California’s Timeless Getaway: Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley

This desert escape never goes out of style

Before you even finish this sentence, I’m guessing you can name the number one reason why everyone loves Palm Springs.

Somewhere in the Coachella Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The weather! That’s right, Palm Springs averages 350 sunny days per year; its temperate winter climate complements the sunlight to keep you pleasantly warm. The forecast calls for fun, so explore all that Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley have to offer…

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled between the mesmerizing San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains and Joshua Tree National Park on either side, the Coachella Valley is like no other place on earth. Some might even say it’s magical. Health-seekers, adventurers, artists, and more have flocked here since the early 1900s in search of inspiration, solitude, and serenity. Here, there’s room to breathe and just be, frolicking among the palm oases and hidden waterfalls beneath sun-kissed skies.

El Paseo, Palm Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The nine cities in the Coachella Valley—Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, and Coachella—have distinct histories and personalities. Visit the infamous San Andreas Fault and its twisted desert canyons.

Coachella Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Soak in the healing hot mineral springs, some of the purest in the world. Tee off at a championship golf course where the likes of Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods have played. Or simply bask in the sunshine. Regardless of where your Coachella Valley journey begins, you’re guaranteed to experience that same magic in the air that keeps snowbirds coming back, time and time again.

Related: Out and About In Southern California

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Springs

The desert cities, especially Palm Springs, are particularly well-suited for the outdoor lifestyle that has become requisite within the past year with popular brunch spots along the palm-tree-lined main drag offering sprawling shaded patios perfect for people watching and sipping mimosas.

Palm Springs has been a hideaway for Angelenos since the Rat Pack days and it’s no wonder. This colorful, chic desert escape offers everything you need to unwind and it’s less than a two-hour journey from the city center of L.A.

Tahquitz Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The main draw for snowbirds is the year-round sunshine, but modern art and architecture buffs are attracted to the works of the architects who put their mark on the town including Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, and William Krisel. Frey designed Tramway Gas Station, now the Palm Springs Visitor Center. Given its residents’ penchant for art and design, the area is also home to some of the state’s best vintage shops.

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The beautiful San Jacinto Mountains are the backdrop to Palm Springs. You can visit the top of the San Jacinto Mountain via The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It travels up over 2.5 miles along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon. The weather is about 30 degrees cooler so you can go from warm to cool weather in a 10-minute tram ride. You can go from t-shirt, to coat, back to swimsuit in a fall afternoon. Only in Palm Springs!

Related: The Amazing Story of Palms to Pines Scenic Byway

Tahquitz Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a hike at one of the convenient trails located near the heart of town. Andreas Canyon is a cradle of cultural finds, showcasing irrigation and artistic achievements of the Cahuilla indigenous people. It’s one of the three canyons in Indian Canyons and offers beautiful views meandering along a natural creek.

Palm Springs from Tahquitz Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a more challenging hike, consider the trailhead tucked fashionably behind the Palm Springs Art Museum. While you’re there, visit one of the many fascinating design and architecture attractions that make the city famous.

Tahquitz Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your hike continues from manmade wonders to natural spectacles. The waterfalls of Tahquitz Canyon are truly astounding, flanked by lush greenery and picturesque wildlife. The crisp water rushing past you tumbles 60 feet from apex to completion.

Tahquitz Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Will you be in town Thursday night? If not, rearrange those plans! VillageFest rocks Palm Canyon Drive every week with a dazzling array of delightful fare. Fall hours are 6–10 pm. Nosh on finger foods from area restaurants, gaze at visionary pieces by local artists and shop to the max at a bevy of business stands. The only thing missing is you!

Related: Desert Star: Palm Springs

Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Desert Hot Springs

Located in Coachella Valley, Desert Hot Springs is known internationally for its vast underground aquifers of pure cold water and soothing natural hot mineral water. Situated high overlooking the Palm Springs area, the hotels and spas are known for natural, healing, hot mineral waters.

Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not only can you soak in the water; you can drink it too. That’s because the underground cold water springs are just as pure as the hot water springs. Think of it as hot and cold running water. Instead of turning a faucet, though, the water is pumped directly out of the earth.

Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hot or cold, the mineral water is unique. It has no smell, unlike lots of other mineral waters. It’s crystal clear too, never discolored like many other waters.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the Sand to Snow National Monument, outdoor enthusiasts will find creosote-strewn hillsides at Mission Creek Preserve or can opt for a hike into the diverse Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Once a Native American village and later a cattle ranch, this preserve is a serene oasis around a natural spring generated by snowmelt from the surrounding mountains. Big Morongo attracts all manner of birds and animals to riparian woodland filled with cottonwoods and willows.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a slice of history, Cabot’s Pueblo Museum is a marvel of engineering and design made from recycled desert materials. The home was built beginning in 1941. The Hopi-inspired building is hand-made and created from reclaimed and found materials from throughout the Coachella Valley. The Pueblo has four stories, is 5,000 square feet, and includes 35 rooms, 150 windows, 30 rooflines, and 65 doors.

Related: Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis

Palm Desert © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Palm Desert

Situated in the heart of Coachella Valley, Palm Desert has metamorphosed from a sandy cove at the foot of the Santa Rosas into a sprawling shopping, entertainment, and recreation mecca.

El Paseo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catch a show at the McCallum Theatre, a state-of-the-art performance venue that has hosted some of the world’s top entertainers and touring Broadway acts. Feed a giraffe at the wonderfully wild Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, ranked one of the top zoos in the country.

El Paseo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Let inspiration strike while exploring public art along the city’s famed shopping district, El Paseo. Kick it into high gear on the Bump and Grind Trail (the 1,000-foot elevation gain pays off in breathtaking panoramic views) or play a round on an award-winning golf course.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the most unique places in the Coachella Valley is the Coachella Valley Preserve. The 17,000-acre site has 25 miles of hiking trails and several palm oases including the biggie: the Thousand Palm Oasis. These stay full of water thanks to water seeping out of the San Andreas Fault. The hike from the visitor center to the McCallum Pond at the Thousand Palms Oasis is a fairly easy one, mostly flat, and about a mile.

Tahquitz Canyon, Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cathedral City

Though home to its fair share of lush country clubs and exceptional hotels, Cathedral City shines as a haven for the arts. Thanks to a recent Public Arts Initiative, visitors can discover several works on display throughout the city including the whimsical, mosaic-tiled Fountain of Lifestatue that proudly claims the heart of downtown. Feel free to splash around in the cooling waters … we won’t judge.

Related: Good for What Ages You: Palm Springs

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get to know local talent by attending a gallery opening on Perez Road, the city’s art and design district, or hunt for one-of-a-kind treasures and vintage furniture finds in the district’s eclectic warehouse-style shops.

Tahquitz Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rancho Mirage

A luxurious lifestyle meets a playful landscape in Rancho Mirage. Several past U.S. Presidents, including Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, have unplugged here, finding peace amid the palm trees and earning the city the nickname “playground of presidents.” 

Families can shop, dine, and catch a flick all in the same day at Greater Palm Springs’ only waterfront shopping and entertainment hub, The River.

Stroll the historic 200-acre estate at Sunnylands Gardens and marvel at the 70-some odd species of arid-adapted plants suited to the desertscape or wander labyrinths and gaze in reflecting pools.

Tahquitz Canyon, Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Quinta

This “gem in the desert” embraces the outdoors and the arts. Spend the day romanticizing and wandering through Old Town, La Quinta’s main street with cobblestone sidewalks, whitewashed adobe walls, and bougainvillea galore. The quaint thoroughfare provides the perfect storybook-like setting for an afternoon of shopping and alfresco dining.

Related: Top 10 States with the Best Winter Weather

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

Sip on a seasonal IPA at La Quinta Brewing Company (their outdoor patio is great for people-watching). Browse local artists’ wares, ranging from paintings to ceramics to jewelry during Art on Main Street, held on select Saturdays throughout the year. Shop for fresh fare and flowers at the Old Town Farmers Market.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience art and learn a new skill at Old Town Artisan Studios. Or rent a beach cruiser through Old Town Peddler to explore more of the surrounding cottage-filled neighborhoods that make up La Quinta Cove where hikers enjoy easy access to trails that traverse beautiful desert mountains and canyons.

