Eureka: Exploring California Gold Country

If you love history, beautiful scenery, and small towns, Gold Country is a trip worth taking

Nestled against the western slope of the Sierra Nevada the foothills offer outdoor adventure, farm-fresh produce, and relaxed wineries.

On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall, a carpenter from New Jersey, picked up a few shining flecks of gold in the tailrace of the sawmill he and John Sutter were constructing on the South Fork of the American River in the valley the Nisenan Indians knew as Cullumah.

Placerville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

James Marshall was building the sawmill to supply lumber for Sutter’s Fort in the Sacramento Valley. John Sutter had ambitious dreams of creating an empire—the New Helvetia in the Sacramento Valley.

Placerville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The gold discovery site and several historic buildings in present day Coloma became part of California’s state park system in 1927. Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park features a statue of James Marshall pointing at his gold discovery site, full-size replica of the original sawmill, over 20 historic buildings (many original and restored), living history demonstrations, video presentations, and costumed volunteers. Visitors can try their luck panning for gold and enjoy hikes and picnics under the riparian oak woodlands. 

Placerville during the Gold Rush © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The discovery of gold was truly “dumb luck.” John Sutter and James Marshall started out as partners in the lumber business. In the fall of 1847, construction began on a sawmill, and by early 1848, it was ready to be tested. However, the tailrace, which carried water away from the mill was too shallow, and had to be deepened so the water would not back up and prevent the mill wheel from turning. It was during his inspection of the watercourse that Marshall found the shiny flecks. Four days later, the sample was confirmed to be real gold.

Amador City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

By May 1848, San Francisco was reported to be “half empty” as every able-bodied man—doctors, lawyers, gamblers, merchants, miner, and more—headed for Coloma. A great number of Oregon Trail pioneers now had a good reason to head south. News also spread around the world. Many Chinese workers were lured to California, too, by the promise of gold.

The “easy” placer gold at Coloma played out within the first 10 years, sending prospectors into the surrounding hills where many hard rock mines were established.

Amador City © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Soon after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill sparked the California Gold Rush, the small town of Old Dry Diggings sprang up. Later in 1849, the town earned its most common historical name, Hangtown. The name was changed in 1854 when the City of Placerville was incorporated. Placerville was named after the placer deposits found in the river bed.

Sutter Creek © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Other towns followed. One of California’s smallest incorporated cities, with a population of just over 200 residents, Amador City is a little city with a lot to offer. It all started when Jose Marie Amador, a wealthy California rancher found gold outcroppings were discovered on both sides of the creek.

Sutter Creek © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

As the “easy” gold was mined out on the upper part of the creek, mining explorations gradually moved. Founded in 1853, the Keystone Mine was the city’s most famous gold mine and a major reason for the town’s growth. It reached a depth of 2,680 feet and before closing in 1942 produced an estimated $24 million in gold.

Jackson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Jackson, the city that produced more than half the gold pulled from the Mother Lode, home to the deepest mines on the continent, the Argonaut and the Kennedy both in excess of 5,000 feet deep, is the largest city in the historically rich and beautiful wine country of Amador County.

Amador County Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Once the richest mining area in the Mother Lode, today Jackson’s main industry is tourism.

Moke Hill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Founded in 1848, Moke Hill, as the locals called Mokelumne Hill, was among the richest of the digs. Claims in some areas were confined to sixteen square feet and many fortunes were made. It was the county seat in the early days and, although it held no exclusive rights, it was known as one of the most violent, bawdy towns in the Mother Lode.

Angels Camp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Several good strikes were made by early miners at Angels Camp. The source of gold played out quickly but hard rock mining kept the gold industry flourishing in Angels until recently. The town is honeycombed with tunnels from the many successful mines.

Most of the 49ers never intended to remain in California permanently. Most meant to seek their fortune and return to wherever they called home. But many sent for their families and stayed, causing a culturally diverse population to grow rapidly between 1848 and 1852.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Over the next 50 years, roughly 125 million ounces of gold was taken from the hills in the California Gold Country.

Worth Pondering…

There are not many places in the world where you can get to the beach in an hour, the desert in two hours, and snowboarding or skiing in three hours. You can do all that in California.

