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Palm oases are a haven for wildlife in the desert


Scenic Drives  · Palm Springs - Joshua Tree Area

Palm Springs - Joshua Tree Area

Print this free Palm Springs – Joshua Tree map to main roads, back roads, and best of all - scenic roads in this unique region combining an "only in California" adult playground with a huge natural playground for jackrabbits, quail and coyote. The town and the national park both have palm trees and cacti but they are as uniquely different as night and day – the perfect contrast for a scenic driving tour.  
Palm Springs has all the amenities and many attractions for visitors as shown on the map. Joshua Tree National Park has good roads, many trails and plenty of the namesake trees. The map shows the different options for accessing the huge park. Once you’ve explored Palm Springs and the surrounding towns, head to Highway 74 (see map) for a gorgeous drive in the mountains.

Palm Springs - Joshua Tree Area Scenic Drives

Visitor Info
Joshua Tree National Park Palm Springs
Scenic Drive Index Print/Zoom

SCENIC DRIVES: It is hard to find a place in Palm Springs that isn’t 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 – 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 1930’s, 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 you’ll 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. Don’t 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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