Desert Area Attractions
The Desert region of California features such popular tourist spots as the Palm Springs area, Barstow, Death Valley and the Joshua Tree National Park.
Located in the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree National Park is home to these trees which are only found in this desert region.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
San Diego CountyLocation and importanceAbout 85mi/136km northeast of San Diego, and reached via Highways 8 and 79, is the entrance to the biggest State Park in California, which covers an area of about 600,000 acres/242,200 hectares, and is one of the most beautiful desert landscapes in the state. Dunes, alluvial land, canyons, palm groves, flowers and cacti (which flower in March and April), as well as fantastic views, represent only some of the attractions of this area on the edge of the Colorado Desert.The more than 500mi/805km of road are mainly unfinished, and can be negotiated only in a cross-country vehicle. Apart from Route 78 (with some hotels) which runs past Borrego Springs, only the S2, S3 and S22 are made-up.The park was named after the priest Juan Bautista de Anza, who, in the course of 2.5 months in 1774, crossed the Colorado desert with a small group from Sonora (Mexico) and reached the Californian mission stations.The Spanish name "Borrego" (year-old ram) refers to the thick-horned sheep which at one time lived in this wasteland region, but which are seldom encountered today.
Address: 200 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA 92004-5005, United States
Opening hours: Sunrise-Sunset
Useful tips: Information about the condition of the roads and informative brochures can be obtained from the Visitor Center west of Borrego Springs. The Visitor Center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Seasonal temperatures can be extreme, and layered clothing is always advised. Carry plenty of water in your vehicle and while hiking.
Salton Sea Recreation Area
An ancient dried-up bed of a lake became an actual "sea" again in 1905. Having broken through an irrigation canal in Imperial Valley, the Colorado River flooded over into the old bed and filled it to a depth of 82ft/25m and a diameter of almost 250ft/75m. The river continued to flood until 1907; the resultant lake (now 30mi/48km long and 8-14mi/13-23km wide, with a surface of 235ft/74m and lying below sea-level) has no outlets, apart from some ditches dug to lead water away.Recreation AreaThe Salton Sea State Recreation Area has been created on the northern bank. This area, covering 16,680 acres/6,672 hectares, provides 175 well-equipped camping sites, which are especially popular with fishermen and water-sport enthusiasts (water-skiing, boats) and naturalists (walks, bird-watching).
Needles is one of the oldest living communities on the Colorado River. Mojave Indians lived in the valley long before the white settlers arrived in 1883. The new settlement was named "The Needles," taken from the sharp peaks at the southern end of the valley.
The Topock Gorge is on the California and Arizona border near Needles. In 1858, explorer Joseph Christmas Ives encountered Mojave Indian Chief Cairook in Topock Gorge. Ives was understandably apprehensive about the Mohave's intentions, and his diary records in detail his first impressions of Cairook and his wife.Topock Gorge features isolated coves and beaches - great spots for picnicking, photography or napping. Topock Gorge is a wilderness area, with abundant species of birds (many of them quite rare).
Havasu National Wildlife Refuge
The Havasu National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1941, is a large reserve including the Havasu wilderness and the Topock Marsh. The primary wildlife are endangered Yuma clapper rail, desert bighorn sheep, a variety of marsh birds, neotropical birds and a variety of reptiles.Wildlife observation and study, photography, boating, hunting, fishing, and hiking are available.
Moabi Regional Park
Moabi Regional Park near Needles offers visitors camping, fishing and water activities on 1,027 acres.
Yucca Valley, California
Yucca Valley is bordered on the west by the San Bernardino Mountains and to the south by the Joshua Tree National Park. The town is the site of the annual Grubstake Days Festival, which is held on Memorial weekend and includes a carnival, parade, craft fair and much more.
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
The Big Morongo Preserve is located on 3,920 acres in the Morongo Valley area southwest of Yucca Valley. One of the best birding spots in California it features 72 species including the stunning Indigo Bunting. Numerous trails, including boardwalk trails through the marsh and stream habitats, are found throughout the 29,000-acre Preserve.
