In May, I spent 3 days and 4 nights in Palm Springs. I was looking for somewhere warm and with a view of the mountains: why not Palm Springs? It turned out to be much more than I expected (I expected a desert where people go to play golf – which was only partly true). I didn’t have much planned; with a hotel booked and a car rented, I was ready for the scorching desert heat.
Also check out my other post: Desert Travel Tips for Hikers and Visitors – 4 Indispensable Lessons from Palm Springs
The Weather: May – Dry and Hot; Highs of 40C (104F), Lows of 23C (73F)
The Company: This was a lovely trip for 2 which was great for taking turns driving and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Overall, people in Palm Springs are friendly and eager to help. We met some wonderful park rangers who made our visit memorable by offering lots of advice on enjoying the flora and fauna.
- Day 0:
- 4pm – Rented a car from the airport and drove 20 minutes to our hotel in Palm Desert.
- 7pm – Had a delicious dinner at Grill-A-Burger that is still leaving me wanting more.
- Day 1:
- 6am – Wake-up to arrive at Joshua Tree National Park at 8am.
- 8am – Hiked the short 1 mile trail in Hidden Valley and was glad it wasn’t any longer because the higher the sun rose, the hotter it got.
- 10am – Stopped at multiple scenic sites along the way and did some short walks.
- 12pm – Drove to Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and explored Mount San Jacinto State Park in the much cooler mountain air. With cooler temperatures and more shade, we were able to do the 5 mile Round Trail up to an open alpine meadow.
- 7pm – It was dinner time by the time we got back and, with the restaurant we were planning to go to closed, we ended up at the Cheesecake Factory (with enough food for dinner and the next day’s breakfast).
- Day 2:
- A day of unplanned activities (it’s always a good idea to have a free day if you can) – we ended up swimming, reading, and just lounging around.
- Cooked up a great barbecue for dinner
- 7pm – Went to the weekly Thursday night Palm Springs VillageFest. Note that the street (Palm Canyon Drive) is closed for the event but there is street parking and a free public garage nearby. While billed as an Art Festival with handmade crafts, it mainly has lots of knickknacks and a few food stands. Still fun to go to as long as you know what you’re getting into. We did buy some beautiful cards from a local artist.
- Day 3:
- 7am – Early start to get to Indian Canyons right at park opening
- 8am – Arrive at Indian Canyons before the park opened (we were trying to beat the heat)
- 8:15 – Short 3/4 mile Hike in Andreas Canyon – running water, lots of shade at least half the way
- 9:00 – Did part of the hike in Palm Canyon but stopped when the shade of the Palms ended
- 10am – Had a really informative and entertaining talk led by Ranger Bill. They are held regularly at 10am (although you can call ahead to check). There wasn’t anyone else when we were there so we had a private talk just for the 2 of us.
- Afternoon – swimming, reading, and tennis playing (we did not last long in the heat).
- 6pm: Dinner at Cork Tree Restaurant in Palm Desert.
Tips: You will need a car to travel around Palm Springs. The roads are beautifully paved and the drivers friendly so go ahead and rent a car and see where the road takes you! All we had in terms of maps was a few we picked up at the airport tourism booth and that was all we needed (plus some Google mapping before heading out each day). Also, if you’re going during the hotter months (May to September), be prepared. I’ll be making a brief post on that later (check it out here: What you should know if you’re Traveling in the Desert – 4 Lessons from Palm Springs). The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and Mount San Jacinto State Park provides a great escape from the heat, I would recommend saving it for the afternoon when the desert gets too hot to hike comfortably.
Favourite place to eat: Grill-A-Burger – I asked our hotel receptionists about the restaurant and it quickly turned into a vivid discussion about the menu and other great places to eat. I had the blue cheese burger and have been craving it ever since. I also spilled water all over the table (which is pretty standard unintentional behaviour) and the waiter simply asked if I was making a new dish and brought me napkins and a fresh glass of water. Pro-Tip, the restaurant is pronounced Gorilla Burger. You’ll know why when you go there.
Favourite activity: Joshua Tree National Park. It’s a longer drive from Palm Springs (about 1.5 hours) compared to Indian Canyon and Mount San Jacinto but well worth it for the beautiful views along the drive through the park as well as the number of trails.
- Indian Canyons
- Joshua Tree National Park (Good to check before going for trail closures, there are also 3 park entrances so you want to choose based on the trails, we entered via the west and left via the north)
- Mount San Jacinto State Park
Lasting Impressions: An overall really fun trip that left me full of energy as I returned home. This little unplanned adventure turned out to be just what I needed. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend it. Joshua Tree National Park was like nothing I had seen before. I didn’t have time to explore the museum, art galleries, or other indoor attractions but from what I’ve seen, I think anyone would leave Palm Springs with great memories.