Shield’s Date Garden, Indio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indio

Dubbed the City of Festivals, Indio has become a favorite destination for foodies and music lovers attracting nearly 1.4 million people each year for its multiple mainstream events including the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival (April 15-17 and 22-24, 2022) and Stagecoach Country Music Festival (April 29-May 1, 2022).

Tamale Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For an authentic taste of the valley, don’t miss the Indio International Tamale Festival (29th annual; December 4-5, 2021) where dozens of homemade tamales with creative flavors (hello pumpkin, vegan green chile, and chocolate cherry!) delight.

Shield’s Date Garen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And of course, there’s the date shake. Many local eateries serve up creamy, ice-cold shakes made with the Coachella Valley’s favorite fruit—our preferred way to chill on a warm desert day. Sip yours while strolling through the date groves and citrus trees at Shields Date Garden & Café, an Indio mainstay since 1924.

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

Coachella

Color comes alive in the City of Eternal Sunshine whose rich Hispanic heritage shines through in community events like Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and authentic Mexican cuisine you won’t find anywhere else in Coachella Valley. Choices range from Jalisco, a landmark Coachella restaurant that has been a favorite of many since 1980 to El Tranvia, owned by Oscar Ventura, whose grandparents once sold tacos out of a pushcart in their native Zamora, Mexico.

Related: 10 RV Parks in the Southwest that Snowbirds Love

Tamale Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is said that the tacos here will change your life. Take a trip down the street and you’ll find Las Tres Conchitas, Coachella’s very first bakery where you can purchase authentic Mexican sweet bread and baked goods. 

Shield’s Date Garden, Indio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Die-hard foodies can even book an agri-tour to get an up-close look at the fields of brightly hued fruits and vegetables that surround the city. Learn how growers cultivate their crops, many of which end up on your plate at some of the area’s finest restaurants.

Indian Waters RV Park, Indio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Equally colorful—and perhaps one of the area’s best-kept secrets—is the Coachella Walls, beautiful murals painted by local artists throughout downtown that celebrate the city’s people and history. Stroll the historic sidewalks with a self-guided tour and admire their artistry.

Worth Pondering…

You don’t go to Palm Springs in the summer unless you’re building a golf course.

—Arnold Palmer

10 Amazing Places to RV in March

RV travel allows you to take the comforts of home on the road

March is when many RV destinations begin to bloom. Deserts of the Southwest bask in perfect temperatures, the calm before the summer sizzle. Elsewhere, there are springtime celebrations to mark the joy of a new season. It’s shoulder season at beach escapes everywhere from Florida to Southern California.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bad news is COVID-19 has taken its toll on the tourism industry and continues to impact travel. Canadian snowbirds didn’t flock south this winter. Naturally, RVers are looking forward to the relaxation of these restrictions. But where are the most amazing places to RV this month?

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in January and February. Also check out our recommendations from March 2020.

Apache Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Apache Trail Scenic Drive, Arizona

A National Scenic Byway, the 44-mile paved and gravel Apache Trail crosses the rugged northern part of the Superstition Mountains northeast of Phoenix offering access to three reservoirs and gorgeous desert scenery. Named for the Apache people who once used this trail, the road winds through canyons and mountain ridges offering numerous pull-outs where you can enjoy the scenery. The Trail starts near the Goldfield Ghost Town and Superstition Mountains Museum, continues to Lost Dutchman State Park, and then heads north and passes Needle Vista with gorgeous views of the Superstition Wilderness.

Superstition Mountain Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll drive through hills filled with giant saguaros and wind down to Canyon Lake. Past it, you’ll come to Tortilla Flat, the only “community” (with a population of six people) along the drive which is home to a cafe and gift shop. Farther along, the road turns to dirt and narrows in spots and features some amazing scenery. Apache Lake, located in another deep valley, has a recreation area worth a stop. The last 10 miles of the scenic drive parallel the lake until reaching the Roosevelt Dam, a National Historic Landmark. Roosevelt Lake marks the end of the scenic drive.

