Mineral Springs Spa, Mountaintop Panorama, and Dinner at Cary Grant's House
Transition from the High Desert to the Low by delighting the eye and pampering the body.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Copley’s on Palm Canyon
Photo credit: Courtesy of Copley’s on Palm Canyon
12.6 mi25 min
For breakfast, the diner of choice is Crossroads Cafe, located on the main drag in the town of Joshua Tree. This laid-back joint, as atmospheric as a mining shack and with strong coffee to match, starts serving food at 7:00 a.m. Take-away isn't an option, though, so if you want to grab something for your day’s explorations, go next door to The Dez, where you can order picnic lunches, grab prepared sandwiches and salads, or get hot food to go. Along the same stretch of businesses (no need to re-park), you’ll find some of Joshua Tree’s better shopping at Ricochet Vintage Wears (for boots and other Western duds) and Hey There Projects, an upscale mix of art, books, desert guides, and crafted clothing.
28.6 mi40 min
10:452 hrs 30 min
Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis
Steady winds funnel through the San Gorgonio Pass, where a field of windmills was strategically planted to convert the breezes into clean energy. The windmills signal your entry into the Low Desert and the town of Desert Hot Springs. Notorious gangster Al Capone is said to have built his West Coast hideout here in the 1920s at Two Bunch Palms, one of many spots in town where natural hot and cold mineral springs have attracted visitors. If you’d like to partake of the thermal waters, maintained at temperatures between 99 and 104 degrees, day passes and spa treatments are available at Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort. No need to hurry to find lunch—there's an onsite cafe serving healthy options.
12 mi25 min
Mojave Flea Trading Post
The desert has always been a draw for artists and other creative spirits. Mojave Flea gives a handpicked selection of the best makers a slice of 10,000 square feet to sell their original wares. But despite the "flea" in the name, this is no dusty junk market. The airy space has a shops-within-a-shop concept, with an ever-changing roster of more than 50 vendors selling products frequently featured in style magazines and websites. Mojave Flea began as a chic pop-up, but the international recognition has made this a permanent fixture. Everything is one-of-a-kind: cleverly upcycled clothing, vintage pieces, bespoke fabrics, boutique food to take home, novel ceramic tableware, and more, depending on which makers are showing their stuff when you go. There's even a coffee bar to keep you going. With so many unique sellers in one spot, this is one of the most varied and interesting places to shop in the region.
6.7 mi20 min
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
There’s no better way to get a sense of the desert's scope than on a two-and-a-half-mile ride up Mount San Jacinto on the 80-passenger cable car, which rotates so you get a 360-degree view, no matter where you stand. At the summit—which is typically 30 degrees cooler than below, so bring a jacket, especially in the winter, when you might see snow—the atmosphere is virtually alpine even though you’re staring down at a vast expanse of hot, sandy desert below. You can eat at one of two restaurants, drink at a bar, relax, or wander a network of forested footpaths (wear good walking shoes). As you look east toward Palm Springs, the mountains to your left are part of the High Desert where you explored Joshua Tree National Park. The world-famous San Andreas Fault (not necessarily the most dangerous fault in California, despite its reputation) runs along the bottom of the range, a dividing line between mountains and the desert plains. Later in this tour, you’ll be standing on top of that fault.
5.9 mi15 min
Copley's on Palm Canyon
As an international resort destination and playground of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Palm Springs has no shortage of inviting places to eat. Here are three options to suit different moods. For fine dining, Copley’s spills into the yard of a home formerly owned by actor Cary Grant. The food is carefully sourced and prepared, and loyal staff members tend to stick around for years. If that’s too lavish for you, try Billy Reed’s (1800 N Palm Canyon Dr.), a local favorite serving a wide-ranging menu and strong cocktails in a huge, antique-adorned building that simultaneously conjures a 1970s family restaurant and an 1880s bordello. Desserts are homemade—we strongly recommend the buttermilk pie. As the capital of mid-century modern style, Palm Springs also loves its tiki, so you might opt for the powerful rum drinks and wonderfully messy burgers at The Reef (411 E. Palm Canyon Dr.). This tiki bar is stashed poolside at the lower-priced Caliente Tropics motel, which has an A-frame porte cochère that delights architecture nuts. The Reef sells collector mugs you can’t find anywhere else, so ask what’s available during your visit. If you’re looking for one of the more affordable places to stay in town, by the way, the Caliente Tropics, built in 1964 to serve road-trippers, is an ideal candidate.
2.6 mi10 min
Palm Springs is full of high-toned resorts to choose from. One of the most classic and alluring is the ranch-style Villa Royale, a cozy collection of 38 villas and private bungalows gathered around three leafy courtyards and two swimming pools. It’s a well-preserved example of desert resort life in the late 1940s, when it was built, but it's also up-to-date, attracting wedding parties and hush-hush getaways from the city. Actor Tony Shalhoub had a big hand in the property's preservation—he was a co-owner for a while. This is the kind of hotel that feels like your little secret. The quiet bar, with its tile fireplace and bespoke Spanish-inflected cocktail recipes, is one of the most romantic in town. In fact, if you’d like to base yourself here for the remainder of the road trip, you can—though there will be additional hotel options for the coming nights to shorten your daily drive time.