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Escape to Paradise: Discover Outdoor Adventures in Greater Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a popular desert oasis that has long been known as a playground for Hollywood celebrities. Surrounded by four picturesque mountain ranges, Palm Springs has been a getaway for actors within the “two hour rule” of film studios for reshoots, and its natural and architectural beauty, culinary, art, and entertainment hotspots attract visitors from around the world. Palm Springs is more than Coachella, which takes place in April and seemingly takes over everything ‘Palm Springs’ – you don’t have to visit Coachella at all to enjoy Palm Springs!

With 350 days of sunshine a year, Palm Springs offers a perfect escape from the cold temperatures of the northwest, and it is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. From hiking and taking an open-air jeep tour to riding the world’s longest rotating tram car to miles of hiking trails, there are a variety of activities to explore. I’ll delve into some of the best outdoor adventures in Palm Springs that will help visitors make the most of their trip to the desert.

Visit Greater Palm Springs

I’ve traveled to Palm Springs a handful of times for spring break getaways, where my trip consisted of lounging by the pool, shopping, and dining at fabulous restaurants. While that is a perfectly enjoyable vacation, it wasn’t until my November trip with Visit Greater Palm Springs that I realized the adventures available to me reached far beyond my lounge chair. I had never considered Palm Springs an outdoor enthusiast destination, and man, was I missing out! Now it’s my turn to return the favor and ensure you make the most of your trip to the desert. 

This trip was a sponsored press trip by Visit Greater Palm Springs, but all opinions are my own.

TRAVEL ADVISOR recommendation

Carlie Lee of Fora Travel

Looking for a travel advisor who knows how to combine fun with relaxation? TNW highly recommends travel advisor (and TNW contributor) Carlie Lee to help you plan your best trip ever, whether it’s to Palm Springs or somewhere else!

How to Get to Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs is easy to reach from the northwest. Fly directly into Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) in under three hours from Seattle. Alternatively, you can fly into Los Angeles (2 hour drive) or San Diego (2 hour and 15 minute drive) for a short road trip.

Flying from Spokane will typically mean multiple layovers, but it’s definitely not impossible! Depending on which carrier you fly, you may fly into Seattle, Sacramento, or even Los Angeles International (LAX). We recommend the Sacramento route if you can, but Seattle is also preferable over LAX!

Get Outdoors in Greater Palm Springs: Things to Do in Palm Springs, California

Remember to respect nature, stay on trails, pick up after yourself, and follow leave no trace principles for the outdoors. Always check weather and trail conditions before heading to an outdoor destination. The free app AllTrails is a great resource. 

greater palm springs
Photo by Krista Staudinger – @go4theglobe

Hike on ancestral land through palm-filled canyons 

Indian Canyons, located on the Ancestral Land of Cahuilla Indians, is a nature lover’s paradise. 60 miles of trails are suitable for all levels at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. 

Don’t miss Andreas Canyon, an easy 1-mile loop along palm-lined Andreas Creek. Palm Canyon boasts a 15-mile-long trail, but in less than a mile from the parking lot, visitors will find themselves in a lush palm canyon. Mountain-fed springs make way to waterfalls in the winter and wildflowers paint the canyon with splashes of color in the spring. 

Cost: $12 entrance fee per person 

Slot Canyon in Greater Palm Springs
Photo by Krista – @go4theglobe

Take an open-air jeep tour and hike through a slot canyon

Journey through the heart of the San Andreas fault on a jeep tour with Desert Adventures Eco-Tours (also known as Red Jeep Tours). Since the fault is on private land, their tours with an expert naturalist guide is the only way to explore the area. Hike into a slot canyon on the fault line and tour a recreated Cahuilla Indian Village. My tip is to book a trip in the late afternoon to experience beautiful golden hour hues in the desert before sunset.

Cost: $150 per person for a 3 hour tour

Greater Palm Springs aerial tram
Greater Palm Springs aerial tram. Photo by Krista @go4theglobe

Ride the world’s longest rotating tram car to miles of hiking trails

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the world’s longest rotating tram car, traveling over two and half miles along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon. Soak in the views at the top at Mountain Station from 8,516 feet, where you can enjoy observation decks, two restaurants, a natural history museum, two documentary theaters, and a gift shop. Explore over 50 miles of hiking trails in Mt. San Jacinto State Park, including Desert View Trail, an easy 1.5 mile loop with scenic views. This is the one place you can find snow in Palm Springs, so bring a warm jacket if you’re visiting in the late fall or winter! 

Cost: $29.95 for a roundtrip tram ticket; it’s recommended to book online in advance (if you’re feeling extra adventurous you can hike to the top)⁣

Note: The difference in altitude can be an adjustment, so take care if you visit and take the aerial tramway!

