All Stories from Deserts

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    Chutes and Ladders

    Just when you think you can’t go any farther in Painted Canyon, you remember why this route is called the Ladder Canyon Trail. Whew! There it is: a perfectly placed ladder that gets you up and over the would-be dead-end and into the next thrilling phase of your canyon hike…

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    The Undead Ghost Town

    Every Halloween, the worlds of the living and the dead blur together. In the “living ghost town” of Randsburg, that condition is permanent. This strange gold-rush town near the El Paso Mountains in Kern County popped up in 1895. More than 3,500 people lived here in its thriving…

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    Psychedelic Lava

    You’d be hard-pressed to find a volcanic landscape in California as memorable and psychedelic as Fossil Falls. This chasm of water-sculpted lava rock in the Coso Mountain Range northwest of Ridgecrest was carved thousands of years ago by the Owens River after an eruption dammed…

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    Planet of the Pinnacles

    The Trona Pinnacles have costarred as backdrop in sci-fi epics like Planet of the Apes and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but seeing these tufa towers in person is far more jaw-dropping than the virtual version. When you stand before this rock fantasy, your feet are firmly…

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    Lykken Good!

    A hike followed by brunch? Always a good idea! Palm Springs’ go-to hike for gaining wild views and getting back to the city in time for brunch is North Lykken Trail. The path traces high above Palm Canyon Drive. Using two trailheads, you can link together a hike on North Lykken…

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    Murray Up!

    Palm Springs’ highest summit, Murray Hill, is unfairly named. It’s not a hill: It’s a pyramid-shaped peak poking into the sky above the Coachella Valley. And it’s a demanding 2,200-foot hike to the top! Cool winter days are ideal for an ascent, though you’ll still want sunscreen…

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    It's a Waterfall Life

    Tahquitz Canyon’s crystalline stream and lush stands of desert lavender, honey mesquite, and leafy sycamores will change how you think about the desert. You might grumble at the $12.50 entrance fee, but fork it over—this hike is worth it. Its 2.1-mile loop trail offers an easy…

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    Coachella Kinda Day

    The Coachella Valley Preserve protects some 20,000 acres of wild desert, where the San Andreas Fault has worked as chief landscape architect. Seismic action forced freshwater springs to pop up from underground, and the water nourishes groves of California fan palms—thousands of…

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    Sweet Valley High

    Sometimes you just need a fresh perspective. And getting up high to see things from a different view does the trick! At 3.6-miles (round-trip) the zigzagging Garstin Trail at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument satisfies with mind-expanding vistas of the Coachella…

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    Don’t Hurry Murray

    Don’t let the desert stereotype fool you: Palm Springs has a wet-and-wild side beyond hotel swimming pools. A 3.8-mile (round-trip) hike in Murray Canyon showcases Palm Springs as the Agua Caliente Indians knew it: stately fan palms, towering rock formations, and a spring-fed…

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    Storm the Castle

    Before President Obama channeled Teddy Roosevelt earlier this year, the Mojave National Preserve was missing a key piece bordering Nevada in the northeast section of the park. This newly conserved 21,000-acre parcel, now protected and designated the Castle Mountains National…

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    Sand to Snow

    The Sand to Snow National Monument, comprising 154,000 acres connecting Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino National Forest, is the closest to Los Angeles among Obama’s newly designated monuments. Its centerpiece is the 11,500-foot peak of Mount San Gorgonio (the…

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    Mojave Momentum

    The largest of Obama’s new monument designations clocks in at a modest 1.6 million acres! Mojave Trails National Monument is home to a variety of desert destinations, including colorful canyons, striking mountain ranges, sand dunes, and even fossil beds containing 550-million…

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    Bottle Drive!

    The High Desert northeast of the San Gabriel Mountains may not have the same grandeur as desert regions like Joshua Tree and Death Valley, but with a little digging, its own quirky treasures pop up. Take Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, found on a mostly forgotten stretch of Historic…

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    Devils and Saints

    You wouldn’t think of a devil and a saint existing side by side all that comfortably, but hey, it’s California—almost anything goes here. Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area near Palmdale is a beautiful place for a fall hike, situated on the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains at the…

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    Two Hikes, Trees Company

    If you have time for only one hike during your visit in Joshua Tree National Park, do two! Located just 5 miles from the park’s main entrance—and within 5 minutes of each other—the Hidden Valley and Barker Dam loops combine for a total of 2.5 miles, and make a great way to see…

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    Wild West Side

    Joshua Tree National Park is wild in more ways than its gnarly namesake trees. Hike the park’s west side for a big-picture vantage of the desertscape and to explore a historic mine dating to the late nineteenth century. The 6.7-mile Lost Horse Mine loop is both eerie and…

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    Starry-Eyed Camp Surprise

    No trip to Joshua Tree National Park is complete without a stargazing party and the comfort of a campfire. The night sky illuminates spectacularly in the desert (especially during a new moon) and is best observed with good company. Indian Cove Campground, nestled 13 miles east of…

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    Real Spring Break

    You’ve hiked Joshua Tree’s high peaks, gone into its desert wilds, and camped under its starry sky. Now it’s time to enjoy a little R&R nearby. And by R&R we mean retro resort and really warm mineral water. Take a dip at the Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel. While it might not be a…

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    Butte Wait, There's More!

    Hiking to a mountain peak in the desert?  And you don’t even have to leave Los Angeles County? No special effects here—it’s all natural at 2,955-acre Saddleback Butte State Park. Here you can get a taste of the Mojave Desert from Saddleback Butte, a solitary mountain rising 3,65…