—Alex Pettyfer

Find the Unexpected in Bakersfield

We went to Bakersfield to tour the home of the Bakersfield Sound

It might make sense to begin a story about RVing to Bakersfield with a disclaimer or two. We do not know anyone in Bakersfield, no family members who invited their relative down for a visit. The motorhome did not break down as we were making our way to the Coachella Valley.

We went to Bakersfield for Bakersfield.

Buck Owens Crystal Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

And at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace just off Highway 99—a long, flat highway packed with cars and other RVers speeding to places perceived as bigger and better—we found ourselves among people who came to Bakersfield for the same reason we did: to tour the home of the Bakersfield Sound.

Buck Owens Crystal Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Crystal Palace is a country night club that was owned and operated by Buck Owens, a honky-tonk guitarist and singer who moved from Texas (by way of Arizona) in 1950 when he was 20 and had dreams bigger than the truck-driving career he’d landed. Like the oil town he’s helped enhance the reputation of, Owens suffers some misperceptions of his own.

Buck Owens Crystal Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Such as the one that his main contribution to the entertainment industry consists of his 17-year tenure as co-host of “Hee Haw”. There’s a whole lot more to Buck than those TV years joshing around with banjo player Roy Clark and a certain woman known for her dangling price tag.

The songs he made hit have been covered by the Beatles (“Act Naturally”) to Ray Charles (“Together Again”).

Buck Owens Crystal Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Musicians including John Fogerty, Jerry Garcia, and Emmylou Harris have cited him as a major influence. His stretch of 15 consecutive No. 1 hits between 1963 and 1967 was unprecedented on country charts. Most significant, perhaps, he’s credited with giving rise to a new kind of country—the hard-driving, bare-bones honky-tonk style that came to be known as the Bakersfield Sound and spawned a fleet of successors, namely Merle Haggard and Dwight Yoakam.

Buck Owens Crystal Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Buck opened his Crystal Palace, a $6.7 million nightclub and restaurant, in 1966. To be honest, the place is less palace than Disney-Does-The-Old-West. Outside, the peach-colored building is lined with signs like “Telegraph Office” and “Lulu’s Millinary”.

Inside, 646 seats at long tables surround a stage and scuffed dance floor.

Buck Owens Crystal Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Exhibit cases walk you through artifacts of Buck’s career from his 1966 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame to his Pontiac signed by Elvis Presley to a number of black-and-white glossies of Buck: There are signed photos from Presidents Nixon and Reagan.

Is there any other kind of music?

Buck Owens Crystal Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Heck no—not as far as Bakersfield is concerned. Country music is the town’s trump card, the thing locals point to with pride when the rest of California dismisses their city as a good place to fuel up, maybe buy a coke and some fries and get back on the road.

Buck Owens Crystal Palace © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace corrects the misconceptions about Bakersfield and eliminates the need for disclaimers of any kind. It memorializes not only Buck by Bakersfield’s music history, a history that runs rich as the oil beneath the thirsty-looking plains surrounding the town. The two are linked. Oil is what drew people here at the turn of the century. It’s what kept the Okies here during the depression years. And when they came—nearly doubling Kern County’s population—they brought their hillbilly music with them.

Bakersfield River Run RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For RVers like us, Bakersfield is an excellent RV adventure destination with three 5-star, big-rig friendly RV parks and resorts.

Located one mile from the Crystal Palace, big-rig friendly Bakersfield River Run RV Park is a well-maintained facility with 123 sites including 31 pull-though and 46 river view (back-in) sites, wide paved streets, compacted gravel/sand sites, concrete patios, and large grassy area. 50/30/20-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV (84 channels) are centrally located. Wi-Fi internet works well from our site (#50); no problem locating satellite. Back-in sites to the Kern River are 65 footers. The park also has a recreation room with a fitness center, computer work stations, and laundry facilities. Ample shopping including Costco are located nearby.

Benji’s French Basque Restaurant © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

On our way back to our home-on-wheels, we treated ourselves to some amazing food at Benji’s Basque Restaurant, conveniently located two blocks from River Run RV Park. Bakersfield is home to the largest collection of Basque restaurants in the U. S. Numerous Basque restaurants offer traditional Basque experiences, carrying on the traditions of their ancestors. A Basque meal is served family style with hearty courses and meat (often lamb) or seafood entree.

