salvation mountain one of the weirdest places in california


It's not just Hollywood that's weird - there are tons of strange and wonderful places to explore in California. We've rounded up 10 must-see places in California for anyone interested in the unusual and obscure. From old abandoned railroads and strange lakes to sunken ships and pygmy forests, these attractions are sure to entertain. 


This strange place is a large, shallow, saline soda lake formed around 760,000 years ago! The lake harbors strange limestone formations and weird types of bacteria that had scientists calling it an "alien" life-form. The bacteria that lived in the lake had essentially rewritten DNA and had NASA astrobiologists stumped until they found that the bacteria thrived in arsenic-rich conditions. The bacteria was in fact so clever that it replaced missed parts of its own DNA with arsenic. Multiple studies have concluded different things about the bacteria, further fueling the alien conspiracy. 

Don't let the bizarre colors put you off - this lake is actually a cool place to swim in summer!

weird and wonderful mono lake in california at sunset

2. Salvation Mountain

This man-made mountain took 28 years to make and is covered in half a million gallons of latex paint. What started as a small monument soon became a huge mountain complex made from telephone poles, car windows, tires and patchwork painted color blocks. Totally Instagram worthy and definitely a wonderfully weird attraction. 

the strange salvation mountain in california

3. Mcway Falls 

McWay Falls is an 80-foot waterfall that flows year round. The thing that makes it a little bit weird and wonderful is the fact it flows straight onto a beach and into the crystal blue ocean. It's a sight that often isn't sort of expect waterfalls to be in forests so it definitely stands out! You can walk to the falls via a half-mile dirt track and through a short tunnel to the overlook area.

macway waterfall in big sur california4.  MOANING CAVERN

Discovered during the gold rush, this cavern got its name from the moaning sounds that echo throughout it. You can't deny that's pretty weird in an "I totally wanna go there" kinda way. There are tons of activities to do at the cavern park including abseiling, zip lining and walking tours. 

5. The sliding rocks of racetrack playa

One of the most interesting mysteries of Death Valley National Park is the sliding rocks at Racetrack Playa (a playa is a dry lake bed). These rocks can be found on the floor of the playa with long trails behind them. Somehow, these rocks slide across the playa cutting a path in the sediment as they move. Several theories have suggested that the rocks are moved by strong winds, ice and when the playa is wet after heavy rain - but it was found in 2013 that the rocks move when embedded in large ice sheets floating on a thin layer of water. Weird! Imagine the dedication to finding out what was moving these rocks!

sliding rock at racetrack playa

6. Painted Caves

Off highway 154 there is a small cave that was painted by the Chumash Indians back in the 1600s. Scientists analyzed the paintings and found that they depicted a solar eclipse that happened on November 24 in 1677. We think it's so crazy that scientists are able to find that information out - and even crazier that hundreds and hundreds of years ago people were painting and recording information that we're still talking about in 2017. 

7. Glass beach

Decades ago, residents of Fort Bragg discarded glass, appliances and even old vehicles into the ocean at Fort Bragg! Nowadays, the beach is made up of thousands of glass pebbles that were created as a result of residents dumping near the ocean. Every day, tourists flock the beach to collect glass that was dumped and has been smoothed out by the ocean. 

glass beach in californiaCC BY 2.0 Makuahine Pa'i Ki'i

8. Pygmy forest

This rare ecosystem features miniature trees and is home to small fauna such as rodents and lizards. You can wander throughout the treetops via a boardwalk and learn about the different types of plants that grow here. Although many of the trees are only a few feet tall, a lot of the other trees grow up to 10 feet, so if you're expecting to tower above the entire forest, you might be disappointed. This forest is still super cool to visit and you might still feel like a giant!

9. Donner Summit railroad hike

This old abandoned railroad was the first line that carried passengers along the Sierra Nevada Range. The tunnel was built in 1867 and was used until 1993 when the route changed. Nowadays, it's mostly used as a hiking trail that offers views of Donner Lake and the valley. Photographers will love the many angles they can see the lake from and the graffiti that covers pretty much every flat surface throughout the tunnels. 

donner train tunnel on the summit railroad hikeCC BY 2.0 ChiefRanger

10. Sunken Ship

The SS Palo Alto is a concrete ship that was built as a tanker in World War I. The State of California purchased the tanker in the 1930s for $1 after it cracked in the midsection during a winter storm and used it as a fishing pier for many years before it started to deteriorate. The tanker was officially closed to the public in the 1950s and has remained at the end of the pier ever since. 

sunken ship ss palo alto at seacliff beach in california

CC BY 2.0 troy_williams

Here at JUCY, we love a bit of weird and wonderful sightseeing! These 10 things are sure to spark your curiosity for more exploration into strange places across the world. 

Want to see the best sights in California? Book a mini RV and explore!