The Salton Sea is one of those really unique parts of California history that has changed a lot in the last century. Originally a destination location for Hollywood’s elite to play at, now this park is a much more desolate and somewhat smelly place that gets a lot fewer visitors. In that, however, there is a charm that makes it worth the visit, even if just for the unique art communities that thrive in this brutal desert. If you go, here are all of the things you can visit in the Salton Sea from North to South.
- Make sure to check the hours online for anything you want to go to as there are a lot of places with weird hours.
- Make sure to get gas before you head in as there are not a lot of stops around the lake for it.
The International Banana Museum
This excellent, small museum is a great place to stop as you enter the area. It literally has banana everything! Make sure to check the hours as it is only open Friday – Monday most weeks and you don’t want to miss it. Read all about it here.
Salton Sea State Park and Visitor Center
This is the official State Park in the Salton Sea. It has camping, hiking, beach and fishing access. The park itself offers some crazy experiences such as a beach that is literally dead fish, bones and gills. You have to see it to believe it.
Salton Sea State Park is also where the visitor center is so you can get info on the history of the lake and the area that surrounds it if it is open.
Read more about the state park here.state park here.
If you are a fan of trains like me, this road follows a train track, and there are a lot of opportunities to stop and take pictures. I love photographing the trains alongside the stark desert.
Bombay Beach Ruins
This place is a total trip. Located at the west end of the small community of Bombay Beach are a lot of ruins from the houses and mobile homes that used to be on this stretch of the beach. There are TVs and tires on the beach and many different types of broken down houses to interact and photograph. It is a must stop in the area, and you can read my full post here.
A lot of people come out here just to visit Salvation Mountain, and it really is worth it. This mountain is a labor of love for one man and is a massive accomplishment. I guarantee you will tell others about your time here if you go as it is that unique. Read my whole post on it here.
If you stop at Salvation Mountain and turn around, then you miss a lot of awesome Salton Sea places. Right after Salvation Mountain is the town of Slab City which is essentially a community of people that come and live in this vast desert during the winter months. Many just pull up in an RV and stay, making art and adding to the unique aspects of the community. Here are the things to see:
The Sole Tree
Named for the soles of the shoes that hang from its branches, the sole tree is a fun stop in Slab City, and it is right across from the bedazzled truck.
Right across from the sole tree, this truck is covered in rhinestones; it’s a sight to see for sure.
Slab City Bike Sign
This sign is cool as it shows the vast art community and their style. The sign itself is even made out of an old bike. After seeing the sights in Slab City, check out the art community at the end called East Jesus.
I can’t explain this place very well, you really just need to visit it. It is a community of artists that live together, create art and party in the desert and the stuff they make is super awesome. A great stop for sure and the people there have always been nice. Here is my full post on East Jesus.
Buckshot Deli and Diner
I have eaten here before, and they have good burritos and salsa. It is often hard to find places open in this area, so this cafe is a good stop if you are hungry.
The Bubbling Mud Pools
I have no idea if this is private property or not so just make sure you look for signs. The mud pots are located in the middle of a field and are literally boiling pools of mud that pop like bubble gum when you go out and see them. Not easy to get to but worth the effort. Here is my post on it.
Sonny Bono Bird Area
There is a hiking trail here to a rock that overlooks the beach and lake. There is also a visitors center that talks about the birds of the area and has a platform for looking for them. If you are a bird fan, this is where you need to be. Best time is when it is getting cooler near November.
So there it is, my guide to the Salton Sea. Make sure to bring a camera and have fun if you go there as this is a place that I guarantee you will at least consider unique when you visit. Let me know if I left anything off in the comments.
Here is a video I made on spending 24 hours in Salton Sea.