California has the areas of the Mojave Desert, The Colorado Desert, and the Great Basin Desert. Each has distinct particularities, gorgeous sights, and unique places to explore. Mountains, canyons and dunes, Joshua trees, and miles of broken earth form a stunning landscape that will make outdoor photographers swoon.
Based on the season and season, The deserts of California offer fantastic hiking spots or rock climbing, sightseeing, and other recreation opportunities.
Cities such as Palm Springs, Palm Desert, or Las Vegas, Nevada, make great bases for exploring several national parks and desert regions.
Here is the list of the best things to do in California desert:
Death Valley National Park
Out of all the desert areas of California, Death Valley is possibly the most varied and captivating for those who want to see it. Salt flats, mountain ranges, dunes and black volcanic fields, vibrant hills, cracked parched earth along with a lake are all elements that make this valley unique.
This area is known for its rugged landscape and is the home to the hottest, dry, and lowest elevation in the United States. Highway 190 runs through the park and gives the most popular tourist attractions in Death Valley.
It is possible to visit the park on a day trip in Las Vegas, just a few hours away. However, if you’d like to be closer close to where the park is, then you’ll be able to find lodging right in Death Valley National Park or nearby Beatty.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park, the whimsical-looking tree found only in the Mojave Desert, is a stunning landscape with intriguing mountain formations, rock formations, and unique spots. A lot of people describe the region as serene as well as spiritual.
Many hiking trails wind through the forest or are too high at points within the park. However, they are the perfect way to enjoy the tranquillity in the desert.
In winter, the park is a favorite for climbers who camp in the park for long periods. However, if you’re planning on camping at Joshua Tree National Park, be aware that finding a suitable spot isn’t easy in summertime.
Joshua trees grow to the height of 60 feet. They are part of the Yucca family. The majority of them are more than a hundred years old. The densest clumps of the tree can be found in the west of the “Wonderland of Rocks”. The area is rich in rock formations, formed by the immense pressure and the high temperatures at which the gneiss was pulled out of the earth millions of years ago.
This park hosts an extensive array of wildlife. However, during the day, visitors will encounter only a few species of wildlife, including squirrels, antelopes that are dwarf, and sometimes a coyote. In addition, visitors must be prepared for the heat that typically exceeds 40 degrees C in the summer.
Salton Sea Recreation Area
A lakebed that had been dried up for years turned into an actual “sea” again in 1905. After breaking into an irrigation channel within Imperial Valley, the Colorado River could flow over into the previously flooded bed and fill it up to an 82-foot depth. The river continued to flood through 1907.
The lake’s inland, measuring around 30 miles, ranging from 8 to 14 miles, is below sea level and has no natural outlets.
Salton Sea State Recreation Area Salton Sea State Recreation Area is located on the northern bank and has camping sites and picnic spots. It’s a top-rated destination for water sports, fishing lovers, and bird watchers.
Kelso Dunes Kelso Dunes can be admired from a distance; however, adventurous people will want to climb up to the highest point. The top is about 700 feet higher than the floor of the desert.
While the climb to the summit of the highest dunes is just three miles, a round trip traversing the sand and the open nature of this hike makes it quite a challenge.
This stunning geological formation is found within the Mojave National Preserve.
Palm Springs and Palm Desert
It is situated at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains; Palm Springs is a thriving city at the edge of the Colorado Desert. The sun shines nearly every day of the year. In summer, it’s unquestionably hot; however, in winter, when the daytime temperatures reach the 70s F, It is an ideal location to be in.
Downtown Palm Springs is home to great restaurants, charming stores, and a myriad of things to do.
A very sought-after activity in the region is to take an excursion to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the highest point of Mount San Jacinto. In a cooler climate, here in the area, you’ll see an entirely different scene. Many of Palm Springs’ best hiking trails can be found right here.
Palm Desert is a bedroom community in Palm Springs and home to breathtaking scenery, golfing, and other attractions. Palm Springs and Palm Desert are home to several stunning resorts, especially for golfers.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Around 85 miles northeast to the northeast of San Diego is the entrance to the largest State Park in California. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is home to approximately 600,000 acres of desert terrain.
Dunes, alluvial land canyons, palm groves, flowers, and Cacti (which bloom in March and April), and stunning views are only some of the many attractions of this region on the border of the Colorado Desert.
Red Rock Canyon State Park
Red Rock Canyon State Park is home to a stunning desert landscape with cliffs, buttes, and other distinctive rock formations. It is an excellent spot to see wildlife, specifically roadrunners, hawks, and Lizards.
In the Last Chance Canyon, which runs through the park, there are sculptures in the rock and remnants of villages from the past.
Many visitors come to take advantage of the trails or camps. Trails that stretch for miles are a part of the park, and camping is offered in The Ricardo Campground.
About 20 miles to the east, Brawley within the southern region of California can be found in the Algodones Dunes, one of the world’s largest dune areas. The shifting sands make for stunning, but it’s away from the main tourist routes and one of California’s less frequently visited desert sites. In addition, a lack of roads and a shortage of nearby cities make it more challenging to access than some of the most popular tourist destinations.
Enormous dunes are located on the Westside. Camping is allowed within the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area; however, motorized off-road vehicles aren’t allowed.
Calico Ghost Town
Calico, a ghost city Calico is situated 10 miles from the west of Barstow. Between 1881 and 1896, it was among the most significant American towns, where thousands of people set off to prospect for gold in the mountains around.
When the value of silver dropped in 1895, the mines that mined silver shut down, and Calico began to decline. However, in 1954 Calico was reconstructed by the proprietor of Knott’s Berry Farm and is now a popular tourist destination, featuring shops, restaurants, and many other things to do.
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
The Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is located in the Morongo Valley area just west of Joshua Tree National Park in the San Bernardino Mountains. The preserve is located in the middle of the Mojave Desert, as well as it is part of the Colorado Desert, and is one of the top birding locations in California.
More than 250 bird species have been observed in this area, including rare species. Numerous trails, many with boardwalks, traverse the habitats of streams and marsh.