Coachella Valley Preserve#1 in Best Things To Do in Palm Springs
The Coachella Valley Preserve may seem like a barren desert, but keep your eyes peeled and you'll see that its 20,000-plus acres are more than just sand and brush. The preserve encompasses the smaller Thousand Palms Oasis preserve, which boasts more than 25 miles of hiking paths. Along the trails you'll spot rare wildlife, lush palm woodland oases and desert wetlands, which at different times of the year blossom with wildflowers.
Before heading out, past visitors recommend stopping by the visitor center – located in a log cabin at the entrance of the park – to pick up a map of the trails. You can also download it here. Additionally, some suggested arriving early before temperatures become unbearable and the small parking lot fills up. And if you visit between October and March, consider joining one of the preserve's free guided hikes.
The Coachella Valley Preserve is located about 17 miles east of Palm Springs in the town of Thousand Palms. Although the preserve is free to enjoy, a small donation is appreciated to help continue the park's preservation work. Keep in mind that the preserve is open daily from May through September between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.; from October to April, the gates open at 7 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. The visitors center is generally open every day between September and May from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but because it is staffed by volunteers with varying schedules, opening hours are subject to change. Check out Coachella Valley Preserve's website to learn more.
More Best Things To Do in Palm Springs
#2 Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is an oasis in the center of the desert. From Hidden Valley (which features a nice, easy hike) to the Cholla Cactus Garden (home to many a photo op at sunset), Joshua Tree caters to a variety of active travelers. Meanwhile, with its perch in the Little San Bernardino Mountains, the Keys View lookout is another great place for a spectacular view of the Coachella Valley.
Whether you're planning on hiking or just driving through, the park rangers recommend bringing plenty of water – this is the desert, after all. What's more, recent travelers suggested bringing food to enjoy at one of Hidden Valley's picnic tables.
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