Called “the most botanically diverse national monument in America,” by David Myers, the preserve gets its name from dramatic changes in elevation, which range from the sandy desert floor to Mount San Gorgonio’s 11,502-foot summit, the highest peak in Southern California and often capped with snow well into spring.
To visit the sandy part of Sand to Snow, head to the Whitewater Canyon Preserve area within the monument—the turnoff for Whitewater Canyon is five miles west of Palm Springs on Interstate 10. Take Whitewater Canyon Road five miles north to the trailhead, then follow Whitewater River’s usually dry wash for two miles to reach Red Dome, a rust-coloured hill caused by what could be called a volcanic burp that welled up to the earth’s crust. Or, for a heart-pumping ascent, follow the 3.5-mile Canyon View Loop Trail. You’ll climb nearly 1,000 feet for big views of the surrounding peaks. The loop follows a section of the Pacific Crest Trail on its epic journey from Mexico to Canada.
If you prefer your paths lush and leafy, stop in at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, a wild oasis for bird lovers. Song sparrows flit and hummingbirds whiz by as you follow the Mesquite Trail’s boardwalks through a marshy maze of willows and cottonwoods. Nearly 250 avian species have been spotted at this jungle-like wetland surrounding Big Morongo Creek.
To visit the snowy parts of Sand to Snow, Myers recommends a local favourite: a trip to the hamlet of Forest Falls and a short hike on the Vivian Creek Trail—via snowshoes in winter or hiking boots in summer. To reach the trailhead, continue west on I-10; take the exit to Yucaipa and follow State Highway 38 north, then east to Forest Falls. The trail also leads to an 8.5-mile ascent up to San Gorgonio’s summit, but be warned: It’s an epic quad burner with more elevation gain than the ascent up Yosemite’s Half Dome. Plan on at least 12 hours round trip, and take plenty of food and water. When you're done, reward your effort with a new pair of hiking boots from the Ecco outlet at Desert Hills Premium Outlets, home to dozens of high-end outlets. Head 11 miles west on I-10 to Cabazon and the outlets.
The strike 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 the hottest temperature ever recorded (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 spring wild flowers. The oasis like Palm Springs region (two hours’ east of Los Angeles and three hours north east of San Diego) has golf resorts, mid-century 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...
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...