Attractions & Places of Interest

~ Salton Sea – Hwy 111 ~

1. VISIT DOS PALMAS PRESERVE Cross the highway leaving SSSRA to Parkside Drive. Cross the Railroad tracks, up the hill to the end (about 2 miles), go right, and follow the signs on the unpaved roads to the oasis. There is a locked gate so park your car, and from there you can walk into the historic rancho area. To your right there is a lovely loop trail of about 1.5 miles through the San Andreas Palms. 

Near the entrances to both the State Park and Sonny Bono, you can enjoy the local plants and ponds. The birds like the gardens, too. 

From the SSSRA turn left onto Hwy 111 and drive towards Mecca. Turn right to cross the railroad tracks at Thobe Road, it’s about 100 feet long. Stop, turn left and drive a few miles into the town (Mecca). At the Stop, you’ll turn right onto 66 Avenue going east from Mecca on Box Canyon Road (which is still 66 Avenue). You’ll cross over the canal at the top of the road and enter Box Canyon. There is an unpaved road on the left as you come out of the curve in the road after the canal. This is Painted Canyon Road. Follow it, bumping along for a few miles until it dead ends. Park and meander up the slot canyon. If you have more time, you can make a longer trip by doing the whole loop up the ladders. There are a variety of trails leaving the canyon, so take your pick. Water and good shoes for hiking are a must. 

4. GO BIRDING Explore one of the many famous birding spots along the Sea. Take a ride down Johnson Street 1 mile south of Mecca to see the shorebird show.

The SSSRA hosts guided bird walks from December to March. Call ahead for dates and times. The park is a great place to view the many different species of birds at the north end of the Sea, both permanent and migrating species.

SBSSNWR at the south end of the Sea (about 45 miles from the SSSRA) is a mecca for birders, hosting a wide variety of species of birds which have migrated to the area for the winter or are permanent residents at the Refuge. The Refuge takes pride in the diverse habitats it provides and maintains for our feathered friends. Many you see here are not seen at the north end of the Salton Sea.  

5. HIKE THE IRONWOOD TRAIL From the New Camp campground head south down the paved trail on our nature loop. This flat trail will take you through a habitat important to rabbits, coyotes, lizards, and nesting birds too. Watch for signs of the animal life but watch out where you put your hands and feet too!! Rattlesnakes call this area home! If you feel more energetic, continue south on the unpaved trail to Mecca Beach Campground after taking the paved loop out to the ramada and the shore. You’ll enjoy the enlightening interpretive signs on this loop. From New Camp, the Ironwood Trail to Mecca Beach Campground is one mile.

6. BRING OUT THE KIDS Our Discovery Kids Camp (Saturdays 10 am -2 pm) from late September to early November provides free science-based activities for children ages 8 – 12 at the DKC site in New Camp at the SSSRA. This program is jointly sponsored by the SSSRA, SBSSNWR and SDIA. 

7. FLY A KITE Let the wind entertain you. The cool breezes of the Sea and the spacious beaches make it an ideal place to let your spirits soar.

Bring a picnic lunch and eat it in the shade of our ramadas at both locations.

8. WATCH THE SUNRISE OR SUNSET Unparalleled 360-degree views of the Santa Rosa, Oracopia, and Chocolate Mountains make every morning and evening an amazing event. Have a campfire (SSSRA only) in one of our many fire rings on the beach and campsites and enjoy the view. 

9. HIKE TO AND EXPLORE THE BAT CAVES About 7 miles south of the State Park is the Imperial County line. Pull over to the left of the Highway near the railroad tracks. Park and lock your car. Hike up and over the tracks and down the other side. Look straight head and you’ll see the Bat Cave bluffs. Hike up the wash (about a half mile) to the many caves. The bats are in residence in the winter, but not in the summer. 

906 w. Sinclair Road, Calipatria, CA. 92233
Located on the southern end of the Salton Sea, the Refuge is a vital migratory bird hotspot and has documented over 400 different bird species within its boundaries. Visitors to the Refuge have access to 3 different trails that traverse a variety of habitats ranging from desert upland to seasonal duck ponds, and even a volcano. Visitors also have access to 2 different observation towers, 1 platform, and 2 photo blinds. 

