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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Get Lost in the Desert in Palm Springs


3. What to Do

Desert Adventures' tour includes stops at an 840-acre ranch and recreated villages.  

Take a one- or two-hour guided horseback ride ($50$90) at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains with Smoke Tree Stables. Check out views of downtown Palm Springs in the distance as you travel through rocky gorges and mountain streams to a desert oasis on the Agua Caliente Indian reservation. Inexperienced riders should request Choppo, a gentle horse once owned by the mayor of Palm Springs.

Ride the world’s largest rotating tramcar, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway ($24), ten minutes and 8,516 feet to Mount San Jacinto State Park. In winter, go sledding or cross-country skiing on snow-capped San Jacinto; during warmer months, enjoy a 30-degree drop in temperature at the top and choose from 54 miles of backcountry hikes. Pick the moderate, 1.5-mile Desert View Trail for great panoramas of the San Bernardino Mountain range.

Order a mountain bike delivered to your hotel from Big Wheel Bike Tours ($45 per day, plus delivery) and pedal 45 minutes through thousands of wind turbines to Joshua Tree National Park. Bike the remote Geology Tour Road through surreal rock formations, caused by tectonic movements in the area, and scope the varied high-desert vegetation, including the bulbous, prickly namesake tree.

Explore the San Andres Fault Zone from a CJ-8 Jeep with Desert Adventures. They’ll pick you up in town and take you to their private ranch in Indio for a three-hour tour ($125), where you’ll pass through unusual sandstone formations and dramatic slot canyons to a palm oasis. In their recreated villages, guests learn how the Cahuilla tribe and early white settlers survived harsh Colorado-Sonoran Desert life.

Published on Mar 16, 2012 as a web exclusive.

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