Top 10 Outdoor Activities in Palm Springs

When most people think of a weekend in Palm Springs they imagine lounging poolside with a cocktail or unwinding with a massage at one of the many boutique hotels and spas.  As much as we also enjoy the lux-life, Palm Springs' quintessential sunshine and warm weather make for the perfect vacation spot for outdoor enthusiasts.  Whether you're into high adrenaline activities like rock climbing and off-roading along the San Andreas Fault or milder pastimes like nature walks and golfing, the Coachella Valley truly has something for everyone.

Joshua Tree National Park image credit:  Sarah DIckenson

Joshua Tree National Park
image credit: Sarah DIckenson

  1. Camp at Joshua Tree National Park

Located about a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs, but it feels like a world away. Filled with hiking trails, scenic vistas and larger-than-life rock formations, Joshua Tree is the perfect destination for those looking to get back to nature. The preserve is actually the result of two great deserts, the low Colorado and the high Mojave, which come together at Joshua Tree to create a 794,000-acre geological and floral wonderland. Our favorites include overnights at Hidden Valley for small groups and great boulder climbing, or Cottonwoods for larger groups and less - touristy vibes. We love exploring the myriad of boulders at Skull Rock and Jumbo Rocks as well as hiking the Ryan Ranch, Barker Dam and Hidden Valley trails.

Pro Tip: Bring lots of water, there is no where to buy food or drink once inside the park. Desert ecosystems are fragile, take care not to disturb the natural flora and fauna.

Giraffes at the Living Desert Zoo & Garden

Giraffes at the Living Desert Zoo & Garden

2. Living Desert Zoo & Gardens

This unique Zoo is dedicated to conservation efforts and features over 1,200 sprawling acres, featuring botanical gardens, hiking trails, and over 450 wild animals from desert environments of North America and Africa.

Pro Tip: Arrive early in the day! Temperatures will be cooler and the wildlife more active. You can also watch animals undergo annual exams and surgery at the Marilyn and Bill Tennity Wildlife Hospital and Conservation Center

3. Windmill Tour

For the eco-nerd in all of us, Palm Springs Windmill Tours, offer an up-close look at the 300ft wind turbines that you drive by on Interstate 10. As an extra bonus, on the tour you’ll stop for a date shake - yum!

Pro Tip: The Windmill Market is closed on Sunday’s, but you will receive a voucher to visit on another day!

Windmills, image credit:  Sarah Dickenson

Windmills, image credit: Sarah Dickenson

4. Off-Roading

Get an up-close look at the San Andreas fault thanks to Jeep tours and bicycle tours hosted by companies like Big Wheel Tours. Explore the colorful canyons, rugged landscape, and desert wildlife on backcountry off-road tours.

Horseback Riding with  Smoke Tree Stables

Horseback Riding with Smoke Tree Stables

Pro Tip: Make sure to bring a hat and lots of water. For a little variety, opt for one of the Desert Adventure's night tours. They are less crowded and just as spectacular.

5. Horseback Riding

Give your aching feet a break and saddle up for a horseback ride at the Family-owned Smoke Tree Stables.  Offering guided trail rides throughout the Indian Canyon Trails.

Pro Tip: If you bring a large group, they’ll even host a cowboy cookout for you.

6. PGA West Golf Club

Located in La Quinta the PGA West Golf Club boasts six golf courses designed by some of the best names in the industry, including Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Pete Dye's Stadium course was ranked one of the top 100 courses to play in the U.S. by Golf Magazine.

Pro Tip: Only three of the courses – the Greg Norman course, the Arnold Nicklaus Tournament course and the Stadium course – are open to the public.

7. Desert Willow Golf Resort

The pristinely kept greens of both the Firecliff and Mountain View courses at Desert Willow are well-manicured with desert flowers, bushes and trees. Combined with the courses' water features, natural hazards, sand beds and pristine views of the San Jacinto Mountains, both courses are easy favorites with visiting golfers.

Pro Tip: The Mountain View course (slightly easier) offers 18 tranquil holes on a smooth course, while the Firecliff course is an 18-hole course that challenges players with large lakes and more than 100 bunkers throughout.

8. Balloon Above the Desert

The Coachella Valley is a beautiful, peaceful sight from the air, the gorgeous landscape is dotted with vineyards, polo fields, golf courses, and orchards. Perks of each trip include an in-flight champagne toast for parents and complimentary shuttle service from major desert resorts.

9. Mount San Jacinto State Park

Nestled between the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and the mountain town of Idyllwild, this high-altitude park has 54 miles of hiking trails, camping and picnic areas, as well as guided wilderness mule rides during snow-free months. Mount San Jacinto State Park often sees snow, making for a surprising escape just above the desert!

Pro Tip: The state park is only accessible by hiking or by taking the Palm Springs Tramway. Permits are required for overnight camping and cross country ski rentals can be arranged during the winter months.

Indian Canyons

Indian Canyons

10. Hike The Indian Canyons

The Agua Caliente Indian Canyons are a recreational oasis for hikers, horseback riders and nature lovers. Protected by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the area's hiking trails include Andreas Canyon, Murray Canyon and the popular Palm Canyon lush with streams, natural palm oases and canyon formations.

Pro Tip: Stop by the Trading Post near the entrance for trail recommendations, a hiking map and water. You can also opt for a guided hike.

If you liked this article, check out 8 of the Top Things to Do in PS this Summer!