The California desert region is a vast and unique area of the state, offering an array of different attractions and activities to enjoy. This region is home to some of the most iconic desert landscapes in the world, as well as a wealth of history and culture. I had the chance to explore this region recently, and I was absolutely blown away by all it had to offer. In this post, I’ve compiled a list of the 10 Best Things To Do in the California Desert Region, perfect for those looking to explore this incredible part of the world.
Best Things To Do In The California Desert Region
1. Death Valley National Park
It took me about a week to plan my trip to the California desert region, specifically around visiting Death Valley National Park. This was after I had read about its stunningly desolate landscapes, and I was eager to see them for myself.
Death Valley is one of the most otherworldly places I’ve ever visited. It’s a vast, empty expanse of land with very few signs of human habitation. The only sound is the wind blowing through the Joshua tree forests.
The first thing you notice when you enter Death Valley is the heat. It was about 105 degrees Fahrenheit when I visited in early October, and there was no shade to be found. I would not recommend visiting Death Valley in the summer unless you are very well prepared for the heat.
But despite the heat, I found Death Valley to be an incredibly beautiful place. The landscapes are truly unique and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Here are some of the highlights of my trip to Death Valley National Park:
• The Badwater Basin. This is the lowest point in North America, and it’s an otherworldly landscape of salt flats and mountains.
• Zabriskie Point. This is one of the most popular viewpoints in Death Valley, and for a good reason. The views of the surrounding mountains are simply stunning.
• The Racetrack. This is a dry lake bed where you can find rocks that have been moved by the wind. It’s a really cool phenomenon to see.
• Mosaic Canyon. This is a canyon with walls made of beautiful mosaic patterns. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Death Valley region is a vast and diverse park. Therefore, I suggest you create a list of attractions that you want to see and plan your trip around that. But most importantly, make sure you are prepared for the heat!
2. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California, and it’s one of the most popular desert destinations in California.
The park is named after the Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza, who led an expedition through the area in 1776. The word “Borrego” means lamb in Spanish, and it’s thought that the name was given to the park because of the abundance of bighorn sheep that live in the area.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is home to some of the most beautiful desert landscapes in California. The park is filled with canyons, mountains, palm groves, dunes, wild flowers, and cactus.
There are also a number of interesting attractions in the park, such as:
• The Borrego Badlands. These are a series of canyons that have been carved out by the wind and rain. They’re an amazing sight, and they’re definitely worth a visit.
• Font’s Point. This is a viewpoint that offers panoramic views of the Borrego Valley. It’s a great place to watch the sunset.
• The Galleta Meadows Estate. This is a private estate that is open to the public. It’s home to a number of interesting sculptures, and it’s definitely worth a visit.
Anza-Borrego is a great place to visit if you’re looking to get away from the city and enjoy the outdoors. There are plenty of things to do, and the scenery is simply stunning. I highly recommend adding it to your list of top desert destinations in California.
3. Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular attractions in the California desert region. This is because it is home to the iconic Joshua tree, which is found nowhere else in the world. The Joshua tree is a fascinating plant that can live for hundreds of years. They are known for their strange, twisted shapes, and they are one of the most photographed plants in the world.
The landscapes are incredibly diverse, and there are plenty of hiking trails to explore. I didn’t find the heat as intense as Death Valley, but it was still hot during the day, so make sure you bring plenty of water.
Here are some of the highlights of my trip to Joshua Tree National Park:
• Hiking in the Wonderland of Rocks. This is a must-do if you’re visiting the Joshua tree. The Wonderland of Rocks is a maze-like formation of huge boulders, and it’s really cool to explore.
• Sunset at Keys View. Keys View is one of the best places in Joshua tree to watch the sunset. The views are simply incredible.
• Exploring Barker Dam. Barker Dam is a small dam that was built in the early 1900s. It’s a really cool place to explore, and the views from the top are great.
Joshua tree is an incredible place, and I would definitely recommend adding it to your list of places to visit in the California desert region.
4. Lava Beds National Monument
I didn’t know much about Lava Beds National Monument before my trip, but I was intrigued by its name. It sounded like a place that would be otherworldly and fascinating, and that’s exactly what it was.
Lava Beds National Monument is a volcanic area that is home to over 500 lava tubes. These are caves that were formed by lava flow, and they are truly incredible to see.
The best way to explore the lava tubes is by hiring a guide. They will provide you with all the necessary equipment and give you a safety briefing. I would highly recommend doing this, as the lava tubes can be dangerous if you’re not familiar with them.
