Top Desert Day Trips In Los Angeles, California

Salvation Mountain, a folk art installation in the California desert
Salvation Mountain, a folk art installation in the California desert | © Denise Taylor / Getty Images
Andrew Cross

Driving through the urban stretch of Los Angeles, it’s easy to forget that most of California is a sprawling desert. If you’re feeling adventurous enough to keep heading east past Palm Springs, you can find an unbelievable array of strange and beautiful destinations. Here are the best desert spots near Los Angeles.

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The Integratron

The Integratron

The Integratron was originally erected in 1959 by George Van Tassel, who claims he built it according to instructions received from space aliens. He believed this structure was capable of bending the laws of space and time and served as the site of extra-terrestrial ‘conventions’. Van Tassel may no longer be around, but this beautiful building has been restored since his death and now hosts weekly ‘sound baths’ in which visitors lie back and meditate while hosts stir bowls of crystals.

This massive edifice of paint, straw and one man’s religious fervor was begun in 1931 by Leonard Knight, and is still under construction to this day. Located just past the desolate beaches of the Salton Sea, the Mountain is only accessible by an ancient road with a guard booth painted in neon colors. Covered in thousands of gallons of bright paint, the shock of color and size is simply awe-inspiring. If you’re feeling generous bring them a bucket of paint or two.

East Jesus & Slab City

Sculptural art installation made of found objects, in a collection called ‘East Jesus,’ in Slab City, California

Slab City is a seasonal location that springs up during the pleasant desert winters and becomes a hub of art and self-expression. With a quick look around you’ll find a myriad of artists, musicians and generally interesting folk. Continue on down the road and you’ll come to a permanent art installation known as East Jesus. Here you’ll see all kinds of strange and wonderful sculptures, from exploding houses to partially buried double-decker school buses, and the residents are always willing to give a tour to curious visitors.

Salton Sea

Salton Sea and Dried fish at Bombay Beach, Imperial county, California, USA

Perhaps the strangest attraction of all is the Salton Sea, a central element of the desert landscape east of Mojave. The sea formed as a result of flooding in the nearby agricultural hub of Empire County, and many believed it would become the Riviera of the West in time. Yet the beaches are abandoned and littered with fish bones, as the sea becomes flush with toxic algae every summer. Set against some of the most spectacular mountain vistas in the southern California desert, it is both a beautiful and eerie sight.

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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

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