Best Southern California Desert Photo Spots: Salvation Mountain, Palm Springs, Pioneer Town


Salvation Mountain

One of my favorite places in the Southern California Desert is the colorful oasis of Salvation Mountain. This one of a kind man made ‘mountain’ was created by artist Leonard Knight. I’ve been lucky enough to visit here four times. It was shortly after my first visit that Leonard passed away in 2014, and I was worried that this beautiful place would be no more. Luckily his legacy lives on, as a man named Ronald Malinowski has taken on the role of caretaker. The desert sun and sand takes its told on the paint, so it’s always encouraged that people leave a donation or bring paint cans when they visit to keep this magical place alive.

Click this photo to learn more about the murals from

Click this photo to learn more about the murals from

Kinetoscope Water Tower Murals

A few minutes before Salvation Mountain is actually another crazy cool spot, where murals created by artists Christina Angelina and Ease One cover the exteriors and interiors of abandoned water towers.

After the bright colors of Salvation Mountain, the predominantly black and white murals are quite the contrast. When I visited again this past October 2018, sadly some of the mural had been covered by graffiti. But it is still such a cool desolate place to see.



Farther down the sandy road and you will come upon East Jesus - a place that is hard to explain. To me it is equal parts inspiring and peculiar. The East Jesus website describes it as “Together, the inhabitants of East Jesus and offsite members provide a refuge for artists, musicians, survivalists, writers, scientists, laymen and other wandering geniuses. One of our guiding philosophies is “do as thou wilt”; another is “do no harm”. When my friend Amber and I arrived, there was not another soul in sight. It was eerily quiet with the exception of the sound of a metal windmill. I’ll be totally honest - at first it feels like you are walking into the start of a horror movie, where the audience is screaming ‘run away you idiot!’. But it’s really just an artsy place filled with creative and peaceful nomads living in painted RVs. We weren’t able to stay long, but you could definitely explore here for awhile.


Cabazon Dinosaurs

On a SoCal Road Trip, one of the best spots you can find right off the highway are the Cabazon Dinosaurs. Depending on your age, you may recognize them from Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure. While two of the large dinosaurs can be checked out without admission, for a small fee you can check out the rest of the dinosaurs and even go all the way up inside the T-Rex’s mouth.


Palm Springs Windmills

Head to the Windmills about an hour and a half before sunset to see the most beautiful hazy golden light pouring through the windmills as the mountain behind them turns the most fabulous blue or purple. Just breathtaking! Park at the old Palm Springs Train Station.

Pioneer Town

Pioneertown is a Wild West film set created by Roy Rogers and others from Hollywood in the 1940s. Over 50 films were shot here, and it definitely transports you back in time. There is the CUTEST Motel on site, a campsite, an area for horses, and a fabulous restaurant and live music venue called Pappy & Harriet’s. Amber and I fell in love with the everything about Pioneertown, and wished more than anything we could have stayed here a few days. Guess we will have to go back!


Joshua Tree

There is something amazing about the sunlight and the unique trees that grow in Joshua Tree National Park.


Want to know the exact locations of these fabulous places and many more Palm Springs area favorites?

Click HERE for my map :)

If you are looking for a place to stay, you can read my blog all about my favorite - the ACE Hotel!

Have you been to any of these places? Did you love them!?