Route Overview
      6 Activities to Visit

      Day 4

      238 mi

      Natural Wonders and Blunders: The San Andreas Fault and the Dramatic Saga of the Salton Sea

      On the final day of your road trip, venture into the Mojave Desert and meet the people who have learned to tame this challenging landscape in their own unique ways.
      Photo credit: Jason Cochran

      Day Itinerary

      5.3 mi15 min
      Shields Date Garden
      09:0045 min

      Shields Date Garden

      Food & Drink Shop
      Open Details
      If you’re low on gas, take a moment to fill up because today we’re heading into a region with few amenities. Another quintessential roadside attraction, Shields has been cultivating and promoting dates since 1924. The central attraction is the ancient 15-minute film "The Romance and Sex Life of the Date." Despite the racy title, the educational movie is about the process of hand-pollinating and harvesting palm dates, which aren’t endemic to this area but have become a staple crop. But really, Shields is all about the shop, where you can find dozens of date varieties, touristy tchotchkes, and even date sugar that’s great for sweetening baked goods. The soda fountain produces one of the best versions of the local delicacy known as the “date shake.” That’s a smooth milkshake made with finely ground dates. Sounds odd but the finished product is as delectable as caramel. Get some dates for the road, too—they make excellent car snacks.
      12.6 mi25 min
      Coachella Valley Preserve
      11:001 hr

      Coachella Valley Preserve

      Open Details
      After crossing many miles of desert, you’ll find it a shock to spot this cool grove of fan palm trees thriving in this mountain ravine. California fan palms only grow where a water source is near the surface. That, along with a distinct sulfuric smell, is a sign of geologic movement underfoot. The San Andreas Fault isn’t a scar-like gap in the land, as depicted in the movie “Superman.” Actually the fault is a system of cracks working together, pushing deep-level water up to create a microhabitat that sustains birds, animals, and plants including arroyo willow, salt grass, and reeds. Piles of naturally falling palm fronds give ground-dwelling creatures a safe, moist habitat of their own. Follow the wooden catwalks over the boggy creeks and back into the sandy section of desert, a separate and very different biome right next door. The rocky bluff towering just to the west was forced upward by many eons of geologic activity, proof that the San Andreas Fault you're standing on right now is always at work.

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      • California Desert: Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, and the San Andreas Fault
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