Wildseed Farm, Fredericksburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas Hill Country 

In March and early April especially, when wildflowers are blooming, this is one of the prettiest drives in all of Texas—perfect for a day trip or a meandering, low-stress vacation. En route, you can rummage through antique stores, listen to live music, dig in to a plate of barbecue, and learn about the US president who called the Hill Country home. Begin your trip in San Antonio and end in Fredericksburg. Detours along the way include small town of Luckenbach (Find out why it was immortalized in the song “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)”), Lyndon B Johnson Ranch, Enchanted Rock, and a favorite spot among antique lovers—Gruene.

Cumberland Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island, Georgia

Cumberland Island is managed by the national park system and is a National Seashore. There are no cars allowed and you will need to take a ferry from St. Mary’s Georgia to get there. It requires a little more effort to get there than most journeys to the beach. You will be rewarded for your efforts as you take in sights of the Dungeness ruins surrounded by feral horses. This sprawling mansion was built by Thomas Carnegie and his wife Lucy in 1884 and burned to ruins in the 1950s. After exploring the interior of the island, head out to the beach to look for seashells, sand dollars, and any other treasures that may have washed up on these nearly undisturbed shores.

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Murphys, California

Murphys was one of California’s richest “diggins” during the California Gold Rush of the 1840s—hence its former name, Murphys New Diggings. The draw today isn’t gold though. It’s quaint, as you’ll see when strolling down the town’s idyllic little Main Street with its clapboard buildings and white picket fences. But where prospectors and gamblers once mingled in between gold-digging expeditions (fit in a visit to the Old Timers Museum if you can), now winemakers hold sway and there are upwards of two dozen wine-tasting rooms along Main Street and several vineyards in the vicinity. As the so-called Queen of the Sierra, Murphys has a small population of around 2,213, but plenty of homestyle restaurants and cozy country inns. One such is the Murphys Hotel whose illustrious guests have included Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park, Alabama

Protecting a swathe of Alabama’s Gulf Coast, this is a park with sun, sea, and oodles of sand. You’ll find more than three miles of champagne-colored beaches here, plus paved trails for hiking and biking. If you’re looking to overnight in the park, choose between pretty beachside cottages, rustic woodland cabins, or a large modern RV campground. There’s a dog park too, so you’ve no need to leave your four-legged family member at home. The pier is currently closed for renovations.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Coachella Valley Preserve, California

Refreshing palm oases, intriguing wildlife, and miles of hiking trails draw visitors to the Coachella Valley Preserve. On the northern side of the Coachella Valley, the Preserve is a natural refuge where visitors can enjoy some of the 20,000+ acres of desert wilderness and over 25 miles of hiking trails. Enjoy palm groves, picnic areas, a diverse trail system, and the rustic visitor center, the Palm House. Inside the historic building are trail maps as well as unique displays of the natural and historic features of the area. The palm encountered in the oases within the Preserve is the California fan palm, the only indigenous palm in California. It has a very thick trunk and grows slowly to about 45 feet. Dead leaves hang vertically and form what is called a skirt around the trunk providing a place for various critters to live. The palms may live 150 to 200 years.

Atchafalaya Basin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Louisiana Swamp Tours

Louisiana serves up a lot more memorable experiences than just bowls of its famed gumbo.

To experience an indelible part of the state’s past, present, and future visit the mysterious and exquisite swamps throughout south Louisiana, home to one of the planet’s richest and most diverse ecosystems. Perceived as beautiful and menacing, south Louisiana’s ancient swamps have long captivated writers, historians and travelers.

Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just the name “Louisiana” brings to mind images of moss-draped oak trees, bald cypresses with massive, bottle-like trunks, and flat-bottom boats effortlessly gliding through waters populated with alligators. On a south Louisiana swamp tour, you’re likely to see all of those plus some unexpected surprises. There are many outfitters who can get you deep into the waters of the Honey Island Swamp (on Louisiana’s Northshore), the Manchac Swamp (between Baton Rouge and New Orleans), Barataria Bay (south of New Orleans), and the massive Atchafalaya Basin between Baton Rouge and Lafayette. All swamps have their own stories to tell and with the help of expert local guides you’re guaranteed to have the kind of adventure you’ll only find in Louisiana.

