California Day Trip: The Outskirts of Palm Springs

If you truly want to make the most of Palm Springs, CA, check out stunning desert landscapes and peaceful villages on the outskirts of town.

Share article:

When the ground begins to thaw at the end of a chilly winter, many travelers get a hankering for sunshine — lots and lots of sunshine. Sitting on the western edge of the Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert, Palm Springs, California, is a favorite post-freeze destination for anyone who digs fun in the sun. In town, you get all the shops, restaurants, galleries, museums, and golf courses you need to satisfy your sophisticated side — you have one, right? — but a Palm Springs getaway isn’t complete without taking a day trip or two to explore the outskirts just outside the city.

Get Wild in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

As the largest of California’s state parks, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park beckons to outdoor lovers from far and wide. Roughly 57 miles south of Palm Springs, the park has an assortment of trails if you like hiking, miles of dirt roads if burning rubber on ATVs is your thing, and stunning desert landscapes for Instagram junkies. Besides wildflowers, cacti, and palm groves, you might even get a glimpse of golden eagles, iguanas, roadrunners, kit foxes, mule deer, and bighorn sheep. Smack in the heart of the park, the little town of Borrego Springs adds a lively arts scene and plenty of shops and eateries to this little adventure.

Saddle Up at Coyote Ridge Stable

Love all those stories of the Wild West? Well, saddle up ’cause there’s nothing quite like exploring the desert on horseback. About 20 minutes north of Palm Springs, Coyote Ridge Stable offers guided trips — no getting lost in the desert with these guys! — through the canyons of Morongo Valley. Pack your camera and get ready for breathtaking views of the San Jacinto and San Gorgonio Mountains and occasional shots of coyotes, eagles, kestrels, and red-tailed hawks. Gentle, seasoned horses make the ride safe and fun!

Boogie Down at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

Love good barbecue as much as you love good music? Head on over to Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. Rising from the skeleton of a once thriving movie set, this desert cantina-roadhouse offers quirky ambience, delicious grub, and great live shows. In fact, LA Weekly dubbed it one of the 50 best music venues in the country for its mix of national bands and talented local newcomers. Just 30 minutes north of Palm Springs, it’s a must-visit attraction for a meal and some lively ear candy.

Experience the Mountain Magic of Idyllwild

When Palm Springs locals look to escape the heat, they head to higher ground. A little over an hour from Palm Springs, Idyllwild, California, sits in the heart of the San Jacinto Mountains. Head to this peaceful little village for oodles of hiking, biking, shopping, and dining.

The Idyllwild Bake Shop & Brew makes a great stop for picnic fare or a sit-down lunch, and Idyology serves up a mean cheeseburger and fries, with a little live music on the side. Unique local shops include Lady of the Lake, with everything from handmade soaps — fancy! — and books to clothing and gifts. Need a little more quirk? Hit The Funky Bazaar for antiques and oddities.

Palm springs aerial tram is pictured as it glides over rocky terrain, just a short day trip from Palm Springs, California.

Take to the Air on the Palm Springs Tram

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway provides the perfect day trip if you love the outdoors and picture-perfect views. Moving from palm trees to pines in a matter of minutes, expect to gasp in amazement at the spectacular valley and canyon views. A climb to the Mountain Station at 8,516 feet leads to more than 50 miles of trails for hiking in the summer and snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the winter. If you’re the curious type, learn about the local flora and fauna on a guided nature walk. Additional attractions include two restaurants, a natural history museum, two documentary theaters, and an array of observation decks.

Downtown cityscape view of Los Angeles, California with a busy freeway highway in the forefront.

Step to a Big City Beat in Los Angeles

Yearn for big city excitement on your vacay? Just over 100 miles from Palm Springs, Los Angeles is the spot! Besides shops and restaurants, downtown LA offers excellent museums like The Broad, The Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Grammy Museum.

Little Tokyo offers up hours of attractions and activities, from dining on authentic ramen noodles at Daikokuya to touring the James Irvine Japanese Garden. A jaunt to the Griffith Observatory gives you a chance to explore space with both feet on the ground, with telescopes, exhibits, and live shows.

Feeling fancy? Chic downtown restaurants like Water Grill, Drago Centro, and Redbird offer delicious dinner options — but go early or late to avoid the rush-hour traffic on the return trip to Palm Springs.

When it comes to a sunny vacation getaway, Palm Springs delivers, but don’t forget that sometimes the fun extends outside the city. Start exploring and share your memories of your favorite Palm Springs day trips with us on Facebook.

Share article: