Desert | California

Coachella Valley

Passionate golfers, tennis buffs, and sun seekers throng to the Coachella Valley, where plush resort playgrounds line up along the base of the stunning San Jacinto Mountains. Perhaps the best known is Palm Springs, but other havens for rest and relaxation include Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage, and Indio.

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Joshua Tree National Park

This park, an 850-square-mile plant-and wildlife sanctuary, is noted for its striking landscape of massive granite monoliths and stands of otherworldly Joshua trees. Wildflowers in spring are a sight to behold. Stop by the visitor centers for some tips on where to go.

Imperial Valley and Colorado River

In the Imperial Valley, go boating, fishing, and bird-watching at the saltier-than-the-ocean Salton Sea. Or, gather rocks and fossils at the Imperial Sand Dunes. Along the eastern border, boat through the spectacular Topock Gorge or houseboat, water-ski, and fish on Lake Havasu. To add a historical perspective to your trip, head south to Blythe to contemplate the intaglios - centuries-old giant figures carved into the earth by Native Americans.

Mojave National Preserve

Drive into the preserve to see a stunning array of scenic splendors, including 32 volcanic cinder cones. For a panoramic view, hike atop the Kelso Dunes.

Barstow

Explore ancient Rainbow Basin and the new Mojave National Preserve. In Barstow visit the Mojave River Valley Museum. To the east is the restored Calico Ghost Town, with shops and historic buildings from the 1880s. Walk the tunnels of Calico's Maggie Mine.

Mojave / Ridgecrest Area

Northeast of Mojave, the Rand Mining District offers fascinating geological formations. Collect pieces of petrified wood and agate in the mining town of Rosamond. Fast-forward to the space age - check Edwards Air Force Base, where a space shuttle or other craft might be landing. West of Ridgecrest are the formations in Red Rock Canyon State Park.

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