Frances Beidler Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Frances Beidler Forest, South Carolina

Frequented by photographers and nature lovers from around the world, Audubon’s 18,000-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary offers a beauty unsurpassed in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Frances Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest—a pristine ecosystem untouched for millennia. Enjoy thousand-year-old trees, a range of wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater, all from the safety of a 1.75-mile boardwalk.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park, Arizona

The old saying goes “April showers bring May flowers,” but Arizona operates on its own timetable! March is peak wildflower season. Picacho Peak is arguably one of the best spots to see blooming wildflowers in Arizona with bushels of incredible golden blooms around the base of the mountain and campgrounds. The desert wildflowers of the park offer a unique and beautiful contrast to the green and brown hues of this Sonoran Desert destination.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience the trails as they wind through a carpet of yellow, meandering through the desert exposing new beautiful sights each step along the way. Plants, shrubs, and cacti are all abloom—as if for your pleasure. Springtime weather is perfect for a desert camping experience, book a site and expose yourself to the beauty that spring-time Arizona so selflessly shares with you.

Caverns of Senora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Caverns of Senora, Texas

The Cavern is over seven and a half miles long with two miles of trails developed for tours. There are five levels of the cave that vary in depth form 20 feet to 180 feet below the surface. The Cavern is known for its stunning array of calcite crystal formations, extremely delicate formations, and the abundance and variety of formations. You’ll find helictites, soda straws stalactites, speleothems, stalagmites, and cave bacon. The cave is a constant 71 degrees with 98 percent humidity which makes it feel about 85 degrees.

Worth Pondering…

In March the soft rains continued, and each storm waited courteously until its predecessor sunk beneath the ground.

—John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Coachella Valley Preserve: A Desert Oasis

Refreshing palm oases, intriguing wildlife, and miles of hiking trails draw visitors to the Coachella Valley Preserve

On the northern side of the Coachella Valley, nestled at the feet of the Indio Hills, the Coachella Valley Preserve is the Old West just minutes from Palm Springs, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indio, and other desert cities. The Preserve is a natural refuge where visitors can discover rare and wonderful wildlife species. Enjoy some of the 20,000+ acres of desert wilderness and over 25 miles of hiking trails, most of which are well marked.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By a quirk of nature there’s water here, too, but it doesn’t usually come in the form of rain. The Preserve is bisected by the San Andreas Fault and this natural phenomenon results in a series of springs and seeps which support plants and animals which couldn’t otherwise live in this harsh environment.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enjoy palm groves, picnic areas, a diverse trail system, and the rustic visitor center, the Palm House. Inside the historic building are trail maps as well as unique displays of the natural and historic features of the area. 

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The palm encountered in the oases within the Preserve is the California fan palm, or Washingtonia filifera. It is the only indigenous palm in California. The Washingtonia filifera has a very thick trunk and grows slowly to about 45 feet. Dead leaves hang vertically and form what is called a skirt around the trunk providing a place for various critters to live. Inflorescences, or fruit stalks, extend beyond the leaves and bear masses of tiny white to cream colored flowers. During the fall months, large clusters of small hard fruit hang from the tree. The palms may live 150 to 200 years.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one knew just how significant a 6-inch lizard would be to conservation in Coachella Valley. In 1980 a lizard small enough to fit in the palm of your hand brought the $19 billion Coachella Valley construction boom to a screeching halt. When the lizard was placed on the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all development was jeopardized because it might illegally destroy habitat for the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A six-year conflict ensued as environmentalists battled developers over the fragile desert habitat. Finally, the Nature Conservancy was called in to resolve the bitter stalemate and the result was a remarkable model of cooperation through which endangered species and economic development could co-exist.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Conservancy proposed creating a nearly 14,000-acre preserve that would provide permanent protection for the little reptile and other desert species, while allowing developers to build elsewhere in the valley. It was a great experiment in cooperation that produced astonishing results. The creation of the Coachella Valley Preserve proved that through consensus, economic development, and species protection can indeed be compatible. 