Stroll among Joshua Trees

Joshua Tree National Park ⁣is popular for hiking and rock climbing. Hike among Joshua Trees, cacti, petroglyphs, and unique rock formations. Hall of Horrors and Hidden Valley are the best trails to see Joshua Trees. 

Don’t miss Cholla Cactus Garden, an easy 0.2-mile loop – it’s well worth the early wake up to witness sunrise there, as the surrounding mountains glow pink and the fuzzy cacti light up a fiery yellow. Make sure to wear closed-toe shoes, as the cacti like to “jump” if you brush by and cling to your clothes or skin if exposed – I learned this the hard way while wearing sandals that my friend had to help pick the spines out of my foot! 

Cost: $30 entrance fee per vehicle, valid for one week (or the America the Beautiful pass for $80 covers all US national parks and forests for a year)⁣

Experience local and exotic desert flora and fauna

The Living Desert Zoo and Garden offers a unique opportunity to experience the Colorado Desert in its natural state through a series of nature and hiking trails. The nature preserve boasts three trail loops. The zoo is divided into three geographic regions featuring desert animals and plants from North America, Australia, and Africa. You have the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with black rhinos, giraffes, and wallabies. I loved the walk-about with the wallabies and getting to pet and feed a rhino was an experience I’ll never forget.

Cost: $29.95 per person for entry, additional $8 for giraffe feeding, additional $50 for rhino encounter

Sam Cobb date farm in greater Palm Springs
Sam Cobb date farm in greater Palm Springs – photo by Melissa Berry

Tour a date farm with the farmer 

Tour Sam Cobb Farms with Sam Cobb himself and support a black-owned business. Hear Sam’s inspiring and entertaining story firsthand, with photo opportunities in the beautiful date palm filled farm. 

Sam Cobb date farm in greater Palm Springs
Sam Cobb date farm in greater Palm Springs – photo by Krista @go4theglobe

Learn about the long process of growing dates and the different varieties while sampling them, including Sam’s signature “Black Gold” dates – black on the outside, gold on the inside, and delicious all around! Black Gold dates were created by Sam and you can only find them on his farm. 

I had no idea how involved date farming was, from the long, multi-year process, and came away from the tour with so much new knowledge and appreciation for farmers, as well as two boxes of dates.

Cost: $42 per person for 1 hour tour, 1 lb of dates included, booked online at samcobbfarms.com

Hit the links

Greater Palm Springs competes for the title of golf capital of the world, with more than 130 golf courses. Indian Wells Golf Resort is open to the public and home to two top rated 18-hole championship courses. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced golfer, you’ll be in awe of the stunning landscapes surrounded by palm trees, reflecting ponds, and majestic mountains. In the evenings, play Shots in the Night glowing Laser Putting and a brand new Top Tracer Driving Range experience. Both offer multiple game options for individuals, couples, and groups of all skill levels. The onsite food truck will keep your hunger at bay while on the green! 

Cost: Varies by tee time and date for 1-4 people, Shots in the Night experience is $65 for up to 6 people

Fuel Your Adventures: Where to Eat and Drink in Palm Springs, California

All that outdoor adventuring certainly works up an appetite! Luckily greater Palm Springs is a culinary hotspot and foodie’s paradise. 

LULU California Bistro – photo by Krista @go4theglobe

In the heart of downtown Palm Springs, you’ll find hip LULU California Bistro. Eat a hearty or healthy meal (I opted for the roasted beet salad) and grab a drink at this vibey spot. For a fun nostalgic treat, order the cotton candy for dessert! Other trendy hot spots in Palm Springs that will spice up your Instagram feed and palette include Azúcar Restaurant and Bar – don’t miss their rooftop lounge, Farm – country-chic farm-to-table fair, and Workshop Kitchen + Bar – a stylish eatery in a former movie house.

El Paseo, Palm Desert’s main palm tree-lined drive featuring nine blocks of shops & restaurants, has many mouthwatering meal options. For authentic Mexican food and strong margaritas, dine at Armando’s Dakota Bar and Grill. The corn tamales were incredible! The Fix on El Paseo has a variety of menu options and a patio perfect for people-watching.

For high-quality elevated fare in a trendy setting, dine at Lakspur Grill in Hotel Paseo, which hosts live music Wednesday through Saturday with a lively atmosphere. Everything I tried was exceptional, and I especially loved the bacon wrapped local dates and prime hanger steak. 

