Things to Do in Palm Springs
The driest desert in North America, the Mojave is home to Death Valley National Park, which is best known for its Badwater Basin, the lowest point on the continent at 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level. The Mojave’s 25,000 square miles (65,000 square kilometers) also encompass Las Vegas, Lake Mead, Mojave National Preserve, and more.
Running down the state of California, from Cape Mendocino to the Mexican border, the San Andreas Fault forms a continuous, narrow break in the Earth's crust between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. Seismologists predict that the fault will eventually cause the "big one": a 7.0+ magnitude earthquake on the Richter scale.
Some of the best hiking near Palm Springs—and in the deserts of California—can be found at Indian Canyons, which is located at the western edge of Palm Springs. The land is owned and protected by the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians, who settled in the Palm Springs area centuries ago. Today, these people diligently care for the trails and invite visitors from near and far to experience the stunning desert scenery.
There are three primary hikes in the Indian Canyons: Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon and Murray Canyon. All three are thought to be easy to moderate trips, but more advanced hikers can combine different hikes and take small paths with greater elevation gains up the mountains. Some of the features of the hikes include waterfalls, panoramic views and of course, the sprawling desert landscapes. All of the trails are clearly marked.
One of the world’s largest collections of vintage airplanes from World War II fill the hangars at the Palm Springs Air Museum.
Wartime memorabilia, combat photography, murals, uniforms and documentaries provide educational insights into aviation and combat history.
Planes in the museum’s three hangars focus on Army and Navy aircraft, and the mighty B17.
If you visit on a Saturday you might catch demonstration flights and World War II audio-visual displays.
There are flight simulator games for kids, and a children’s calendar of events and activities.
Covering more than 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) on a 10-minute journey, the popular Palm Springs Aerial Tramway provides spectacular views of Chino Canyon and Mount San Jacinto State Park. Activities at the top—accessed by one of the largest rotating aerial tramcars in the world—are offered year-round.
Palm Springs' Living Desert Zoo and Gardens presents animals and botanical gardens in the Sonoran Desert.Focusing on flora and fauna from desert landscapes around the world, the living desert includes replicated gardens from Africa and North America, while theMojave Garden replicates the high desert. Bighorn sheep, lizards, mountain lions, bobcats, and amphibians are joined by exotic giraffes and meerkats in the Africa section.
Take a wander through cactus and agave gardens, wildflower and palm gardens, yucca and salvia gardens . You're bound to be inspired by the drought-tolerant planting schemes.
The endangered fringe-toed lizard is given room to roam at the Coachella Valley Preserve, which was specifically designed to protect these desert creatures.
Guided hikes through the preserves’ sand dunes and rocky escarpments are led by knowledgeable naturalists who can share their insights into the life cycle of this threatened reptile.
The preserve has more than 25 miles (40 km) of hiking trails. While you walk, look out for eagles, California fan palms, bobcats, horned owls, cottontail bunnies, kestrels and lizards.
Joshua Tree National Park lies at the crux of the Colorado and Mojave deserts and spans 429,690 acres (173,889 hectares) of wind-swept Southern California plains. Famous for its starlit night skies and surreal geological features, the park’s rich landscape and signature flora draws day-trippers, rock climbers, and backpackers alike.
Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness covers 14,000 acres (5,665 hectares) west of Palm Springs, including the second-highest mountain in Southern California. It is home to subalpine forest, hiking trails—including a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail—and cross-country skiing tracks that draw visitors throughout the year.
California’s largest state park protects the arid mountain wilderness of the Anza-Borrego Desert.
Made up of 12 wilderness areas, the park is home to bighorn sheep, wildflowers, palms, cacti, eagles, roadrunners, and iguanas.
It’s a remote-feeling wilderness area, ideal for desert hiking and drives. Wildflower season (February to April) is a stellar time to visit, with flowering cacti in every color of the rainbow.
More Things to Do in Palm Springs
Sprawling from the Mexico border in the south to the Mohave Desert in the north, the Colorado Desert encompasses 7 million acres of land. The two most well-known destinations within the area are Coachella Valley, famous for its annual music and arts festival, and Joshua Tree National Park, which occupies 800,000 acres of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. There are also the Imperial Valleys. The Coachella Valley houses seven towns, including sunny Palm Springs.
The Colorado Desert is generally considered a lower elevation area, with few points reaching above 3,000 feet. There’s no better way to describe the climate other than with the use of the word hot. This desert has higher summertime day temperatures than others at higher elevation, and it also receives more rain than the typical desert. There are many indigenous flora and fauna, including regional variations of cacti and brush scrub. Some of the unique desert wildlife roaming this part of the country includes bobcats, cactus mice, Yuma antelope and red-diamond rattlesnakes.
Protected by the Wildlands Conservancy, Mission Creek Preserve spans more than 4,700 acres between the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. Endemic flora and fauna of both deserts can be found in the preserve, which also includes wetlands and a picturesque stream running through. Many species of wildlife call the preserve home, including deer, bears, big horn sheep and mountain lions.
The majority of people who visit Mission Creek Preserve do so for its incredible hiking. Views of eroded painted hills and Mount San Gorgonio are offered up as a reward for a hiker's efforts. The main trail leads to the Pacific Coast Trail and to the Whitewater Preserve, another area protected by the Wetlands Conservancy. Veering off the Mission Creek Preserve trail up to the top of the Whitewater Preserve offers spectacular views of the Whitewater Valley below.
Driving from Palm Springs through the nearby small desert towns with cacti and scrub brush on both sides and the heat of summer pressing down on you, a cold treat awaits: the famous date shake at Oasis Date Gardens. This 175-acre date ranch and its accompanying store are situated at the epicenter of California’s vast date production area. This spot features a small gift shop, an educational theater that plays a movie on the history of dates in California, a window through which date processing can be observed and a luncheonette counter that serves food incorporating the region’s fresh dates.
This industry in California makes up 95 percent of the entire U.S. output of the crop. The majority of California’s dates are grown in the Coachella Valley, which produces more dates annually than almost any other region in the world; farmers produce more than 35 million pounds of the date fruit every year. Oasis Date Gardens’ medjool dates have been certified organic since 2000, and the business has been in operation for over 100 years.
You don’t need to go far for idyllic desert roaming on foot or horseback, with the desert wilderness of Tahquitz Canyon reservation right on the edge of Palm Springs.
Guided hikes reveal incredible desert rock formations, pools, flowers and wildlife. The 2-mile (3 km) Tahquitz Canyon Trail loop leads to a lovely waterfall, with rocky steps to climb.
Wear your hiking boots and come equipped with drinking water, your camera and, if you want to relax while you’re here, a good book.
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