In case you missed it, you can read part 1 and part 2 of this series to see our whole trip!
Across the Mountains to Salvation.
From San Diego, we went back east and backtracked on our trip a little bit. Our first stop over the mountains was in a small old mining town called Julian. They are now known for their apples and beautiful vistas in the autumn, but it was fun to visit in the summer. We got some snacks, walked around the cute little downtown, and then continued on.
The mountains and views, of course, were gorgeous. The photos really don’t do these wide expanses and mountains justice. The roads and journeys to each destination were definitely a highlight of the trip. I loved getting to take everything in and chat and joke with my love for many long hours.
The reason I really wanted to head east at this point was to visit Salvation Mountain! I’ve been wanting to visit this beautifully painted masterpiece for so long and that dream finally came true this trip.
This beautiful masterpiece was primarily built and painted by one man, Leonard Knight. While he has since passed, this serves as his legacy and gift to the world. You can read more about him and Salvation Mountain here.
On our way out of the sparse town around Salvation Mountain, we came across this Danger Reality Ahead sign, and I felt like we were really about to enter the real world again after being in such a magical place.
Reaching Palm Springs & Joshua Tree.
I’ve never been to this part of California, but my parents went to Palm Springs when I was younger, and I remember looking at photos of their trip and thinking it was lovely!
We stayed at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, which is now one of my favorite hotels, by far. We went for a dip that night and had delicious cocktails by the pool. We ended the night with a little fire in our room’s courtyard while listening to some great records on the record player in the room (!! love).
In the morning, we ate a King’s Highway in the hotel lobby and then headed off to Joshua Tree to explore for the day.
We stopped at the visitor’s center to get recommendations since we only had a few hours to spend in the park. We entered at the west entrance and did a loop to exit at the north entrance. Along the way we hopped out for a few short hikes, some great vistas, and, of course, photo ops! It was a hot day, but we loved exploring and seeing a landscape like nothing we had seen before.
After Joshua Tree, we headed back over to Palm Springs for a delicious pizza dinner at Birba.
Next Stop: LA!
Next, we headed back to the coast to the lovely city of Los Angeles. This is the first time I’ve really spent time there, so we made sure to do the really touristy things.
We walked along Hollywood Boulevard and looked at all the stars. It was actually pretty neat to see! We also stopped at Venice Beach and took a nice stroll and then went off to the LACMA to take a look around.
We also happened to have some good connections in LA: my cousin works at Warner Brothers and our friend works at Disney! That meant we got to go visit their lots and check out things behind the scenes (including the set of Gilmore Girls!).
From here on out, it was all about driving back north along the coast to SF! Sad that the trip was coming to an end, but there was still much more to see (!!).
The Way North
We stopped in Santa Barbara, which was so, so beautiful. I would love to spend more time there soon!
We stopped into the Kotuku Elixer Bar and got a very refreshing cacao shake. It was delish, and the shop was lovely.
Before continuing on our journey we went to the Old Mission and had a picnic near the rose garden. It was such a beautiful day.
Next, we stopped in Solvang, a cute little Danish village. We got some delicious baked goods (fresh Danish cookies!) and found a book store called Book Loft that also had a Hans Christian Andersen Museum inside! The owner was very friendly and we chatted a bit before heading on our way again!
Our Final Stop: San Luis Obispo
And then we reached the Madonna Inn! This is another one that’s been on my wish list for a long time. We stayed in the rich-looking Dez room (part of Ren Dez Vous), with beautiful velvet wallpaper and gold details. I adored the room and didn’t want to leave to do anything!
You really need to visit the Madonna Inn to truly take in all of the decor. It’s impossible to describe, but it’s amazing and delightful!
We did end up leaving the room (eventually) and went horseback riding on the grounds of the Madonna Inn! While on the trail, we saw a coyote which I thought was pretty cool!
We also went to downtown San Luis Obispo to hunt down an herb shop I wanted to check out. It was hidden in a beautiful area and had amazing teas. If you’re in the area, check out the Secret Garden Herb Shop.
After that, we went down to Pismo beach to go ATVing on the dunes! It was frightening, especially at the start, but I finally got the hand of it. To top off the day, we went to a delicious chip-based restaurant called Chipwrecked. A place that specializes in Gourmet Potato Chips is worth a stop in my book!
After our fun in San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach, it was time to head back north to SF. If we hadn’t stopped at places like Big Sur and Monterey many times in the past, these would definitely have been on our road trip list. (So make sure to build these into your itinerary if you haven’t seen them before!!)
It was a wonderful trip, and we got to see so much in this part of the country that we had never gotten to see. I am really thankful that we had this opportunity to explore and learn – and that we were able to do it together. I love making memories. I hope you enjoyed this little sneak peak into your trip and that it inspires you to take on a new adventure!