The High Desert northeast of the San Gabriel Mountains may not have the same grandeur as desert regions like Joshua Tree and Death Valley, but with a little digging, its own quirky treasures pop up. Take Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, found on a mostly forgotten stretch of Historic Route 66. Fifteen years ago, resident artist Elmer Long started welding metal “tree” structures, cementing them into the ground, and adorning their branches with an array of colorful glass bottles, many of which date back to the 1950s and come from a collection he inherited from his father. In addition to hundreds of bottle trees, Elmer’s ranch is chock full of eclectic metal sculptures, artifacts, and antiques—from old tools and farming equipment to metal cowboys. There’s plenty to see. And while the property is small, you’ll be kept busy marveling at the way the sunlight glints through the glass and turns one man’s discards into another man’s masterpiece. You might even bump into Elmer himself, installing a new bottle tree or shooting the breeze with visitors.
STRETCH YOUR LEGS: Make a stop at Mojave Narrows Regional Park, about 20 miles down the road in Victorville. The park features a boot camp–style challenge course suitable for older children and adults, as well as a terrific playground to keep younger kids entertained.
From Los Angeles, take I-10 east to I-15 north. Take exit 153A for D St/CA-18 and turn left on what is now called National Trails Hwy. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is 11 miles down the road at 24266 National Trails Hwy. Admission is free, but visitors are welcome to leave a tip in the mailbox just inside the entrance. Dog-friendly!