Venture out of the concrete jungle and into the peacefulness of a desert environment in Palm Springs, California. Whether a skilled hiker or a novice explorer, here are five exciting desert adventures -- varying in difficulty -- for city slickers hoping to get back in touch with nature.
Explore the San Andreas Fault's tectonic evolution. Most of its 810 miles (1,300 km) of distinctive land formations can be accessed by car, with many sections residing in national parks and forests. Look out for the sometimes subtle yet unusual tectonic boundaries, sag ponds, rock twists, and color inconsistencies created by the movements of the North America and Pacific plates. Book a tour through Dessert Adventures to have a guided tour. Those with a more adventurous streak can hike through the San Bernardino National Forest while exploring the fault.
Hop on a horse or strap on hiking boots to explore three of the canyons that make up the Agua Caliente Indian Canyons located just southwest of downtown Palm Springs. Trails range from easy to moderate and strenuous, with each canyon offering beautiful and varying scenic landscapes. Picnic or meditate along the stream in Palm Canyon, explore the 150 species of plants in the Andreas Canyon, or catch a glimpse of the endangered Peninsula Big Horn Sheep in Murray Canyon. Reserve a ranger-led hike on weekends or pack a compass and follow the trail maps alone.
Experience the two distinct desert ecosystems of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, which make up the 800,000 acres of Joshua Tree National Park. The Colorado Desert, which encompasses the eastern half of the park is dominated by creosote bush and spidery ocotillo cholla cactus. The west includes the Mojave Desert, which is wetter and cooler in temperature. It also houses the Joshua trees for which the park gets its namesake. Enjoy the five palm-lined oases, granite monoliths and desert animals throughout the park.
Further south from Joshua Tree National Park and within the Colorado Desert are the Mecca Hills low mountain range. Due to their vastly exposed and eroded rock layers, the Mecca Hills have long been an essential geological site for scientists to study the impact of earthquakes and has been described as one of the "most unusual geological sites" in the world. Hike through or camp out on this natural labyrinth of impressive canyons and distinct geological formations resulting from the San Andreas Fault.
Let the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway do the legwork to more than 8,000 feet above sea level. The approximately 10-minute ride begins in the Sonoran Desert at Valley Station. Passengers then traverse the nearly perpendicular cliffs of Chino Canyon and five biomes to reach Mountain Station. As the floor of the tram rotates, travelers will get 360-degree views without needing to shift. Once passengers disembark at the Mount Jacinto State Park, adventurers have the option of walking along nature trails, riding a donkey, dining at one of two restaurants or shopping. The park is open year-round, excluding two weeks in September when it closes for annual maintenance.