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Photo by John Fowler/Flickr

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park
See rocks the colors of the rainbow

Once a popular backdrop for Hollywood westerns, this parkland, roughly 120 miles/193 kilometers north of Los Angeles, is a land of multihued desert cliffs, buttes, and weathered outcrops. Carved by wind and water, the land unfolds in layers of white, pink, and red—join other photographers to capture it at sunrise and sunset. Paleontologists flock here, too. In the cliff’s sediments are remains of prehistoric animals—three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats, and prehistoric alligator lizards.

The 27,000-acre/10,926-hectare park offers several short hiking trails. First-timers can follow trails to see formations in Hagen and Red Rock Canyons. At Red Cliffs Natural Preserve, a path leads between the reddish columns of 300-foot/91-meter-tall cliffs, then follows an old Jeep track past otherworldly Joshua trees to sweeping views of the El Paso Mountains. Visit after a wet winter to see spring wildflowers erupting in a riot of color.

Nights at the park have a different kind of magic. With no major towns in the region (tiny Cantil is the closest town), night skies are free of light pollution. The 50-site Ricardo Campground is often dotted with telescopes set up by astronomy buffs, and the China Lake Astronomical Society holds frequent star parties. On most Saturday nights, park docents give talks on topics from petroglyphs to desert tortoises—and of course stars.

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Kodiak Greenwood

Southern California

Discover the Deserts

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17
November
Average (°C)
Sept - Nov
37°
High
16°
Low
Dec - Feb
20°
High
6°
Low
Mar - May
33°
High
11°
Low
June - Aug
41°
High
21°
Low

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 color.

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.

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At 282 ft. below sea level, Badwater in Death Valley National Park is the lowest point in the contiguous United States.
SPECIAL FEATURE
Find beauty, wildlife, and solitude in three of America’s newest national preserves

You could call it a monumental achievement: In February 2016, three new national monuments were created, protecting a combined total of 1.8 million acres of California desert. The names of the...

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Ann Marie Brown
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Lucas Himovitz

Luxury Resorts in the Desert

Relax at spoil-yourself spas under the desert sun

Pampering just comes with the territory in the California desert. Maybe in the old days, desert visitors had to pack in supplies and sleep on the...

This is the sense of the desert hills, that there is room enough and time enough.
Mary Austin
A boutique in the California Deserts region
Laura Flippen

Desert Shopping

From boutiques to bargains, vintage to boho-chic, you’ll find it here

In-the-know visitors make sure to come to the Palm Springs area with room in their suitcases. Bargain hunters make a beeline for the town of...

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Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you are in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you will find it here. Want to sample fresh fruits and...

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Prayitno/Flickr
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Kodiak Greenwood

Golf & tennis

Swing clubs and racquets where the pros do in the Coachella Valley

With world-class golf courses set against dramatic desert landscapes and top-quality tennis courts beneath towering palms, two sports get classy...

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Courtesy of Elvis Presley Estate

Mid-Century Modern Design

Swing into Sinatra cool in Palm Springs

Filled with distinctive post-World War II buildings designed by leading architects of the time, Palm Springs is America’s Mid-century Modern mecca...

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The lowest golf course in the world is Furnace Creek in Death Valley, at 214 feet below sea level.
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From edgy rock n’ roll to haute fashions, find your fest in the desert

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...

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The Lumineers at Coachella by Lucas Himovitz
LGBTQ Party in Palm Springs
David A Lee

LGBTQ Travel in the Deserts

Experience a scene that really heats up when the weather starts to cool down

Fabulous pool parties. Stylish bars and impeccably designed hotels. Pampering spas and energetic nightclubs. Lavish events. There’s no question...

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Vast landscapes, spectacular desert vistas

Both vast and intimate, the California desert is a region that ranges from arid, barren expanses to oasis-like canyons with hidden waterfalls. Towering sand dunes rise above the desert floor,...

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Joshua Tree National Park by Alex Farnum
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Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management

Amboy Crater

Hike into a 6,000-year-old volcanic remnant

Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973 and located just off historic Route 66, Amboy Crater is an example of geology creating geometry- it...

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Photo by The Greater Southwestern Exploration Company/Flickr

Fossil Falls

Rushing river, sculpted black lava

The truth is that the name Fossil Falls is a bit of a misnomer. After all, there are neither fossils nor a waterfall here. But a walk through...