Rise Above the Valley
Say goodbye to the desert floor as you ascend 2.5 miles inside the world’s largest rotating tram car. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will cart you to Mount San Jacinto State Park, where you’ll find cooler temperatures, more than 50 miles of hiking trails, campsites, a museum, two documentary theaters, a cocktail lounge, and two restaurants with unrivaled views. During the tram ride, the cars rotate slowly to deliver spectacular views of the valley. In the meantime, access the tram cam.
See the sea.
It’s a rarity to have an entire beach to yourself, but that’s what you’ll get at the Salton Sea. Though swimming and boating are not permitted, it’s worth a visit to stand on the fishbone-strewn shore and see the eccentric art installations — Bombay Beach has the highest concentration. Be mindful of the heat and stay hydrated. Salton Sea State Recreation Area visitor center hours are limited.
Wander the Ponderosa Forest.
If you'd rather drive to the mountain: Take the Palms to pines Scenic Byway (aka Highway 74) to Highway 243, and yhou'll reach Idyllwild, a quaint cabin community with a bustling arts scene and plenty of nature activities.
Take a self-guided architecture tour.
The Palm Springs Modernism Tour app, available from the App Store and Google Play, features guided tours of more than 80 midcentury modern landmarks. Select a suggested driving route by location or architect — or craft a custom tour with a few taps.
Visit the dinos.
Many will recognize the Cabazon Dinosaurs (known fondly as Mr. Rex and Dinny) from cult films such as Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. But you may not realize this park houses more than 50 lifelike dinos. While you’re here, stop by the gift shop to pick up a prehistoric souvenir. If you’d rather stay in Greater Palm Springs, the Jurassic Wonders exhibit across from Cathedral City Civic Center Plaza showcases metal dinosaurs by the same artist that built all the beasts out in Borrego Springs.
Discover giant monsters.
Deep in the magical desert landscape of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, in an unincorporated town called Borrego Springs, more than 130 gargantuan metal sculptures lurk in the sand. Visit the Sky Art Sculpture Garden to glimpse a 350-foot sea serpent, a giant scorpion, and battling bighorns among other real and fantastical creatures.
Drive the national park.
The unrivaled landscape of Joshua Tree National Park sits at the intersection of the Mojave and Colorado deserts, offering incredible rock climbing opportunities and miles of wilderness to explore. While temps are cooler here, they can still top 100 degrees — and cell reception is spotty inside the park — so bring plenty of water and keep basic safety measures in mind.