Benji’s French Basque Restaurant © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

We ordered the Set Up and a excellent choice it was for our first Basque food experience. The soup, pinto beans, and salsa brought out to be mixed at the table in accordance with our wants was the first. The cabbage filled soup along with French bread was delicious. We were served the salad next. The fresh garden lettuce and sliced tomatoes were heartily dressed and delicious as was the pickled tongue.

Everything was delicious. We rolled out full of amazing food. Would visit this diamond again.

Worth Pondering…

Streets Of Bakersfield
Hey, you don’t know me, but you don’t like me
You say you care less how I feel
But how many of you that sit and judge me
Ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?
—lyrics by Dwight Yoakam; vocals by Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam

Casinos Bet Big on RV Resorts

Southern California casinos are betting big on RV campers by catering to that demographic with full-service campsites

RV camping is on the upswing.

Pala Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In a report released last August, the RV Industry Association forecast that 505,900 RVs were expected to be shipped to dealers in 2018, “capping nine straight years of growth and resulting in the highest annual total for the RV market.”

Pala Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

And demographically speaking, with both boomers and millennials expressing an affinity for RV camping, it’s no wonder casinos have found a new market to woo.

As a result, casinos are now setting aside precious marketing dollars and physical space on their properties to attract the growing RV-campers-who-like-to-gamble clientele.

Pala Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In southern California, two casinos—Pala and Pechanga—have carved out big chunks of their casino land to cater to RV campers. Here’s a look at Palo.

Pala Casino Spa & Resort

Location: 11154 Highway 76, Pala

Opened: May 23, 2016

How big: 10 acres

How many sites: 100, all full-service

Pala Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Site details: 20, 30 and 50 amps of electrical service are available for RVs from 55 to 70 feet. Of the 100 sites, 77 are 30-foot-by-55-foot back-in sites, six are 30-foot-by-60-foot luxury sites equipped with barbecue grills, and 17 are 30-foot-by-70-foot premium pull-through sites. All have a grassy area with a picnic table, electrical, water, and sewer hookups and free Wi-Fi and cable television service.

Pala Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Amenities: Beyond site offerings, the campground has other special treats for campers. There are two heated swimming pools and two spas. Indoor amenities include the Registration Building, which has card tables, a billiard table, three TVs, a 24-hour Laundromat, and two restrooms with showers. Outdoor amenities include a fenced dog park, five barbecue grills, two horseshoe pits, and two ping-pong tables. On the resort’s western end, there is another restroom facility, which also has showers. A luxury clubhouse, across the street from the Registration Building, offers two kitchens. The clubhouse can be rented for an additional fee.

Pala Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Pets: The resort allows three pets per RV at a fee for $5 per pet per stay, up to seven days.

Forgot something?: Though there are grocery stores nearby, even more convenient is the Pala Mini-Mart across from the RV resort, adjacent to the gas station. It has everything from snacks and produce to alcohol and meats. The mini-mart’s deli also makes made-to-order sandwiches and pizzas.

San Antonio de Pala Ascistencia is located adjacent to the Casino © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Shuttle service: Shuttles are available 24 hours a day from the RV resort to the Pala hotel and casino.

Discounts: 10 percent discounts available to members of Good Sam, AAA, AARP, FMCA, and military.

San Antonio de Pala Ascistencia is located adjacent to the Casino © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Accolades: Good Sam has awarded Pala RV Resort perfect 10s for three consecutive years, and in 2016 and 2017, both Trailer Life and MotorHome magazines gave Pala RV Resort a Gold Award, naming it as Best RV Resort Casino and Best Campground Resort. And just this past summer, it received the Platinum Reader’s Choice Award from the national publication RV West, naming it the Best Snowbird Destination in California.