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From easy to moderately difficult, from flat terrain to steep grades, hikes of all varieties are available. There are also several designated equestrian trails, but there are no bike or dog-friendly trails. One hike that is a sure bet for all levels, is through varying desert terrain to the McCallum Grove, about a mile from the Palm House visitor’s center. There are about a dozen isolated palm groves within the preserve, the largest being McCallum Grove.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s more water here than anywhere else in the preserve and the overflow allows a large and diverse community to thrive, including tiny freshwater crayfish called red swamp crayfish, desert pupfish, and the occasional mallard duck making a brief stopover during its annual migration.

After leaving McCallum Grove keep hiking west on marked trails out to “moon country”. You will come to an overlook that provides you with great views of the entire area. From there you can return to the visitor’s center or continue via the 4.2-mile Moon Country Trail Loop, or the more advanced Moon Country Canyon Extension which adds an additional 1.63 miles roundtrip.

Other delightful trails include Pushawalla Palms, Horseshoe Palms, and Hidden Palms which are all somewhat more strenuous hikes.

Coachella Valley Preserve is a great way to spend a day with its fantastic hiking trails, and beautiful vistas, but best of all it’s free and also easy to find. No matter how you choose to spend your time at Coachella Valley Preserve, you won’t be disappointed.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From Palm Springs take Interstate 10 East to the Ramon Road exit. Turn left and follow Ramon Road and make a left turn on Thousand Palms Road. The entrance to the visitors center is located about two miles on the left.

Worth Pondering…

Wilderness needs no defense, only more defenders.

—Edward Abbey

Good for What Ages You: Palm Springs

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

Palm Springs is one of those places that looks awfully good to an awful lot of people at this time of year. And the weather is not its only calling card. 

Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, Indio, and the other desert resort cities in the Coachella Valley, you can camp for the winter in luxurious RV resorts that offer all sorts of amenities. Known for Olympic sized pools, tennis courts, and over one hundred world-class golf courses within 40 miles, this is truly upscale RV camping.

El Paseo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are two weekly markets that are more than just shopping trips, they are events. On Thursday evenings, Palm Canyon Drive turns into Villagefest, a street fair with fragrant food stands, local and imported crafts, and tantalizing fresh produce. Live music accompanies you as you stroll past the many stalls.

Starting at 7:00 am, Saturday and Sunday mornings, the College of the Desert in Palm Desert hosts another street fair.

El Paseo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A mile-long strip, El Paseo features locally owned boutiques; top international retailers such as St. John, Gucci, and Burberry; brilliant fun and fine jewelry; eclectic artworks; sleek and sophisticated home décor; and professional services including day spas, and interior design know-how. With so much to do and see, it’s easy to pass an entire day on El Paseo.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

East of the desert cities, Joshua Tree National Park protects two unique desert climates. In the eastern part of the park, the low altitude Colorado Desert features natural gardens of creosote bush, cactus, and other plants. The higher, moister, and cooler Mojave Desert is the home of the Joshua tree, a unique desert plant with beautiful white spring blossoms. A third type of environment can be seen at the six palm oases in the park, where water occurs naturally at the surface and creates a whole new ecosystem.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to desert flora and fauna, the western part of Joshua Tree National Park includes some of the most interesting geologic displays found in California’s deserts. Hikers, climbers, mountain bikers, and owners of high-clearance vehicles can explore these craggy formations on a series of signed dirt roads that penetrate the park.

Nine campgrounds and three visitor centers are available for park visitors, as well as a number of well-marked short walks with informative signage.

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in the scenic hills of Desert Hot Springs, a Hopi-inspired pueblo sits against a hillside. Not just any pueblo, but one built with natural materials collected throughout the desert. When homesteader Yerxa Cabot settled in Desert Hot Springs, he build a home so unique it remains a preserved museum to this day. Cabot’s pueblo spreads an impressive 5,000 square feet, divided into 35 rooms and adorned with 150 windows and 65 doors. What a sight it is to see!

