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United States > Pictures and travelogues > Pictures from Southern California > Desert Region: Palm Springs and Palm Desert

Pictures from Palm Springs, the aerial tramway, and Palm Desert in Riverside County (Desert Region), Southern California (USA).
Palm Springs Indian Canyons
Palm Springs Agua Caliente Indian Canyons in the Riverside County, Southern California (USA).    © California Tourism & Travel Commission / Blaise
Washingtonia filifera.

There are three main deserts in California: the Mojave Desert, the Colorado Desert, and the Great Basin desert. They are all located in eastern Southern California. They have unique ecosystems and habitats. The Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks and the Mojave National Preserve are protected by the California Desert Protection Act. California's Desert's include a number of attractions that offer visitors a number of activities.
Palm Springs is a desert resort city in Riverside County within the Coachella Valley. It is located approximately 89 km (55 mi) east of San Bernardino and 172 km (107 mi) east of Los Angeles. Riverside County and San Bernardino County form California's Inland Empire.
Palm Springs is noted for its many examples of Mid-Century modern architecture. This desert getaway ranks as one of the best places to see buildings (houses, church, fire station, and more) designed by iconic architects like Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, and E. Stewart Williams. The annual Modernism Week is held in February. The town has special commendations from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is a designated Preserve America city.

Palm Springs welcomes over 2 million visitors annually. It offers a variety of activities throughout the year. Soar to the top of Mount San Jacinto on the world famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, play a round of golf at Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort, or hike the ancient palm groves of the Indian Canyons. 

Agua Caliente Indian Canyons are located on Agua Caliente tribal land, just minutes south of downtown Palm Springs. The Indian Canyons consist of Palm Canyon, Murray Canyon, and Andreas Canyon. They are a place of undisturbed natural beauty. The canyons are accessible for hiking, horseback riding, and tours (No pets, no bicycles or any motorized vehicles on trails; carry as much water as you can). They are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the 24 km (15 mi) long Palm Canyon, local flora and abundant Washingtonia filifera (California Fan Palm) are breathtaking contrasts to the stark rocky gorges and barren desert lands.

Palm Springs aerial tramway to the San Jacinto Mountains
Palm Springs aerial tramway in the Riverside County, Desert Region, Southern California (USA).        © California Tourism & Travel  / Andreas Hub

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway was inaugurated in September 1963. It is the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world. Climbing 1,829 m (6,000 ft) from the Sonoran Desert floor up into the San Jacinto Mountains, the Palm Springs Aerial Tram traverses five climate zones in just 12 minutes. The ride begins at the Valley Station, situated at 1 Tram Way, Palm Springs. Cars depart at least every half hour. Open year-round except two weeks of annual maintenance.

More than 12 million people have been transported by the Tramway since the attraction opened in September 1963. The ride up in the glass-walled cars is great fun. The floor of the car slowly revolves on the ride, providing fantastic views. At the top, you can relax and enjoy the panorama or explore over 50 miles of hiking trails located within a 14,000 acre pristine wilderness of Mt. San Jacinto State Park.

All trails begin at the top of the Tram. A majority of Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness is part of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. Guided Nature Walks are offered Memorial Day through Labor Day, free of charge. In winter, you can rent snow shoes or cross-country skis or bring your own equipment and take to the trails. 

The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument was established by the Congress in 2000 in order to preserve the nationally significant biological, cultural, recreational, geological, and scientific values of the area.

Palm Desert's Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in the Riverside County
Palm Desert's Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in the Riverside County, Southern California (USA).   © California Tourism & Travel Commission / Blaise
Monarch of the Desert Jaguar Exhibit.

Palm Desert is a city located in Riverside County approximately 23 km (14 mi) southeast of Palm Springs and 196 km (122 mi) east of Los Angeles. Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is a public desert botanical garden and a zoo that is the main tourist attraction in Palm Desert. 

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens showcases desert species from both North America and Northern Africa. It includes a zoo, an endangered species conservation center, botanical gardens featuring beautiful cactus and yucca collections, a natural history museum, wilderness park, and nature preserve. For almost four decades, the Living Desert has been engaged in preserving, conserving and interpreting the desert and all its varied plant and animal life. It is located at 47900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert.

A show featuring many varieties of wildlife found in the deserts is held every day at the zoo. The Living Desert's Village WaTuTu is an authentic replica of a village found in northeast Africa. The Monarch of the Desert Jaguar Exhibit gives you the opportunity to view the largest cat native to the Americas. Another exhibit is dedicated to the fastest and one of the most endangered animals in North America, the peninsular pronghorn. Visitors of all ages can also discover, understand, and learn about the Coachella Valley region in an interactive discovery center.

Camel rides were recently added to the daily activities. Model trains became a part of The Living Desert in 1998. The latter has one of the world's largest LGB model railroad layouts as well as a collection of forty-nine California landscape paintings by twenty-two artists.


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Travel guide to Southern california with many superb pictures.