Desert Christ Park
Hi-Desert Nature Museum
The Hi-Desert Nature Museum in Yucca Valley offers the visitor a chance to see Native American artifacts and a rock and mineral collection.
Blythe (pop. 8,428) is located near the Colorado River. The town was settled by Thomas Blythe, an English developer/financier who first came here in 1877 and established primary water rights on the Colorado River.
Palo Verde Historical Museum
The Palo Verde Historical Museum has a collection of local history artifacts, works of local artists, gem and mineral display, genealogical material, and a cactus garden.
Desert Hot Springs, California
Desert Hot Springs (pop. 11,668) is a health resort north of Palm Springs. It is internationally famous for natural hot mineral water and underground aquifers of pure cold water.
Cabot's Old Indian Pueblo Museum
Cabot's Old Indian Pueblo Museum is a Hopi style building with a museum, trading post and rock shop.
El Centro, California
El Centro (pop. 31,384) is located 86mi/138km east of San Diego in the Imperial Valley. The Navy's Blue Angels flying team does its winter training at nearby Naval Air Facility.
Palm Desert, California
Palm Desert is a bedroom community of Palm Springs located at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Palm Desert is home to world class resorts, sensational scenery, and numerous attractions.
Living Desert Reserve
Living Desert Wild Animal Park and Botanical Gardens is a 1,200 acre/ 480 hectare open space with birds, birds of prey, mammals and reptiles in their natural surroundings, as well as desert plants, a palm-oasis, tracks leading into the hills and canyons.
Address: 47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, CA 92260-6156, United States
Opening hours: Jun 1 to Sep 30: 8am-1:30pm
Oct 1 to May 31: 9am-5pm
Oct 1 to May 31: 9am-5pm
Always closed on: Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in USD: Adult $12.50, Senior over 62 $11.00, Military discount $11.00, Child 3-12 $7.50, Child 2 & under FREE
Useful tips: Last admission 1 hour before closing. Summer prices are slightly higher.
Facilities: Gift shop, Restaurant or food service
McCallum Theater for the Performing Arts
Aerie Art Garden
Rancho Mirage, California
Rancho Mirage was discovered during the Gold Rush of the 1800s. The town is now home to three world-class resorts and three hotels as well as fine restaurants, and home furnishing and design centers.
Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert
The Children's Discovery Museum of the Desert in Rancho Mirage features hands-on exhibits with a bakery, science lab and radio station for the kids.
Address: 71-701 Gerald Ford Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270-4312, United States
Opening hours: Jan 1 to Apr 30: 10am-5pm
May 1 to Dec 31: 10am-5pm; Closed: Mon
May 1 to Dec 31: 10am-5pm; Closed: Mon
Entrance fee in USD: $8.00, Annual pass or membership $25.00, Child 1 & under FREE
Useful tips: Toddler area. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Red Rock Canyon State Park
Red Rock Canyon State Park features spectacular desert cliffs, buttes and rock formations. The park is located at the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada. Wildlife within Red Rock includes roadrunners, hawks, lizards, mice and squirrels.
Opening hours: 7am-Sunset
Thousand Palms, California
'Thousand Palms is a small town with the Coachella Valley Preserve as the main attraction.
Covered Wagon Tours
Covered Wagon Tours provide an authentic pioneer experience in covered wagons drawn by mule as a guide describes the area history and flora. After the tour, travelers enjoy a BBQ cookout and live Western entertainment.
Fort Yuma Quechan Museum, Winterhaven, California
The Fort Yuma Quechan Museum has displays about North American culture, the early military era and Spanish expeditions. Nearby are the old St. Thomas Mission and old Methodist Indian Mission.
Boron (pop. 2,000) is located on Highway 58 west of Barstow and north of Edwards. It is home to the Twenty Mule Team Museum and U.S. Borax.
