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3 Days of Exploring Canyons and Chasing Sunsets in Southern California

An awesome long weekend in the desert.

By: Michael Fricke + Save to a List

It's winter, but here in Southern California you can still go camping without a winter coat. My girlfriend and I had a plan to go to Joshua Tree to celebrate the winter solstice. With the trip getting closer I looked at the weather in Joshua Tree and saw heavy winds forecasted for the times we planned. We decided to go elsewhere and had a great weekend.

Day 1:

We drove from our home in Long Beach to the Mecca Hills outside of Mecca, California. We hiked the awesome Mecca Hills Ladder Canyon. A great 4 miles of hiking through canyons and climbing ladders. At the top you get a view of the Imperial Valley and the Salton Sea.

After a good hike we drove down the 111 highway by the Salton Sea to Salvation Mountain, an interesting monument built outside the town of Niland.  

After experiencing one of the most interesting pieces of art you will see we backtracked a little bit to the Salton Sea State Recreation Area to camp for the night. You may hear some people refer to the Salton Sea as a dying sea but there is still life in it. It is true that it will eventually dry up if nothing is done to it and it may soon become too salty to sustain life but right now it still alive. There are plenty of migratory birds that use the Salton Sea as a temporary home. Being a giant lake in the middle of the desert, it has absolutely beautiful sunsets.

During the summer when the algae blooms and dies it sucks oxygen from the water causing fish die offs resulting in dead fish on the shore. It is kind of weird but interesting.

With one of the most unique sunsets we've ever experienced behind us we headed to bed.

Day 2:

We got up and headed to Anza Borrego Desert State Park.  We parked at the visitor center and took a quick visit then took a short morning hike up Panorama Overlook to a beautiful viewpoint where one can see for miles

After seeing these views we weren't done. We decided to hike Hellhole Canyon to Maidenhair Falls. Maidenhair isn't the biggest waterfall but it is pretty impressive to see a waterfall out in the desert. Hellhole Canyon is a great hike where you can really see the plant life change as you get closer and closer to the water which is very interesting if you pay attention.

After a great day of hiking we set up our camp at Borrego Palm Canyon Campground quick so we could catch the sunset at Font's Point. It is recommended to have an AWD or 4WD vehicle to get out to but I saw a sedan out there (I wouldn't drive a sedan out there). It is a 4 mile drive following tracks off road. Font's is a beautiful place to watch a sunset.

After the sunset we returned to camp, made a campfire, and looked at the stars when it got dark enough. The stars were bright as always in the desert and made for an amazing evening.

Day 3:

We got up, packed and headed out for one more hike: The Slot. The Slot, as the name indicates, is a nice slot canyon in Anza Borrego. It is a 2 mile drive out a dirt road from the main highway but is doable without 4WD or AWD.

With that we were full of adventure for the time being and headed back home. Joshua Tree will have to wait for another time but we had an amazing time exploring other areas.

Check out more of my adventures on Instagram!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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