Southern California [Draft]

This post is about the Southern California leg of my year on the road. I’m traveling to all the national parks in the contiguous 48 states. I’m also stopping at several other interesting spots along the way, and making sure to sample the local fare.

Next: Arizona

Timeline: Two Weeks

  • Mammoth Lakes, California
  • Saline Valley Hot Springs, Death Valley, California
  • The Racetrack, Death Valley, California
  • Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley, California
  • Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, California
  • Aguereberry Point, Death Valley, California
  • Dante’s View, Death Valley, California
  • California City, California
  • Joshua Tree, California
  • Salton City, California
  • Slab City, California

Todo: go through atlas obscura and add more things

Getting There

Day 1 – Friday 1/1

It’s a nine hour drive from Sacramento to Death Valley. The halfway point is near Mammoth Lakes. This area is full of hot springs on BLM/USDA land so you can camp there for free. I plan to stop here for the night to have a soak before moving on in the morning.

I am also doing a whole separate week-long trip to Mammoth Lakes to check out many different hot springs before heading on this trip. The details are here! I’m sure I will update this post based on my experience there.

Death Valley National Park, California

I went to Death Valley when I was a kid but we just stopped briefly on the way through. There are a few interesting things I want to see this time.

Day 2 – Saturday 1/2

Drive to Saline Valley Hot Springs. This is a set of three popular hot springs where people can camp for free, bathe in the springs, and they even have showers.

Day 3 – Sunday 1/3

The Racetrack: Where the famous moving rocks race across the desert.

Ubehebe Crater: A very weird recent magma explosion that created a huge crater.

Arrive this evening at Sunset Campground. There is dispersed camping available just before Zabriskie but you need 4wd and sadly I do not have that, so I plan to spend the night at Sunset Campground. According to the website, they have hundreds of spots and they rarely fill up, plus it’s first-come first serve. Also it’s just $14 a night and that includes water and restrooms so it’s a pretty great deal.

Day 4 – Monday 1/4

Zabriskie Point

Aguereberry Point

Dante’s View

Then back to Sunset Campground to spend the night.

Day 5 – Tuesday 1/5

California City, California

This is a super weird place that I’ve always wanted to visit. They planned a whole city and built the roads and infrastructure, but nobody wanted to live there so it’s just empty roads for the most part.

It’s on the way so I decided to quickly stop and check it out.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

I have always wanted to visit here. I’m very excited to finally see Joshua Tree!

I plan to spend two nights at Hidden Valley Campground inside the park which is walk-in only and costs $15/night.

A close runner up was the recommendation of AdventureVanMan to camp at some BLM land outside the park. This seems like it would be more fun with a larger group of friends, but since it’s just me, I’d rather do the camp site inside the park so I can feel safe leaving everything at camp to go explore.

Day 6 – Wednesday 1/6

The big attraction here is the Joshua Trees themselves. There is hiking and rock climbing, but I have a lot of parks to visit so I will probably spend just a day or two here before moving on.

While researching this park, I was struck by the quote from Wikipedia, “In 1772, a group of Spaniards led by Pedro Fages made the first European sightings of Joshua trees while pursuing native converts to Christianity who had run away from a mission in San Diego.”

Day 7 – Thursday 1/7

I plan to leave Joshua Tree in the morning, stop at Salton, and then find a spot to set up in Slab City.

Salton, California

This is an inland sea which exists as the result of an industrial accident. It has been the subject of documentaries, development attempts, disasters, and a seemingly endless string of misfortunes.

I’m very excited to check it out. This will probably just be a quick stop between Joshua Tree and Slab City.

Slab City, California

For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with places like Slab City, Burning Man, Arcosanti, and other weird nomadic experimental communities. This will be my first time visiting Slab City, and I’m very excited to finally see it!

There are A LOT of things I want to do here, so I’m planning to stay for a week.

I really want to check out the Oasis Club.

I definitely want to see East Jesus and West Satan.

Hopefully, I can be here for the weekend and catch some entertainment at The Range.

Salvation Mountain is on the way to the Hot Springs, and perhaps one of the most striking and recognizable vistas.

I also want to make sure to visit the Hot Springs.

I will have about a week here before I leave on the morning of the 14th to head to Quartzsite.


The trip is 705 miles excluding ingress and egress which at 30 mpg comes out to 24 gallons or $70. [Update this to include ingress]

I am camping in my diy trailer most of the time so there will be little cost in hotels or lodging.

I will be spending two nights at Sunset Campground at $14/night.

I will also be spending two nights at Hidden Valley Campground in Joshua Tree at $15/night.

I’m budgeting $100 a week for food during this trip including groceries, eating out, and alcohol.

Local Fare

So I have lived in California for over a decade but there are some local variations in the south that might be fun to try. Most of the sites recommend carne asada tacos and things like that.


Up Next: Arizona