Twenty Mule Team Museum
Twenty Mule Team Museum features the history of borax mining in Death Valley and Boron, and historical artifacts relating to local history. Exhibits include mining artifacts and equipment, antique machinery, and unique art work.
Address: 26962 20 Mule Team Road, Boron, CA 93516-1560, United States
Opening hours: 10am-4pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Thanksgiving - USA (4th Thursday, Nov), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: Donations are accepted.
Facilities: Gift shop
Borax Visitor Center
The Borax Visitor Center features exhibits on mining in these areas: processing, distribution, uses, responsibility and heritage.
Brawley (pop. 18,923) is located in the Imperial Valley. It is a cattle-raising center.
Algodones Dunes (Imperial Sand Dunes)
About 20 miles east of Brawley are the Algodones Dunes. The dunes are a great place for recreation including off road activities.
Desert Tortoise Natural Area, California City, California
The Desert Tortoise Natural Area is a 25,000 acre wildlife preserve. It was created to protect the habitat of the desert tortoise.
Death Valley Junction, California
Death Valley Junction is located just outside Death Valley National Park near the Nevada border.
Marta Becket's Amargosa Opera House
Marta Becket's Amargosa Opera House hosts dance-mime performances created by Marta Becket. Marta began work on the old theater in 1968 and opened in 1972.
Randsburg is a restored Gold Rush town. When gold was discovered in 1895, the population grew to 4,000 and produced over 60 million dollars in gold.
Randsburg Living Ghost Town
The Randsburg Living Ghost Town allows visitors to step back in time to the days of the Gold Rush. The town has been restored to its former glory when it had 3,000 residents. Antique shops, the historical museum, opera house, and post office are highlights of Randsburg.
Rand Mining Company (Closed)
MINE CEASED OPERATION IN 2003.The Rand Mining Company in Randsburg employs over 80 people and works 24 hours a day. It produces about 5,000 ounces of gold a month.
Ridgecrest is located northeast of Bakersfield in the sight of four mountain ranges. Nearby is a Naval Weapons Center.
The Trona Pinnacles feature more than 500 tufa (calcium carbonate) spires, which reach up to 140 feet. The strange formations rise from the bed of the Scarles Dry Lake Basin where they were formed 10,000 to 100,000 years ago. They were designated as a Natural National Landmark in 1968. The Trona Pinnacles are located 20 miles east of Ridgecrest and 2,000 feet above sea level.
U. S. Naval Museum of Armament and Technology (formerly China Lake Exhibit Center)
The China Lake Museum focuses on the heritage and accomplishments of the China Lake military-civilian-industry team. Military items such as aircraft rockets, smart bombs and Sidewinder missiles are on display.
Indian Wells Canyon
Indian Wells Canyon is located 15 miles northwest of Ridgecrest. The canyon features Joshua trees and sage brush. There is access to the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest features a rock exhibit as well as mining and natural history displays. There are hands-on exhibits for the kids.
Address: 100 East Las Flores Avenue, Ridgecrest, CA 93555-3654, United States
Opening hours: 10am-5pm
Entrance fee in USD: Adult $5.00, Military discount $3.00, Students $3.00, Senior $3.00, Child 5 & under FREE
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Facilities: Gift shop
La Quinta, California
La Quinta (pop. 11,200) is a great place for golf and shopping.
La Quinta Resort
The La Quinta Resort is a Spanish Mission-style hotel built in 1926. The La Quinta was a famous retreat for Hollywood stars and was the inspiration for the Frank Capra film "It Happened One Night".
Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area
The Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area has a number of recreational pursuits for the visitor. The centerpiece of this park is Lake Cahuilla, constructed in the 1960s and filled by aqueduct from the Colorado River.
La Quinta Sculpture Park (closed)
ATTRACTION IS CLOSED.The La Quinta Sculpture Park has artistic displays of sculpture.