San Antonio de Pala Ascistencia is located adjacent to the Casino © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Dining tips: If you tire of cooking in the RV, the casino has so many dining choices you’ll think you hit the culinary jackpot. For quick and casual, there’s Coffee Amoré, which besides coffee also has pastries, salads, and sandwiches. Pala Cafe has a huge menu, offering everything from burgers and salads to soups and hearty entrees. If Asian is your cup of tea, there’s Sushi Sake, a sushi-style bar, and Noodles, which serves soups as well as noodle and rice dishes from China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Japan. If, on the other hand, you just can’t make up your mind, the casino’s expansive buffet, Choices, will give you more than food from which to choose—from salads and omelets to dishes from Mexico, Italy, Asia, and beyond.

San Antonio de Pala Ascistencia is located adjacent to the Casino © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

The contemporary casino is more than a gambling destination: it is a multifarious pleasure enclosure intended to satisfy every member of the family unit. —Colson Whitehead

Temecula Valley: Historic Old Town, Wine Country and More

The Southern California wine region was named one of the best destinations for 2019

For many visitors, the Temecula Valley wine country is a surprise. After all, a lot of people just don’t expect to see gently rolling hills blanketed with rows of vineyards so close to the California desert.

But the Temecula Valley has been producing top wines since the 1970s. And like the best vintages, this wine country just gets better with age.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For years, the Temecula Valley wine country has been somewhat of an under-the-radar destination. But it’s a secret no longer. Wine Enthusiast has named Temecula Valley one of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations for 2019” shining a spotlight on the area’s winning combination of notable wines and top-notch hospitality.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It’s a diverse growing region, home to everything from cooler climate grapes like Chardonnay to such warm-weather loving varieties as Syrah and Grenache. The tasting experience is varied, too. Visit posh wineries with lavish restaurants overlooking the vines, and summer concerts featuring top performers.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Stroll the streets of Old Town Temecula, with quality boutiques, eateries, and a relaxed Old West feel. Take a hot-air balloon ride or tasting tour in a chauffeured limousine, or play a round of golf. Or just hang out in a tasting room gain insights into this unique and surprising region.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Centrally located just east of Interstate 15, Temecula Valley is within an hour’s drive from San Diego, Orange County, and the Palm Springs/Coachella Valley area. 

The name Temecula comes from the Luiseño Indian word “Temecunga” —“temet” meaning “sun” and “-ngna” which means “place of”.

The Spanish interpreted and spelled the word as “Temecula” translated to mean “Where the sun breaks through the mist”. Temecula is the only city in California to still retain its original Indian name.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

History buffs can wander the streets of Old Town Temecula viewing rustic buildings, sidewalks, and storefronts reminiscent of the historic golden west in the 1880s.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located in the heart of Temecula, the Old Town district is a unique blend of historic buildings, shops, restaurants, museums, hotels, weekly farmers market, and special events in one walkable, easy-to navigate area.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Taking a step back in time, we strolled along the wooden boardwalks past rustic western-era buildings, antique shops, and specialty boutiques. We checked out the shops with a stop at Temecula Olive Oil Company.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Once the site of a stopover on the historic Butterfield Overland Stage Coach Line, scenic Vail Lake was created in 1948 when the owners of the Vail Cattle Ranch constructed the 132 foot high Vail Lake Dam. Owned and operated by the Rancho California Water District since 1978, the 1,000+ acre lake is a well known mountain biking destination and recreational mecca.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Today Vail Lake RV Resort offers camping and activities for the whole family, including camping, mountain biking, hiking, miniature golf, swimming, horseshoes, and just plain relaxing under the oaks. Offering both privacy and security, Vail Lake RV Resort is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature in over 8,000 acres of ancient, shady oaks, and natural California chaparral hillsides.

Old Town Temecula © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Temecula Valley, at an elevation of 1,400 feet, with warm days and cool nights, is an ideal location for growing high quality wine grapes.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

No matter which varietal of wine you’re looking for, you can probably find it in Temecula Valley Wine Country. Wineries here in the Temecula Valley grow and produce over 50 different varietals of wine; from Cabernet Sauvignon to Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot to Mourvedre, Viognier to Chardonnay.

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Temecula Valley is particularly well-suited to growing Italian, Spanish, and French grapes such as Sangiovese, Syrah, Montepulciano, Viognier, Zinfandel, and Tempranillo.

