Palm Springs Aerial Tramway tram car

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway tram car/Photo Credit Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

Families who really want to explore Southern California are taking a new approach to the road trip. Rather than go on an epic journey from A to B, they are renting vacation homes in Palm Springs and taking short day excursions or overnight trips to nearby California destinations.

Palm Springs – one of nine great little cities in California’s Coachella Valley – has its own lovely little airport, beautiful mountain views, fantastic restaurants and a chilled out vibe. The rental properties are more affordable than other urban centres, and pretty well every house has its own pool. Plus, with so many stars living nearby, you never know who you might bump into! Here are five places to explore from California’s Coolest Desert City:

1. Mecca Hills

The Mecca Hills are located 40 miles south of Palm Springs. On the Ladder Canyon Trail, explore the paths and caverns along the San Andreas fault, using ladders placed by local hiking clubs. Check out the rave reviews at Hiking in and California Through my before you go. Once your hike is complete, get a kitschy potassium hit at the extremely quirky International Banana Museum  – located on the side of State Highway 111 – otherwise known as Grapefruit Boulevard!

2. Joshua Tree National Park

Where the Colorado and Mohave deserts meet, there is The Joshua Tree National Park, perfect for climbing, mountain biking superb photo-opportunities. The park is only about an hour’s drive from Palm Springs. f you have a four-wheel drive vehicle embark on the 2-hour self-guided Geology Motor Tour.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Mountain Station

View from the top of the San Jacinto mountains

3. Idyllwild 

Drive up the scenic highway 74 for just under an hour to Idyllwild, a small town in the San Jacinto mountains, perfect for a cool, chilled out family day amongst the pine trees. Have lunch, explore a winery, or taste some organic handmade chocolate at El Buen Cacao.

4. San Jacinto State Park

Also in the Idyllwild area, take the Palm Springs Tramway – the worlds largest rotating aerial tram – to San Jacinto State Park  for hiking, biking, rock climbing and horseback riding trails. A great way to explore the park is with Red Jeep Desert Adventures, which offer a variety of unique tours that have earned them a near-perfect rating on Trip Advisor.

Red Jeep Tours San Andreas Fault Palm Springs

5. Los Angeles 

LA is about a 2-hour drive from Palm Springs, but if the traffic is thick, allow for three hours, and time your journey carefully to avoid rush hour. If you crave the ocean, head straight to the beaches and spend the day on the sand at Redondo, Hermosa, Santa Monica or Venice Beach, before heading back to the desert after supper.

If You Go:

Palm Springs Tourism:

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