Cabot’s Pueblo Museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the structure’s architecture is a unique sight to behold, there’s more to see here than Cabot’s Hopi-style pueblo. Inside, the house has been turned into a museum with rooms filled with Indian artifacts, artwork, and memorabilia. One not to be missed artifact is Waokiye, a 43-foot sculpture of a Native American head.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled at the feet of the Indio Hills, the Coachella Valley Preserve is the Old West just minutes from the desert cities. One of the area’s most beautiful attractions especially if you like to hike, the Preserve is a natural refuge where visitors can discover rare and wonderful wildlife species. Enjoy some of the 20,000+ acres of desert wilderness and over 25 miles of hiking trails, most of which are well marked.

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By a quirk of nature there’s water here, too, but it doesn’t usually come in the form of rain. The Preserve is bisected by the San Andreas fault, and this natural phenomenon results in a series of springs and seeps which support plants and animals which couldn’t otherwise live in this harsh environment.

Desert Hot Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Complete your journey by letting 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.

Worth Pondering…

One of the things I had a hard time getting used to when I came to California in ’78 was Santa Claus in shorts.

—Dennis Franz

Beat the Government Shutdown: 4 Alternatives to National Parks

You had planned an RV trip to the Grand Canyon National Park prior to the recent government shut down.

With many of the amenities curtailed and garbage piling up should you cancel your campground reservations and make alternative plans? The answer is no.

And the same applies for numerous other national parks affected by the congressional gridlock. Whether you’re visiting Joshua Tree or Saguaro, it’s fairly easy to find nearby alternative destinations that will be equally enjoyable.

Here’s a rundown of the status of four popular winter parks, along with nearby alternatives:

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

National Park staff is unable to keep up with snow maintenance in this iconic park, possibly limiting access to many popular areas.

Alternative: Oak Creek Canyon

Oak Creek Canyon is a breathtaking stretch of beauty on a winding road that climbs 4,500 feet from Sedona to the top of the Mogollon Rim. A 14 mile drive along Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff, Oak Creek Canyon Scenic Drive has been recognized as one of the Top 5 Most Scenic Drives in America.

There are many places along the drive to stop and relish the beauty and enchantment Northern Arizona offers. At the top of the canyon, various Native American vendors sell hand-crafted authentic works of art at Oak Creek Canyon Vista Point. It is a great place to stop and enjoy the views into the canyon below.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

The park service recently closed a campground and road leading to this popular Southern California location and is relying on volunteers to clean up much of the overflowing litter.

Alternative: Coachella Valley Preserve

Enjoy some of the 30 miles of trails, picnic areas, cool oases, wildlife, and wildflowers at Coachella Valley Preserve. Walk into the past in their rustic visitor center, the Palm House, a palm log cabin built in the 1930s. Although not as sprawling as Joshua Tree this expanse of lush palm trees features trails through fascinating desert habitats. Take a guided hike with an expert naturalist or go for a bird walk.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Park roads and trails are open to visitors, but there are no NPS-provided services, like public information, restrooms, trash collection, and facilities or road maintenance. Both visitor centers are closed.

Alternative: Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons, and streams invites camping, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home. Commonly encountered species of wildlife include javelin, coyote, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and various reptiles.

Arches National Park, Utah

Heavy snowfall, in combination with the ongoing government shutdown, has closed Arches for the foreseeable future. The road remains open to the visitor center, at which point a closed gate prevents further travel by vehicle. The NPS posted on the Arches website, “It is unknown when the road will open. Access to the park will not occur until conditions improve or the National Park Service receives funding to maintain the roads.”

Alternative: Dead Horse Point State Park

Planning a trip to Arches National Park? Dead Horse Point State Park is just up the road, and offers some of the best scenic views you can find anywhere. Dead Horse Point is a peninsula of rock atop sheer sandstone cliffs about 6,000 feet above sea level. Two thousand feet below, the Colorado River winds its way from the continental divide in Colorado to the Gulf of California, a distance of 1,400 miles. The peninsula is connected to the mesa by a narrow strip of land called the neck.

Worth Pondering…

Happy is the man who can enjoy scenery when he has to take a detour.