red jeep tours palm desert

Best of the Best 2021: Tours

Red Jeep Tours gives adventure seekers a ride of their life while also revealing the desert's history and culture on four wheels.

Steven Biller Attractions, Current PSL

red jeep tours palm desert

PHOTOGRAPHS BY NATE ABBOTT

It’s a hot weekend morning in June, and the Salton Sea is feeling the aftershocks from a flurry of earthquakes, including a 5.3 shaker that rattled the region from its epicenter in Calipatria, about 90 miles southeast of Palm Springs. It was felt as for north as Indio, a reminder that we live on the San Andreas Fault, the most notorious fault line in the world, whose menacing beauty courses 800 miles, from the Salton Sea through Greater Palm Springs and up to Cape Mendocino.

It also reminded me of my first Red Jeep tour with Desert Adventures, hanging on tight as our guide maneuvered our bouncy ride through the geological cuts and canyons of the mighty San Andreas Fault Zone. He stopped at points along the way to explain how the shifting Pacific and North American tectonic plates — with the help of water, wind, and time — created the canyons. He also gave us the skinny about several stunning geologic anomalies and how the Cahuilla Indians lived in this inhospitable environment.

In addition to the “Bones of the Earth” San Andreas Fault tour, Desert Adventures offers a variety of excursions in its open-air, seven-passenger red Jeep CJ-8 Scramblers. The Indian Canyons “Ancient Footprints” hiking tour goes to the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, where visitors walk along Andreas Creek and hear stories that reveal layers of the tribe’s history and culture.

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Red Jeeps Tours reveal the desert's history and culture.

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Tours also go to the Salton Sea and Indian Canyons.

Other tours include the four-hour Painted Canyon Geology and Agriculture 4x4 Jeep Tour to the spectacular Mecca Hills area and the Salton Sea, and the five-hour Joshua Tree National Park Tour traversing the boulder-strewn landscape and its otherworldly rock formations and iconic namesake trees.

All the tours bring guests up to speed on local wildlife — from bobcats and bighorn sheep to chuckwallas and fringe-toed lizards — as well as plant life, and offer adventure-seekers plenty of opportunities to jump out and hike through slot canyons, a palm oasis, and even a re-created of Cahuilla village.

My tour of the San Andreas Fault was unsettling, to say the least, but in a good way that dispelled myths, brought history into the light, and deepened my appreciation for this fragile land. red-jeep.com — S.B.

Winners Voted by Our Readers
Desert Hot Springs
Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

Adventurer, artist, and entrepreneur Cabot Yerxa came to homestead in Desert Hot Springs in 1913. While digging a well, he discovered the hot mineral springs that made the town a spa resort destination. In the 1940s, he built a Hopi-style pueblo that now welcomes visitors for guided or audio-enhanced tours of its 35 rooms, which diaplay Native American art and artifacts and a collection of Yerxa’s own art, handiwork, and souvenirs from his travels. cabotsmuseum.org

Indio
Coachella Valley History Museum

This modest campus houses landmarks such as the restored 1909 Indio Schoolhouse and the California Date Museum (formerly Indio’s first library) as well as artifacts from ancient Cahuilla settlers and desert pioneers and one of the largest historical archives in the region. cvhm.org

La Quinta
Pedego Electric Bikes

In addition to renting and repairing electric and pedal bikes, Pedego, based in Old Town La Quinta, offers a variety of group tours, promoted in store and on the company’s website and social media, to destinations around the Coachella Valley as well as Idyllwild and the High Desert. pedegoelectricbikes.com/dealers/la-quinta/

Rancho Mirage
Sunnylands Center & Gardens

Obama, Bush, Reagan, Nixon. They all came to Sunnylands, the estate of late ambassador Walter and Leonore Annenberg, for business and pleasure. Known as “Camp David of the West,” the venue still welcomes dignitaries, but also the public. The visitor center features a collection and rotating exhibitions of modern art, a café, and a gift shop as well as nine acres of desert gardens. Admission is free, and a variety of tours of the estate and gardens are available for a fee. sunnylands.org

Palm Springs
Modernism Week

They call it Modernism Week, but it’s actually 11 full days of architecture and design tours to some of the Coachella Valley’s most iconic modernist homes and buildings. Add a variety of parties, lectures, and exhibits such as the Modernism Show and Sale, and it’s easy to see why this it attracts tens of thousands of visitors every February. modernismweek.com

PHOTOGRAPH BY JACK HOLT
The Edris House: a modernism tour favorite.