Off the Beaten Path: Salton Sea

I grew up in sunny Orange County, California, a place defined by manicured lawns and cookie-cutter houses. There are few places that are more comfortable, but truth be told… well, one could say it lacks character. Since I became a photographer, I’ve been on a mission to find the “hidden” side of Southern California–cool, unusual spots to keep me inspired.

While scouring photography blogs, I came upon the abandoned beaches of Salton Sea–the antithesis of bright and shiny LA. The shores of the huge saline lake are littered with deserted motels and trailer parks, remnants of a bygone era when Salton Sea enjoyed huge popularity as a lake resort. Exploring the vacant trailers was like walking into the past–retro clothing and dated magazines strewn everywhere, and you’re left trying to piece together the stories of the people who once lived there.

A few friends and I ventured eastward to the Coachella Valley desert to see what we could capture before it was destroyed.

Sitting below sea level, the salt has crept up and eaten away at structures and left salt-encrusted fish littering the beaches.

Salton Sea is a good 2.5 hour drive from LA depending on where you’re coming from. It’s quite a trek, but if you enjoy the quirky and delightfully eerie, this is about as off-the-beaten-path as it gets. Follow the 111 Highway south, turn out at Crooker Drive and again in Bombay Beach for the best spots. While you’re in the area, make sure to check out Salvation Mountain in Niland. Enjoy the sunset as you leave, and stop in at one of the roadside diners, relieved that you’ve made it back to civilization.


  1. Isabelle says:

    awesome post crystal! my friend and i went to salton sea and salvation mountain right before i moved away from san diego — it is a cool place for photos! we were also happy to stop by julian on the way back for some good apple pies. :)

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