California Desert Regions
California's deserts are a study in contrasts: Golden eagles and red-tailed hawks soar above crawling sidewinders and desert tortoises. Mountain ranges composed of nothing but bare, jagged rock rise abruptly out of flat, sun baked basins, the land sparsely covered by aromatic shrubs and bizarrely twisted Joshua trees. Burning-hot days can turn into freezing nights. And in springtime, amid the deserts' broad duotone of sun-colored earth and bright blue sky, flowery bursts of hot pink and lipstick red sprout from tough cactus leaves. With it's raw and challenging environment coupled with some of the world's best golf courses and resorts, the desert is an unparalleled playground.
Sunshine: 90-plus percent in spring and fall, 81 percent in winter; 100-plus-degree summer days, freezing winter nights. Bring sunblock, sunglasses, hat with a brim.
Death Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra rain shadow. In its center is a man-made oasis-a citrus grove that's watered late at night when the Furnace Creek Inn drains its spring-fed pool. From here, excursions to stunning sand dunes, rainbow-colored canyons, and highlights like Scotty's Castle and Zabriskie Point show off this desert's diversity.
The High Desert-reclusive Mojave-keeps many of its charms secret to all but the most intrepid explorers. It is full of solemn yucca trees and mysterious dirt roads that beckon off-road enthusiasts.
In contrast, the Coachella Valley is carpeted with endless green fairways and dotted with soothing pools and enchanting stands of date palms. Resort choices here are almost endless-from the Spanish-themed casitas at La Quinta, a favorite retreat of the Hollywood crowd, to the inspired retro inns of Palm Springs. A 15-minute ride up the Palm Springs aerial tram gets you into the cool alpine forests of Mount San Jacinto, where you can hike or horseback ride throughout the summer and cross-country ski in the winter.
Farther south, on the east edge of San Diego County, Anza-Borrego reigns as an extraordinary outdoor playground and the nation's largest state park. Set in the center of the park is Borrego Springs, a private enclave with luxury resort and several modest and comfortable inns.
Sit quietly at sunset in the hills overlooking the badlands that were once at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and watch the light turn from gold to orange to purple. Listen to the silence at night as breezes whisper beneath the veil of a million twinkling stars in the inky desert sky. The desert has many ancient stories to tell-of the Native Americans and Spanish explorers who passed this way centuries ago; of the pioneering schemers and dreamers who searched, often in vain, for riches in the sunbaked hills; of those who come today to enjoy the solitude and natural beauty.
Getting Around the Desert Region
Borrego Valley (L08)
1820 Palm Canyon Dr., Borrego Springs 92004; 760/767 7415 ; Desert Car Rental agency.
Imperial County (IPL)
1101 Airport Rd., Imperial 92251; 760/355-7944 ; served by United Express/Skywest; car rental agencies.
1669 Airport Rd., Inyokern 93527; 760/377-5844 served by United Express; Avis, Enterprise car rental agencies.
Palm Springs International (PSP)
3400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs 92262; 760/318-3800 ; served by Alaska, American, American Eagle, America West Express, Continental (seasonal), Northwest (seasonal), Shuttle by United, United, United Express and Canada 3000 (seasonal); ground transport, major car rental agencies.
Amtrak 800/872-7245 ; there are no staffed Amtrak stations/ticket offices in the area.
California Welcome Center - Barstow
Located approximately half way between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, in the Tanger Outlet Shopping Center, the California Welcome Center, Barstow is the perfect stop for California and Desert information.
2796 Tanger Way, Suite 106
Barstow, CA 92311
Located off of I-15; exit Lenwood Road. Follow the Traveling Bear Signs to the Tanger Factory Outlet Center.
California Welcome Center - Yucca Valley
Often referred to as the "gateway to California's outback," the Morongo Basin is conveniently situated just a short drive to some of Southern California's great outdoor destinations. With the majestic Joshua Tree National Park on its southern border, the basin communities play host year-round to visitors and outdoor recreation enthusiasts from all over the world. The region's California Welcome Center is found on State Route 62 in Yucca Valley, a high desert community located about 30 miles northeast of Palm Springs, and just an hour from the Big Bear area mountain resorts. The highway is a favorite route for southern Californians headed to the Colorado River vacation spots.
Locals and visitors enjoy sunshine and clear skies more than 320 days a year, providing the ideal environment for equestrian activities, night sky observation, and a plethora of outdoor recreation opportunities. The unique natural surroundings of the Joshua Tree National Park have made it a favorite destination for more than a million visitors each year, particularly rock climbers, hikers, campers, photographers and nature enthusiasts.
Rich in history, the Morongo Basin encompasses the communities of Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms, Pioneertown, Joshua Tree and Landers and offers many unique and diverse areas to explore. Step back in time and visit the old west movie locations at Pioneertown or view the artistic history of the area with the Oasis of Murals in neighboring Twentynine Palms. Twentynine Palms is also the home of the world's largest Marine Corps Base.
California Welcome Center, Yucca Valley
56711 29 Palms Highway
Yucca Valley, CA 92284
Located approximately 19 miles off of Interstate 10 and just west of Highway 247 on State Route 62.