All Stories from Deserts

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    A Rainbow Connection

    A place called Rainbow Basin Natural Area certainly suggests a glorious radiance of color, and this remarkable desert area north of Barstow doesn’t disappoint. A hike on Owl Canyon Trail takes you on a journey through the sunburnt oranges and deep reds of its sandstone formations…

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    Snaking Your Way Through Joshua Tree

    You don’t have to be a rock climber to enjoy this high-friction frolic in Joshua Tree. All it takes is a sense of adventure—a willingness to plunge into a dramatic canyon that’s devoid of such niceties as trails or signs. Rattlesnake Canyon begins as a sandy wash behind a sign…

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    Journey into the Chasm of Doom

    When you enter Joshua Tree’s Chasm of Doom, your fate is sealed. Your life becomes an experience of mystery, steep climbs, steeper drops, chimneying, and death-defying squeezes. What could be more fun? From the entrance of the slot canyon in Hidden Valley, you first make a steep…

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    Good Times in Anza-Borrego's Badlands

    Anza-Borrego’s badlands look forbidding, but anyone with a sense of adventure can dive in and explore V-shaped canyons, 100-foot-deep slots, and a vast maze of sandstone rock formations laced with the calcite veins that drew miners here in the 1940s. At the heart of all this…

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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…