The majority of Temecula Valley wineries make only a small quantity of each vintage—not enough for national distribution. So, you won’t often find their wines in grocery stores or wine shops; they’re mostly available to visitors via winery tasting rooms. That means, when you buy a bottle to take home, you’re bringing back something truly unique.

Pechanga Casino RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Where to Stay: Pechanga Casino RV Resort, Temecula

Worth Pondering…

Products from the soil are still the greatest industry in the world.

—Dick Cooper, 1966

Joshua Tree: Admire Two Deserts At Once

Two deserts, two large ecosystems primarily determined by elevation, come together in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park—nearly 800,000 acres of desert east of Los Angeles—rewards RVers with a full range of peculiar treasures: spiky yuccas, spiny cacti, spindly ocotillos, gangly Joshua trees, and dramatic geological formations, including Skull Rock and the elephantine Jumbo Rocks.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

And they’re all easy to see in a day’s drive.

Arch Rock, 30 minutes from the park’s north entrance at Twentynine Palms, offers a fine opportunity to pose for a photo with one of those geologic marvels.

An even bigger wow can be had at Keys View on the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains. To the west, distant San Gorgonio Mountain and San Jacinto Peak— both topping 10,000 feet—scrape the sky. Looking south, you can spy the Salton Sea and, on a clear day, Mexico.

Two deserts, two large ecosystems primarily determined by elevation, come together in the park. Few areas more vividly illustrate the contrast between “high” and “low” desert. Below 3,000 feet, the Colorado Desert (part of the Sonoran Desert), occupying the eastern half of the park, is dominated by the abundant creosote bush. Adding interest to this arid land are small stands of spidery ocotillo and cholla cactus.

The higher, slightly cooler, and wetter Mojave Desert is the special habitat of the undisciplined Joshua tree, extensive stands of which occur throughout the western half of the park.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Surrounded by twisted, spiky trees straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, you might begin to question your map. Where are we anyway? In wonder, the traveler pulls over for a snapshot of this prickly oddity.

Known as the park namesake, the Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia, is a member of the Agave family. (Until recently, it was considered a giant member of the Lily family, but DNA studies led to the division of that formerly huge family into 40 distinct plant families.) Like the California fan palm, Washingtonia filifera, the Joshua tree is a monocot, in the subgroup of flowering plants that also includes grasses and orchids.

Don’t confuse the Joshua tree with the Mojave yucca, Yucca schidigera. This close relative can be distinguished by its longer, wider leaves and fibrous threads curling along leaf margins. Both types of yuccas can be seen growing together in the park. The Joshua tree provides a good indicator that you are in the Mojave Desert, but you may also find it growing next to a saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert in western Arizona or mixed with pines in the San Bernardino Mountains.

Years ago the Joshua tree was recognized by American Indians for its useful properties: tough leaves were worked into baskets and sandals, and flower buds and raw or roasted seeds made a healthy addition to the diet.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

By the mid-19th century, Mormon immigrants had made their way across the Colorado River. Legend has it that these pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travelers westward.

Concurrent with Mormon settlers, ranchers, and miners arrived in the high desert with high hopes of raising cattle and digging for gold. These homesteaders used the Joshua tree’s limbs and trunks for fencing and corrals. Miners found a source of fuel for the steam engines used in processing ore.

Others were not as visionary. Early explorer John Fremont described them as “…the most repulsive tree in the vegetable Kingdom.”

The tallest Joshua tree in the park looms forty feet high—a grand presence in the Queen Valley forest.

The trees bloom in spring between February and April, and they are pollinated by the yucca moth, which spreads pollen from tree to tree while laying her eggs in the flowers.

Judging the age of a Joshua tree is challenging: these “trees” do not have growth rings like you would find in an oak or pine. You can make a rough estimate based on height, as Joshua trees grow at rates of one-half inch to three inches per year. Some researchers think an average lifespan for a Joshua tree is about 150 years, but some of our largest trees may be much older than that.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Trampled in dust I’ll show you a place high on the desert plain where the streets have no name, where the streets have no name …

—Joshua Tree, sung by U2, 1987

Desert Star: Palm Springs

Whether its golf, tennis, polo, taking the sun, shopping, or hiking Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise

Palm Springs acquired the title “Playground of the Stars” many years ago when it was just a village in the desert and a popular weekend Hollywood getaway destination.