For award-winning sandwiches and baked goods that live up to the hype, it’s well worth the drive to Indio for TKB Bakery. Named the best restaurant in America on Yelp in 2018, it ranks on best of lists. Their mouthwatering sandwiches are served fresh with unique flavor combinations – I loved the “Mexican Marilyn Monroe” sandwich, served on a choice of jalapeño focaccia bread or cranberry bread

Brandini Toffee in greater Palm Springs
Brandini Toffee popcorn – photo by Krista @go4theglobe

Satisfy your sweet tooth with Brandini Toffee, small batch toffee and popcorn handmade in Palm Springs, rated as one of Oprah’s favorite things! With three locations in greater Palm Springs, including their factory shop in Rancho Mirage, stop in for the toffee served with ice cream – my personal favorite was the milkshake. The toffee makes for the perfect souvenir, if you can manage to get it home without eating it all! 

Shopping in Palm Springs

The shopping in Palm Springs, to put it bluntly, is amazing. If you love vintage and consignment, you will absolutely love shopping in Palm Springs and greater Palm Springs. Honstly, make sure to bring an extra suitcase or leave room in the one you bring if you love to shop, because you will want that extra space!

When co-founder and Digital Editor Melissa Berry visited Palm Springs with her mother for a girls’ getaway, they really enjoyed two thrift/vintage shops in particular:

  • Thriftology – not only some of the best prices in all of Palm Springs, but a ton of varied clothing options, including styles, eras, and sizes! Looking for 1980s prep? Check! Early 2000s ‘going out’ tops? Check!
  • Affordable Designer Consignments – a straightforward name for a stunning shop! While Affordable Designer Consignments is small, it packs a mighty punch, especially if you’re looking for designer goods. From Prada to Chanel, Gucci and Carolina Herrera, there’s something for everyone at great prices and high quality.

Greater Palm Springs also has a vintage shopping guide you can check out here for even more options!

Where to Stay in Greater Palm Springs

The area has endless hotel and rental options from Palm Springs to Palm Desert. You’ll definitely want to book a stay with a pool to relax after your outdoor adventures.

greater palm springs
Palm Desert Hotel Paseo – photo by Krista @go4theglobe

Hotel Paseo – Palm Desert 

Hotel Paseo is perfectly located just steps away from El Paseo, known as the “Rodeo Drive of the Desert.” Lounge at the pool, play lawn games in front of their classic Airstream⁣, and enjoy a drink by the firepits. The indoor and outdoor spaces are beautifully and luxuriously designed for the quintessential California vibe with palm trees, mood lighting, modern art, and bright pops of color. 

Saguaro Hotel in greater Palm Springs
Saguaro Hotel in greater Palm Springs – photo by Krista @go4theglobe

Saguaro Hotel – Palm Springs

Saguaro Hotel is Insta-famous for its vibrant, colorful palette, which actually took years to receive approval. The bright color scheme was originally rejected, but the hotel was allowed to paint after it was resubmitted and repitched so the proposed colors aligned with the indigenous flowers found in the local Coachella Valley! The inside is just as colorful, complete with a Barbie display. Whether or not you’re staying at Saguaro Hotel, it’s definitely worth checking out to snap some photos by the pool. 

Omni Rancho Las Palmas

Looking for a peaceful escape near Palm Springs? Visit the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage for a truly quiet, peaceful escape. Co-owner and Digital Editor Melissa Berry stayed here during her girls’ getaway, and it was the perfect distance from the city shopping, restaurants, and adventures in Palm Springs with a tranquil location. Enjoy varied and delicious food at a variety of onsite restaurants, plus activities for the whole family, including tennis, a water park, golf and spa services.

Unveiling the Vibrant Gems of Greater Palm Springs: A Thrilling Outdoor Adventure Awaits!

In conclusion, Palm Springs is not just a popular destination for Hollywood celebrities, but also an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The city boasts natural and architectural beauty, culinary, art, and entertainment hotspots that attract visitors from around the world. The city offers a perfect escape from the cold temperatures of the northwest with its 350 days of sunshine a year. 

Visitors to Palm Springs should respect nature, stay on trails, pick up after themselves, and follow leave no trace principles. Palm Springs offers a range of activities that are suitable for all levels, including hiking through palm-filled canyons, taking an open-air jeep tour and hiking through a slot canyon, riding the world’s longest rotating tram car to miles of hiking trails, and strolling among Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park. Plus, if you love shopping, you will love Palm Springs!

Krista Staudinger

Krista has a passion for travel and outdoor adventures. She’s been to almost 50 countries and was traveling solo in Asia when the pandemic hit, which brought her back home to Washington. She gained an even greater appreciation for exploring her beautiful backyard in the Pacific Northwest and road-tripping around the western United States.

READ ALL OF KRISTA’S ARTICLES HERE.

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