Under the Open Sky

Camp out, kick back, and marvel at the desert’s natural wonders

Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel features private, custom-decorated trailers.

Courtesy of Kate’s Lazy Desert

The season’s sunny days and warm nights present the perfect opportunity to get back to basics with a campout. Tap into the desert’s magical energy while hiking textured trails, watching the landscape’s changing colors, and gazing in wide-eyed wonder at the vast, star-filled sky.


Retro Glamping

Open 365 days a year, Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel is a rock star of a resort owned by The B-52s’ Kate Pierson and her partner, Monica Coleman. This high desert oasis features six fully restored, vintage Airstream trailers decorated by artists Philip Maberry and Scott Walker, whose house is showcased in the B-52s’ “Love Shack” video. Situated on a sand dune, this cool outpost is just 6 miles from an entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. The famed Integratron, rumored to be a UFO landing site, is also nearby — definitely something to think about while stargazing by firelight next to your private trailer.

Camping here reaches another level with a hip, retro vibe, relaxed ambiance, and amenities such as a hammock, barbecue grill, and coffeemaker. Drink in the incredible vistas and cool off with a dip in the property’s above-ground pool on a hot afternoon. With Airstreams named and furnished in such themes as Lava, Tiki, and Planet Air, you’ll chill in comfort and revel in this glamorous take on camping in the wild.
58380 Botkin Rd., Landers
845-688-7200; www.lazymeadow.com


Starry Safaris

May is the last month of the spring season to enjoy the nocturnal sights and sounds at The Living Desert Zoo & Botanical Garden. The park offers overnight safari camping in its teepee-style tent village with sleeping pads atop the desert floor surrounded by wild animals such as wolves and leopards. Not to worry — zoo wildlife is secure so that adults and kids can sleep under the stars in a safe environment. Activities include hikes, nature walks, animal encounters, campfires, and even a behind-the-scenes giraffe experience.

The Starry Safari package also offers a continental breakfast and admission to the park the next day so visitors can observe the wondrous animals in daylight.
47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert
760-346-5694; www.livingdesert.org


Classic camping

Serious nature and backpack enthusiasts looking for a mountain experience seek out the San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area. The diverse terrain includes huge trees, meadows, and streams for outstanding hiking and discovery. However, with these ultra-basic campsites yielding no running water, electricity, or bathroom, be prepared to rough it.

There are six campgrounds within the park and a permit is required for backpacking or hiking.
25905 Hwy. 243, Idyllwild
Call 951-659-2607 for permits and other information, or visit www.pstramway.com
For trail conditions, call 760-327-0222.


Urban adventures

Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area is a favorite for family summer camping. The pet-friendly park is loaded with activities to keep all ages on the go with 710 acres and 91 individual and group campsites situated just a few minutes from Old Town La Quinta at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Escape the hustle and bustle of the Coachella Valley without sacrificing creature comforts — it’s close enough to head into town for a margarita after a day in the sun.

This campground offers hiking, biking, and horseback trails, plus fishing, picnic tables, and barbecues. As a bonus, happy campers can cool off by the 135-acre Lake Cahuilla or splash around the recreational swimming pool.
58075 Jefferson St., La Quinta
760-564-4712; www.rivcoparks.org/parks/lake-cahuilla


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Desert Guide

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