But even if you don’t hire a guide, there are still plenty of lava tubes you can explore on your own. Just make sure you bring a flashlight, as it can be very dark inside the lava tubes.
All in all, this national monument is definitely one of the top tourist attractions in the California desert region because of its unique landscape and fascinating history. And finally, I would recommend staying in the town of Alturas if you’re planning to visit this place, which is about an hour away. There are a number of hotels and motels in Alturas, and it’s a convenient place to base yourself for exploring the monument.
5. Palm Springs
Palm Springs is a desert oasis that is popular for its hot springs, resorts, and golf courses. It’s also a popular destination for Hollywood celebrities. I visited Palm Springs for a weekend getaway, and I had a great time. The weather was perfect, and the scenery was beautiful.
Some of the highlights of my visit include the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which takes visitors up to a mountaintop observation deck; the Palm Springs Art Museum, which has a collection of American art; and the Palm Springs Air Museum, which features a collection of vintage aircraft.
There are also plenty of activities to keep you busy in Palm Springs, including hiking, biking, golfing, and shopping. All in all, I had a great time visiting Palm Springs. It’s a beautiful desert oasis that is perfect for a weekend getaway.
6. Salton Sea Recreation Area
The Salton Sea is a man-made lake in the Southern California desert. It was created in 1905 when the Colorado River overflowed and flooded the area.
The Salton Sea is a popular destination for boaters, fishermen, and birdwatchers. The lake is home to over 400 species of birds, making it one of the best places in the California desert region to go birdwatching. The Salton Sea is also a popular spot for camping, hiking, and picnicking. There are several campgrounds and hiking trails in the area.
7. Kelso Dunes
The Kelso Dunes are one of the most unique attractions in the California desert region. They are massive dunes that stretch for miles, and they are a popular destination for both hikers and photographers.
The Kelso Dunes are located in the Mojave National Preserve, and they are the largest dunes in the Mojave Desert. They are also one of the tallest dunes in North America, with some of them reaching up to 600 feet tall.
The best time to visit the Kelso Dunes is in the late afternoon when the sun is low in the sky, and the shadows are long. This is when the dunes take on a beautiful golden hue. But even if you don’t visit during the golden hour, the Kelso Dunes are still an impressive sight. They are truly a unique landscape and one that is definitely worth a visit.
8. Red Rock Canyon State Park
We planned a trip to Red Rock Canyon State Park with the intention of doing some hiking and jeep touring. The first thing we noticed when we entered the park was the amazing red rocks. They are truly stunning, and they make for some incredible photo opportunities.
We did a moderate hike to the top of one of the red rock formations, and the views from the top were incredible. We could see for miles in all directions, and it was an amazing experience.
But the highlight of our trip was the jeep ride through the Last Chance Canyon. This is a canyon that was carved out by a flash flood, and it’s an absolutely incredible sight. We almost got stuck a few times, but it was all part of the fun.
Overall, we had an incredible time at Red Rock Canyon State Park. Its stunning landscapes and diverse attractions make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in top desert destinations in California.
9. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
I’m a big fan of zoos, so I was really excited to visit the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. This 1800-acre zoo is located in Palm Desert, and it’s dedicated to desert animals.
The zoo is home to over 400 animals, more than 1,600 plant species, and about 150 different kinds of bird species. The animals at the zoo range from giraffes and zebras to mountain lions and cheetahs. In addition to the animals, the place has a beautiful botanical garden. The gardens are beautifully landscaped, and they’re a great place to take a break from the heat.
The highlights of the zoo for me were observing butterflies and feeding giraffes. Nature lovers will definitely enjoy hiking through the on-site trails, which offer stunning views of the desert landscape.
If you’re looking for a great place to learn about desert animals and plants, then I highly recommend visiting the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. This is one of the top attractions in the California desert region, not to be missed.
10. Calico Ghost Town
Last on my list of top desert destinations in California is Calico Ghost Town. This is a former silver mining town that is now a living history museum. Calico was founded in 1881, and at its peak, it had a population of over 1200 people. But the town’s fortunes changed when the price of silver crashed in 1893. Most of the residents left, and the town became a ghost town.
Nowadays, the Calico Ghost Town is a popular tourist attraction. It’s been restored to its late 19th-century appearance, and it’s a really fun place to explore.
There’s no doubt that the desert region in California is a beautiful and diverse place. It’s home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the world, and there’s a lot to see and do. Finally, I hope that this list of top tourist attractions in the California desert region has given you a better idea of what this region has to offer. So start planning your trip, and get ready to explore the desert!