Only 100 miles east of Tinseltown, it was an easy drive, even in the days before freeways. And even though Hollywood’s winter climate was mild, the celebrities of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s headed to the desert for weekends of poolside relaxation.

Shopping El Paseo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Today, the village has grown and attractions consist of much more than just hanging out poolside. Whether it’s golf, tennis, polo, taking the sun, hiking, or a trip up the aerial tram, Palm Springs is a winter desert paradise.

Palm Springs and its many neighboring cities are in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, once an inland sea and now a desert area with abundant artesian wells. An escape from winter’s chill and snow, it is also a destination filled with numerous places to visit and things to do.

The Agua Caliente Cahuilla peoples were among the first to settle here and their descendants have established the Agua Caliente Indian Canyons, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Indian Canyons are one of the most beautiful attractions for any Palm Springs visitor, especially if you love to hike. You can hike Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon. Unlike other area trails, most of the trails in the Indian Canyons follow running streams. Washingtonia filifera (California Fan Palm), and indigenous flora and fauna are abundant.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A moderately graded, foot path winds down into Palm Canyon for picnicking near the stream, meditating, exploring, hiking, or horseback riding.

The contrasting greens of the magnificent fan palms and more than 150 species of plants within a half-mile radius beckon the hiker into lush Andreas Canyon. A scenic foot trail leads through the canyon passing groves of stately skirted palms, unusual rock formations, and the perennial Andreas Creek. To access the Indian Canyons, take South Palm Canyon from Highway 111.

There are so many great trails to choose from—but none can surpass Tahquitz Canyon. Nowhere else can you to see a spectacular 60-foot waterfall, rock art, an ancient irrigation system, numerous species of birds, and plants—all in the space of a few hours.

Tahquitz Canyon is at the northeast base of 10,804-foot Mount San Jacinto in Palm Springs.

Hiking Tahquitz Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Located at the entrance to the canyon, the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center, at 500 West Mesquite, just west of Palm Canyon Drive, offers exhibits, an observation deck, and a theatre room for viewing a video that narrates the legend of Tahquitz Canyon.

Needing a change of pace? Let the Palm Springs Aerial Tram do the climbing, 6,000 feet of it. Along the way a wondrous panorama of the desert lands stretches below and beyond. From Mountain Station at the top, there are short nature hikes or longer trails of varying lengths. Be sure to bring a warm jacket as the temperature difference is dramatic at this elevation and snow is not uncommon.

Palm Springs from Tahquitz Canyon trail head © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Rising abruptly from the desert floor, the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National  Monument reaches an elevation of 10,834 feet. Providing a picturesque backdrop to the desert cities, visitors can enjoy magnificent palm oases, snow-capped mountains, a national scenic trail, and wilderness areas. Jointly managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service, the Monument can be accessed using Highway 74 (Palms to Pines Scenic Byway) from Palm Desert.

Located in Palm Desert, the world famous El Paseo Shopping District features over 300 world-class shops, clothing boutiques, art galleries, jewelers, and restaurants lined along a picture-postcard floral and statue-filled mile. Known as the Rodeo Drive of the Desert, El Paseo boasts a wide spectrum of stores from Sak’s 5th Avenue to individually owned boutiques.

Browse your favorite luxury labels and chic boutiques, savor gourmet cuisine by the Coachella Valley’s top chefs, and wander through an array of art galleries set against a scenic backdrop. 

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum in Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Complete your Coachella Valley journey with something sweet by visiting the Shields Date Garden in Indio and you’ll find yourself in a date oasis where the Shields’ have been growing their own since 1924. Enjoy a date milkshake, a variety of date-centric dishes in the garden café, or educate yourself by viewing a short documentary on the cultivation of this exotic fruit which continuously screens in the café’s own theater. Be sure to also take a stroll through the garden in the back.

Worth Pondering…

We have 51 golf courses in Palm Springs. He (President Ford) never decides which course he will play until after the first tee shot.

—Bob Hope