Just over 100 miles east of bustling Los Angeles lies the desert paradise of Palm Springs, where crystal-blue lakes framed by palm trees—and snow-capped mountains glinting in the distance—will make you think you’ve encountered a mirage. But you’re not hallucinating: Palm Springs is every bit as beautiful as it seems. And with 350 days of sunshine per year, it’s the perfect getaway destination for outdoorsy types who want to soak in the natural beauty while getting their heart pumping.
Here are a few of the area’s best outdoor adventures:
Hike to the Stone Pools in the Indian Canyons
Hikers will find paradise in Palm Springs, where dozens of hiking trails stretch on for miles. Some of the most beautiful trails can be found in the Indian Canyons, made up of Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon.
We’re partial to the Palm Canyon Trail, which begins with lush, jungle-like surroundings that give way to dramatic plunging cliffs, waterfalls, and eventually the Stone Pools, a gathering of small pools fed by rain pouring off the cliff faces.
The Palm Canyon Trail is 6 miles long with an elevation gain of 880 feet. Visit their website for more information.
Go Horseback Riding at Smoke Tree Stables
For some four-footed adventure, head over to the family-owned Smoke Tree Stables and say giddy-up to their stable of happy, well-cared-for horses.
Take an easy one-hour ride at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, or opt for the two-hour ride that takes you into the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, where you’ll breathe in the scent of wild lavender, cross streams, and see native palms and other flora.
Book an evening ride to watch the sun disappear behind the mountains as your horse meanders through the desert. Private group rides are available, as are Western-themed cookouts and parties. Call 760.327.1372 for reservations.
Ascend San Jacinto Mountain
Escape the desert heat and watch the landscape morph from desert to forest—and even to snow—as you ascend two and a half miles by way of the 360-degree views of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
At the top, enjoy the scenic lookout or venture onto one of the many available hiking trails. You might spot a mule deer—and, if you’re lucky, a bobcat. Have a drink at Lookout Lounge, or grab a bite at Peaks Restaurant, which offers a variety of refined dishes made from local ingredients.
More intrepid hikers might choose to summit San Jacinto by braving the twenty-mile Cactus to Clouds trail on foot. If you do choose such an option, be warned: the hike has the greatest elevation gain of any trail in the United States—10,834 feet—and requires an early start, plenty of food and water, and a healthy set of quadriceps.
Once you’ve had your fill of adventure, do some window shopping as you stroll along El Paseo, known as the Rodeo Drive of the Desert. Grab some grub at a local restaurant (try the chili rellenos at La Perlita) or indulge in a hot stone massage at one of the area’s many spas. You’ve earned it!
Looking for the perfect place to stay on your next Palm Springs vacation? Click here to search our selection of Palm Springs vacation rentals.