Updated: Dec 16, 2021
During this weird time, my boyfriend and I have been trying to keep our travels close to San Diego. With Palm Springs only a two-hour drive, I couldn't resist checking it out. However, we are not the best weekend trip planners, we are the kind of people who just pick a place and go. "It's only two days, how could we possibly fuck this up?" Kind of people. While I had never been to Palm Springs before, I was expecting a lot (even with the Covid restrictions). With our lack of forethought and a strong sense of adventure, we took off to see what we could discover in the locked-down party town.
Here, I'd like to show you what we were able to accomplish even with the restrictions and lack of planning, and one place we found that you should avoid altogether.
The only thing we actually knew about going to Palm Springs is that we wanted to hike.
While the most popular hike in Palm Springs is probably the Tahquitz Canyon waterfall hike, you should know that it is steep for only 1.8 mi of trail and there is a fee to enter. At $12.50 for each adult (plus dogs aren't allowed), we didn't think it was worth the cost. Plus, with covid restrictions, they have strict rules on how many people can be on the trail at one time and you must wear your mask the whole hike.
If you are begging to do an amazing waterfall hike and are willing to spend the money, then this hike is for you. You can check out the website with more info here.
Instead of the super expensive waterfall, we decided to try out a hike about 20 min out of town in Whitewater called the Canyon View Loop. This trail is 3.7 mi long, not very strenuous, had some amazing views!
With a tall mountainside, a valley with a crystal clear creek running through it, and way fewer people, I say we made the right choice.
A couple of things to note about this trail:
- Dogs are allowed and it is free to hike
- You cross a small section of the Pacific Coast Trail
- It's not quite a whole trail loop, you will be on the road for a small section of it, then you have to get back on it again
-With Covid, the visitor center is closed and you will have to park down the road from the trailhead
- I think its better to take this trail clockwise as you get a better view coming down on the creek in the valley, and the accent is much easier
Things to do in Palm Springs
The big thing to do in Palm Springs at night is of course drink and hit up the Agua Caliente casino. While drinking around town looks very different these days, with no real bars open, we were still able to manage to grab some appetizers and cocktails at a few different restaurants on Main Street. Just be aware that restaurant rule are changing constantly and this may not be possible at all times.
After drinks, we decided to hit up the casino, which is where we went horribly wrong.
While originally we wanted to get a couple of drinks and try our hand at some video poker, the place was completely packed. The bar was full of people, and almost every slot machine was taken with no space between machines. It was mayhem! Luckily they did temperature checks and enforced masks, but I say avoid this place at all costs if you want to live.
The best part of the visit was the Moorten botanical garden! I'm a gigantic plant nerd and this place was amazing. It is a completely desert garden (or cactarium) and has succulent and cacti varieties from all over the world. I suggest going early in the day though because the place fills up quickly and it isn't very spread out, but absolutely worth it. It was so cool that even my boyfriend liked it, and he has zero feelings towards plants.
You can read more about it on their website here.
Things to do near Palm Springs
Luckily there are still tons of things to do around Palm Springs since this part of SoCal is sort of the mecca of adventure.
The Salton Sea: What looks like a sparkling desert oasis is actually a toxic disaster. This area used to be a major resort location for southern California, but after taking in nearby pesticides, the water killed off millions of fish leaving their bones to rot on the shores. Today, you can still see remnants of the 50's glamour and walk on the beach of bones, just don't go in the water! You can also check out the blog post I wrote on this strange place here.
Galleta Meadows: In the middle of the Anzo Borrego Desert in Borrego Springs, you'll find over 130 enormous, unreal metal statues. These metal beasts range from prehistoric to mythical to the everyday. From horses to dragons, everyone is sure to have a favorite sculpture out here.
While you may not see every sculpture in one trip, I suggest driving around them to see what you can find, but be careful, it is a desert and you can get stuck in sandpits. I suggest a 4/all-wheel drive vehicle or simply walking around the area.
Joshua Tree National Park: In just an hour you can reach the famous Joshua Tree National Park. If you're looking for some great day hikes, and a beautiful outdoor experience, this is it. Joshua tree has hikes ranging from a stroll around the cacti to over the mountains and beyond.
I highly suggest getting there early to avoid the heat in the summers or even
going later for sunset, as the desert sky changes to the most amazing colors.
You can check out my blog on Joshua Tree here.
While Palm Springs isn't quite in its full glory right now (the famous tramway isn't even open), if you're nearby they still have plenty to offer for the weekend. Plus, you can also hit up places like the Salton Sea, the Anzo Borrego Desert, or Joshua Tree on your way out. As long as you get outdoors and avoid the insanely crowded places, you should have a safe and fun time.
Until next time,