This easy-access desert oasis offers the chance to explore a diverse landscape and see a lot of desert critters up close. Set between Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park in the Little San Bernardino Mountains—in a valley that links the Mojave and Colorado deserts—this 147-acre reserve is part of the Big Morongo Canyon. Its elevation ranges from 600 to 3,000 feet, which results in a wide array of flora and fauna.
Hike one of the trails, which range in length from almost 1km to a 17km round-trip and include some boardwalk paths (one that’s wheelchair-accessible) through the stream and marsh habitats. You might easily spot a variety of rabbits, kangaroo rats, coyote, mule deer and possibly even bobcats and bighorn sheep. Kids who like creepy-crawlies should keep an eye out for whiptail and side-blotched lizards, Gilbert’s skink and California tree frogs.
Look up and you can see why the preserve has been designated an Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy. Especially during spring and fall migration, you can see representatives of some 240 species, including such rare birds as Vermilion Flycatchers and Least Bell’s Vireo. Indeed, autumn, winter and spring are the prime times to visit, when the average temperatures range between 15-26 degrees.
The thwack of a golf club, the hum of the wind buffeting towering sand dunes, the splash of a dive into a perfect pool—the desert region is a sensory feast.
Following winter rains, springtime wildflowers paint the desert with colour.
Death Valley National Park holds the record for hottest temperature ever recorded (129°F/54°C in 1913), while the deserts of Joshua Tree National Park have giant boulders and alien-like yucca plants. At Anza-Borrego, California’s largest state park, discover amazing springtime wildflowers. The oasis-like Palm Springs region (2 hours east of L.A. and 3 hours northeast of San Diego) has golf resorts, midcentury modern architecture, and every spring, the epic Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
For all of the desert’s natural splendor and outdoor destinations, creativity comes with the territory, too. Throughout the year, the region finds ways to celebrate art, design, music, and film...