Joshua Tree National Park.
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A short drive west from Palm Springs, this community has become known for its high-rise casino, roadside Cabazon Dinosaurs, and lengthy strip of designer outlet stores. The town’s namesake, Chief Cabazón, was a leader of the Cahuilla Indians from the 1830s to ’70s.
Owned by the Wildlands Conservancy and open to the public, the preserve, located 20 minutes east of Cabazon, comprises 2,851 acres with a river and brilliant wildflowers every spring. Permits for camping, parking, and after-hours hikes are available at the visitor center and ranger station.
A gateway city to Joshua Tree National Park and Pioneertown, Yucca Valley sits along Highway 62 in the Little San Bernardino Mountains at an elevation of 3,300 feet. You’ll find several vintage shops and good eats along the main drag.
Access the national park known for fantastical rock formations and Seussian trees from either side of the valley. Take Interstate 10 West to Highway 62 or I-10 East to Cottonwood Springs Road. Do some bouldering and stay late to stare at the stars.
Established in 1946 by a group of Hollywood investors including Dick Curtis and Roy Rogers, Pioneertown was built as an Old West film set. This is where you’ll find the legendary bar and music venue Pappy & Harriet’s.
Past Yucca Valley and Pioneertown, this community formed in the early 1900s, when prospectors arrived to search for gold. Don’t miss the Integratron and Giant Rock. On your way, grab a bite at La Copine in Flamingo Heights.
Home to the largest U.S. Marine Corps base, this town boasts burgeoning arts, music, and food scenes. While it may require a 50-mile trek from Palm Springs, the serpentine drive leads to a worthy adventure.
Follow Grapefruit Boulevard southeast from Indio, and you’ll hit the Salton Sea, once envisioned to become a destination resort. Nature took its toll and left the beach abandoned. Though eerie, it is a landscape to stun.
The only California town that’s surrounded entirely by a state park, Borrego Springs blooms with raw desert beauty and is a great choice for ATVs, camping, and some of the country’s best stargazing. Giant metal sculptures provide fun photo-ops.
I-10 West or Highway 74 (aka the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway), will connect you to Highway 243 and the mountain town of Idyllwild — an artisan-centric community with rustic cabins, boutiques, and miles of ponderosa forest waiting to be explored.