Since the Salton Sea didn't have any natural drainage outlets and fresh water was being pumped out of the lake for agriculture, the lakes salt content started rapidly increasing. Pesticides introduced into the farm land made their way into the lake and the toxicity levels began to rise killing off the majority of the fish and with it, tourism.
Today, it's a close as you can get to a real life apocalyptic wasteland. Boarded-up abandoned buildings and empty pools adorn the area.
You won't be totally alone in Salton Sea, CA. According to the 2010 Census about 295 people still live in the area.
After you've explored the ghost town of Salton Sea, CA you can then head to neighboring Niland, CA to check out Salvation Mountain. Salvation Mountain is a creation by artist Leonard Knight. The mountain was first constructed in the 1970's made from adobe, straw and lead-free paint.
Salvation Mountain that exist today is actually the second structure that Knight build. The first one was unstable and collapsed. Today, the mountain is maintained by a group of volunteers. Due to the harsh desert surroundings, Salvation Mountain needs constant upkeep. Visitors have been know to donate paint to the mountain.
Many are drawn to Salvation Mountain for the spiritual and religious elements. Even if that's not your thing, it is a sight to be seen. You can walk up to the top of the mountain and take in 360° desert views.
For preservation, visitors have to wear soft sole shoes. Heels of any kind are not aloud.
If you are looking for a unique experience, a day trip to Salton Sea, CA and Salvation Mountain are perfect. Want more tips on exploring California? Contact Us