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Palm oases are a haven for wildlife in the desert


Top Destinations  ·  Southern California  ·  Palm Springs - Joshua Tree Area

Palm Springs - Joshua Tree Area

Palm Springs has had a transformation lately. Famous for golf courses, Hollywood legends, retirees and weekend getaway motels, Palm Springs now offers vacation options for non-golfers, families, nature-lovers and just about everyone else. A vacation in Palm Springs can include a trip to a water park or a casino, a horseback ride through the palm canyons, a balloon ride, a scenic drive or just relaxing by the pool.

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Joshua trees look more like cacti than trees, producing pale yellow flowers during the spring

A Palm Springs vacation should include a trip to the mountains via the aerial tram and a trip to Joshua Tree National Park, especially if it is springtime when the desert blooms.

Palm Springs has long been gay-friendly with dedicated spas, hotels and resorts.

Some of the highlights of this destination include:

Attractions: Joshua Tree National Park, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Palm Canyon, Palm Springs Desert Museum, Moorten Botanical Garden, Living Desert Reserve, Shields Date Gardens, wind farms

Towns: Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, Twentynine Palms, Indio, Coachella

National Forests: San Bernardino National Forest

National Parks: Joshua Tree National Park

State Parks: Mt. San Jacinto State Park, Anza-Borrego State Park

Palm Springs - Joshua Tree Area Scenic Drives

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Joshua Tree National Park Palm Springs
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SCENIC DRIVES: It is hard to find a place in Palm Springs that isnít scenic if you enjoy blue skies, palm trees, desert light and mountain peaks. People come for the resorts, the golf and the desert lifestyle all year round but summers are really hot so plan ahead. The town is a great location for exploring the whole region Ė all the amenities and luxuries of resort community but only a short hop to desert wilderness and wildlife.

The natural setting is not far from town, at nearby Joshua Tree National Park where you can hike or bike trails, rock climb the rounded piles of boulders strewn across the desert, ride horses or just drive the roads to see the "forests" of Joshua trees. A surprising amount of plant and animal life thrives here and much more is visible at the rare oases within the park. Get a free map at the Visitor Center.

In the 1930ís, movie stars created the early glamorous image of Palm Springs as a place to escape and party. Today, low-rise buildings keep the city from feeling too commercial even though the area has grown tremendously as a popular destination.

Start at Moorten Botanical Garden so you can identify the wide array of rugged desert plants youíll be seeing during your visit to the area. Head north and spent time in downtown Palm Springs on Palm Canyon Dr. The area is packed with restaurants, boutiques and galleries. Donít miss the centrally located Desert Museum near Tahquitz Canyon Way for regional culture, art and natural history exhibits.  

Go north to Tramway Road and take a left. Cool off while riding to the crest of San Jacinto Mountains for breathtaking views, a hike, a meal or just the air.

Return to 111 and watch for the wind farms along the way. At I-10, go west to Highway 62 towards Morongo Canyon. Stop at the Reserve or continue towards the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park at Park Blvd (the first of three park entrances on the northern border). Make certain you have plenty of water and proper clothing for the desert conditions. A detailed map and description of the park is included in our National Parks section.

The drive through the park offers many close-up views of the namesake trees that support an amazing amount of insect and bird life, especially during spring bloom. Short hiking trails to rock formations and historic sites are well signed and mapped. Rock climbers can be spotted all over the park but many formations may be climbed by any fit hiker.  

Exit the park at the south and return on I-10 to Indio where you will head south to 111. A stop at Shields Date Gardens shop will revive you (try a date milkshake, really) before continuing to The Living Desert Wildlife and Botanical Park (a left at Portola).  

SIDETRIP: For a windy and beautiful drive along the "other" side of San Jacinto Mountains, take Highway 74 and turn on to the "Palms to Pines" National Scenic Byway leading to tiny Idyllwild and eventually connecting to I-10 at Banning.

Return to Palm Springs via 111 as it joins Palm Canyon Dr.

SIDETRIP:  Take a left at the above intersection and go south to the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation where a small fee allows you to visit Palm Canyon, a short walk into a real palm oasis, complete with a stream, tall palms, birds, jackrabbits and a host of creatures thriving amid barren rock expanses.


Wernher Krutein/photovault.com
You can almost forget you're in the desert on one of the many golf courses in Palm Springs

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