From hiking to rock climbing to horseback riding, find out how to make the most of this desert oasis
Palm Springs may be known for trendy events like the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Modernism Week, or Coachella and the Stagecoach Music Festival, but this beautiful desert and mountain oasis has tons more to offer. Besides the incredible resorts, spas, and restaurants that make Palm Springs the ideal R&R getaway, it's a mecca for adventure lovers—hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and backpacking are just a few of the ways you can work up a sweat while taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Plus, you can pretty much guarantee amazing weather—Palm Springs has an average of more than 350 days of sunshine and just five inches of rain per year (it’s no wonder Leonardo DiCaprio just moved in to the neighborhood!). Below, a small sampling of how you can make the most of this unique SoCal spot.
If you’re looking for an oasis with serious retro flair, The Parker Palm Springs (pictured above) is it. Rich in history, the hotel was originally opened as the first Holiday Inn in California in 1959, and was redesigned by Jonathan Adler with jewel tones and plenty of whimsy (complete with unexpected touches like an indoor firepit and lemonade stand). On site you can also find two popular dining spots, even for those not staying at the hotel: Norma’s, a five-star diner with a cheery outdoor patio and huge breakfast menu served all day long (plus a fresh made smoothie of the day!) and Mister Parker's, a sexy, speakeasy-inspired bistro.
When you aren’t lounging poolside or playing a leisurely game of croquet or Pétanque, work up a sweat in the 24-hour fitness area, on the tennis courts (on-staff pros are available for private lessons), or in the yoga studio for a complimentary group class on the weekends. Splurge for the private one-bedroom villas (where you can lounge outside on your own enclosed patio) or take advantage of the more affordable spa packages starting at $249 per night.
For a more budget-friendly—yet still intimate—option, try the Best Western Plus Las Brisas Hotel. The Mediterranean-style hotel is designed with the charm of a villa and boasts a lush poolside bar along with beautiful mountain views.
Stay in Shape
Photo (right): Jessica Lynn Walker / Subaru
Less than an hour drive from Palm Springs proper, Joshua Tree National Park (pictured above) is a must-see worth the road trip. From short nature trails to long, strenuous hikes, you're sure to find a trail to your liking (plus, spring is wildflower blooming season!). Joshua Tree is also known worldwide for its rock climbing and boasts more than 8,000 climbing routes of all levels of ability. Enlist the help of Vertical Adventures Rock Climbing School who will show you the ropes (pun intended) with rock climbing lessons and guided climbs. (And stock up on 16 Hiking Gear Essentials for Your Next Adventure!)
If rock climbing isn't quite your thing, you can also take advantage of the horseback riding available for both novices and experienced riders alike at the historic Smoke Tree Stables, located at the base of hundreds of miles of trails that provide stunning vistas of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountain Ranges (hourly and day rates available).
Fuel Your Trip
If you're looking for a quick and healthy breakfast or lunch spot, Palm Greens Cafe (pictured above, left) is the way to go. Dedicated to high quality, small batch, fresh food that's vegan, organic, gluten-free, and vegetarian, they offer a wide array of wraps, salads, bowls, smoothies, and juices in a bright and cheery environment. Or, stop by for dinner to check out the new dinner and organic cocktail menus.
If you're willing to put in the wait time for a delicious breakfast sourced from local incredients and made from scratch, visit Cheeky's (pictured above, right), a cult-favorite brunch spot with a menu that changes weekly.
Take a ride on the world’s largest rotating tram car ($23.95 per ticket) at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (above, left). Enjoy the gorgeous views of the Coachella valley from an elevation of 8,500 feet and grab lunch or dinner at Peaks, a fine dining restaurant, or cafeteria-style option Pines Cafe. Once at the top, explore the mountain wilderness of Mt. San Jacinto State Park with a guided nature walk (offered free of charge Memorial Day through Labor Day). If you're looking to spend more time taking in the scenery, the park offers 54 miles of hiking trails six campgrounds.
You can also head to The Living Desert (pictured above, right), a 1200-acre wildlife and botanical park home to wild animals including giraffes, lions, zebras and over 1400 different species of desert plants.
Photo: Jessica Lynn Walker / Subaru
Twin Palms, the former estate of singing legend Frank Sinatra built in 1947 as a weekend getaway, is a must-see. The mid-century architectural masterwork features most of Sinatra's original design elements, including a baby grand piano-shaped pool and vintage audio system. While it costs a steep $2,600 per night to stay in the four-bedroom home, you can take a private guided tour without blowing the bank! To see more of the unique architecture of Palm Springs, grab tickets to the Modern Tour for an inside look at some of the most renowned homes from the era.
The Palm Springs Yacht Club (PSYC) spa (pictured above, left), located in the Parker Palm Springs, offers a wide array of massages, facials, and nail services, but it's really the atmosphere, including an indoor pool surrounded by Moroccan tents, that makes this spa a true escape. For more relaxation, head to celeb go-to Two Bunch Palms Resort (pictured above, right), located in nearby Desert Hot Springs, to take advantage of the healing 600-year-old mineral springs, river rock alcoves, and mud cabanas.
Head to the Uptown Design District of Palm Springs for a meal at the hip, family-style Workshop Kitchen + Bar (pictured above, left), which features a constantly changing menu based around in-season products from local farms, not to mention a killer craft cocktail menu! Or, stroll just down the block to Birba's (pictured above, right), an Italian, farm-to-table, late-night hotspot with an outdoor patio and bar, firepits, and incredible artisinal pizza.