Greater Palm Springs has the yin and the yang of adventure travel.
The desert is an unusual and beautiful place. During geography class, most people learn about the deserts in the United States but, until you actually visit them, it is hard to understand the struggle that happens there every day.
The flora and fauna have learned that resistance is futile, needing to either adapt to living with little to no water or perish. The smaller animals that live there spend the majority of their lives in burrows underground where the temperature is significantly cooler than above ground. Humans do indeed live in these areas, but must monitor the time spent outdoors in the summer due to extremely high temperatures.
If the desert nonetheless intrigues you, consider a visit to the Joshua Tree National Park during the fall, winter or spring months. Joshua Tree is located in Southern California and encompasses both the Mojave and Colorado Deserts. The variance in the appearance of the two deserts will amaze you. And, with the park a short scenic three-hour drive from Los Angeles, if you find yourself in the city for work or play, setting aside two or three days to explore the desert is a must.
This southern California star covers 825,000 acres and was designated as a national monument in 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The hikes found in the park vary from easy (a third of a mile) to strenuous (7.4 miles). While hiking, you may see lizards, rodents and birds. Cell service is non-existent in most of the park so be sure to download the Hiking Project app for your smart phone which will allow you to map yourself anywhere in the park.
The only guided hike in the Park is a tour of the Keys Ranch. Reservations and tickets are required. This tour lasts approximately one hour and requires the participants to walk half a mile. Visitors will learn about the Keys family and their neighbors, who obtained their land thanks to the Homestead Act that allowed European immigrants to travel west and claim land. History shows that the Keys family had a difficult relationship with the National Park Service once the land was designated as a monument. Tip: You may see a coyote on this tour.
After spending time in the desert you will want to stay somewhere that is elegant but still representative of the area. Palm Springs is one hour west from Joshua Tree and heading there after hiking makes sense if you ultimately need to end up back in Los Angeles to fly home.
At Villa Royale, part of a boutique hotel chain that specializes in independent hotels with intentional, deeply integrated art stories, you will feel like you have gone back in time to the 1940s when Palm Springs was the go to place for the Hollywood elite. Contracts with the movie companies didn’t allow stars to travel more than two hours away from the Los Angeles-based studios and Palm Springs fit the bill.
Upon arrival you are greeted with a welcome drink which might be a shot of tequila, a mimosa or sparkling water. Inside the walls of the property, you enter another world where you can imagine what it was like to run into the likes of Mickey Rooney or Lucille Ball. The fixtures in the bedrooms, while modern, are designed to look like they date from the 1940s. Each room has edgy black and white robes which you will see guests wearing around the property.
There are two pools on property and, as the Villa Royale is adult only, the outdoor areas are very quiet and relaxing. Jazzy tunes are piped out of the abundant speakers while fire features are all over the property. Complimentary breakfast consisting of fresh fruit, pastries, coffee, tea and juice are available in the outdoor living area.
The two-bedroom units are perfect for a pair of couples to share as each room has a king bed with luscious bedding and the rooms are connected by a common living room. This enchanting boutique hotel has a group of Electra bicycles available for guests to use on the well-defined bike paths around town. You don’t need to leave the property for meals, however, as there is an onsite restaurant that serves a full breakfast, lunch and dinner.
This is a place that you are going to want to visit again. And, don’t forget to have your photo made with the statue of Lucille Ball found in town before you head back to Los Angeles for your flight home!
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Cover: Entrance to the Villa Royale in Palm Springs. Courtesy photo
Selena Swartzfager is an amateur athlete, mountain bike enthusiast, lover of outdoor adventures and life.