The Visitor Center is open seasonally starting in November. You’ll find informative information and displays. The volunteers can fill you in on the latest information about the Refuge and assist you with purchases of gifts and memorabilia. All proceeds go to supporting the interpretive and educational programs of the Refuge.

While Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR is a migratory bird and people visitor destination at the southern end of the Salton Sea, there are other areas and attractions to see nearby.

-Near the Refuge Visitor Center on the west end of McKendry Rd. is Obsidian Butte, a volcanic dome last active about 2,000 years ago. This area also allows visitor access to the shore of the Salton Sea. This is an excellent birding area as well as an interesting geologic zone.

-North of the Refuge Visitor Center a couple of miles is the Imperial County’s Red Hill Marina County Park. This area was a main launch site for boats accessing the Salton Sea in years past. Today it provides primitive camping, access to the shore of the Salton Sea as well as access to another volcanic dome formed approximately 2,000 years ago.

-Throughout the Imperial Valley is nearly 500,000 acres of irrigated agriculture lands. Much of it is flood irrigated to help maintain low levels of salts in the soils. This method of irrigation usually attracts large flocks of migratory shorebirds, waders, and gull species. If you want to see birds and have an adventure, drive around.


From the SBSSNWR parking lot, turn right on Forrester Road (watch out – Forrester veers to the right and then left before getting to Bannister Road, then right again on Bannister Road, go right on Vendel Road, park, and walk on the Hardenberger Trail. There are species of birds there that you won’t see anywhere else around the Sea.


Morton Bay/Red Hill State Park: Large freshwater bay at the intersection of Garst and Red Hill Rd. In the winter it is a heavily used hunt area. Great birding spot and can kayak here.

Red Hill County Park: RV site and on a volcano, next to historic Red Hill Marina 

County Parks – Imperial County Department of Public Works

RV Camping (Partial & Dry) (No Dump Station), Tent Camping, Picnic Tables, Hunting (Seasonal) Hunting: Hunting Season Begins September 1-15, 2012 in Allowable Game Fields. For complete Regulations, please visit the Dept of Fish & Game. Imperial Valley BMX: Practice is every Thursday night 6:30pm-8:00pm. Every Saturday races are held, registration begins at 6:00pm. 

Mud Pots: Visible from the intersection of Schrimpf and Davis Rd, the actual mud pot is on private property, but the volcanoes are big enough to look at from the road.


Both are 45/50 mins away from the refuge, camping & off-roading.

Superstition Mountain – California Trail Map

Superstition Mountain. Bureau of Land Management – OHV Area. 13,000-acre open area contains sand dunes, mud hills, rocky trails, and typical hard pack desert terrain.


In Niland, turn off Hwy 111 left onto Main Street. Keep driving until you spot Salvation Mountain. You can’t miss it!!! There is a huge story here. Enjoy it and reflect. Park in the unpaved area just off the road. Go on in a walk around. You’ll be glad you did.

Further up the road from Salvation Mountain, you’ll enter Slab City. Formerly a military base, it is now home to a new kind of pioneer. Drive around and you’ll be amazed at the folks, how they live (off the grid), simple and fancy. It’s quite a community of fulltime residents as well as seasonal visitors. 

Beautiful Box Canyon Road

Coming or going to the Salton Sea there a ride you won’t want to miss.Pick up the road off of Avenue 66 Just
east of the town of Mecca. Weave your way back to interstate 10 right to the south entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. Stop at the waysides and enjoy some hiking on your road trip.

The Famous Painted Canyon

It’s another world. You won’t believe that you were on a interstate highway ten minutes ago. Meander up the canyon or go on a longer hike up and around the rim. Either way the walls will tell you their stories of geologic time.The Grand Canyon sediments carried by the historical path of the Colorado River will amaze you with their colors.

Dos Palmas Preserve & Adobe

Visit a historic adobe just five miles up the road from the Headquarters Visitor Center. This old stage-coach stop was once an exclusive resort. Now it is a protected area. Enjoy the quit of the vast pounds and waterfowl along the faultline. Park at the locked gate and walk in, or just go for a stroll in the San Andreas Palms right adjacent to the parking lot.

Sheep Hole Oasis and Hidden Springs

Follow the trail up the hill and view the Sea from the other side. For a longer hike head down to the oasis and the grottos below. During the flower season check out the blooms along the trail amongst one of the best kept secrets in the desert………. The Mecca Hills