How to do Palm Springs to Joshua Tree With the Family


Southern California is a great destination if you’re planning a family vacation in the United States. While there are so many fun spots to visit, it can be hard to choose where to go. If you’re stumped, we have some suggestions for fun things to do for the family from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree. 

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs has plenty more to offer than spas and golf courses. Although stops at either of those aren’t a bad idea either!

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway will take your family 2.5 miles above the desert floor and into the San Jacinto mountains. The tram rotates so you get a great view no matter where you’re sitting. There are also dining options at the top so you won’t go hungry.

When you get to the top, there are hiking and walking trails to take advantage of too. For winter travel, you can take the family sledding or cross-country skiing.

But, if you have some family members who aren’t a fan of heights or get altitude sickness, you may want to sit this attraction out. There is plenty more to do with your time in Southern California.

Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

When it gets too hot out, spend some time indoors at the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert. Offering hands-on activities for kids of all ages. There are also special STEM activities throughout the week. When you know you’re going to visit, call ahead to check about special events. Something fun is always going on at this museum.

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

At the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, kids can ride a camel, feed a giraffe, and check out dozens of other cool animals. From large to small, there are so many animals to see here. If you’re visiting in the summer, this is a popular destination, so be prepared for the crowds. Also, visit in the morning to avoid the hot and sunny afternoons. 

Indian Canyons

If your family loves the great outdoors you have to stop at Indian Canyons. This is the most popular hiking area in Palm Springs. Andreas, Murray and Palm Canyons make up Indian Canyons. There is a small fee for hiking access. There are also ranger-led tours if you’re interested. This is a fun way to explore the great outdoors while getting in some family time.

Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa

If you can get some “me time” in, you’ll want to visit Two Bunch Palms Resort and Spa. Just 20 minutes from Downtown Palm Springs, you’ll find a full spa menu. 

Enjoy an aromatherapy massage, mud bath, or body wrap. When you’re done, visit the Grotto pool and experience the healing qualities of the mineral water. Do you get the Zen vibe just thinking about it?

Indian Wells Golf Course

If you or your partner like to golf and can sneak away for a bit, a trip to Indian Wells Golf Course will be well worth the trip. Indian Wells is a well-known golf course in Southern California and is one of the top courses on the West Coast. Different courses offer a variety of difficulty levels for all golfers.

Joshua Tree National Park

You can’t talk about things to do from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree without mentioning a visit to Joshua Tree National Park. It’s just about 40 miles northeast of Palm Springs, so it’s not a long drive at all. It is well worth it to see the nature trails. Joshua Tree National Park is truly one of the most unique places in Southern California.

There are so many beautiful naturistic sights like the yucca trees and desert rocks. The park is also home to all sorts of wildlife, such as bighorn sheep. Of course, you have to visit the iconic Joshua trees themselves. Stop by the visitor center for a short geology lesson. There is also a brochure that gives you a route to take a driving tour of the park. 

Hiking is a favorite activity to do in the park, but during the summer temperatures can soar past 100 degrees. If you’re planning on taking advantage of all the outdoor activities, fall through early spring is the best time to visit.

While it may not be a trip to the spa, Joshua Tree National Park has plenty of relaxing and Zen qualities within itself. Pick yourself up some palo santo or rose quartz while you are here. Don’t forget to hit up the hiking trails and treat the young ones to ice cream after. 

Visit Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail

Visit Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail. It is about 12 miles south of the park’s north entrance; this simple loop trail will show you a beautiful desert landscape dominated by the teddy-bear cholla. This lovely hike is not too challenging, so this is an excellent walk for children as long as they are under adult supervision. 

If you are interested in educating the young ones on some diverse cacti in Joshua Tree National Park, this is the site for you. The cacti array includes the ocotillo, with long thin finger-like projections topped with a small red flower and the fuzzy, almost friendly-looking teddy-bear cholla, also known as jumping cholla. Don’t be fooled by the fuzzy appearance. 

Here is where adult supervision comes in as the cholla cactus can be quite painful if you get too close. These unique plants have joints that easily detach or “jump” from the main plant when spines hook into an animal passing by. The plant needs the unknowing recipient of the plant segment to move it elsewhere, thereby helping the cactus reproduce. 

Stop at Skull Rock

Skull Rock is straightforward to find. It is on Park Boulevard, the main road intersecting the park. You do not even have to leave your car; you will immediately see how its name comes from its unique shape. 

Make sure you check out the Skull Rock Nature Trail, a 1.7-mile loop in Joshua Tree National Park. Generally, the trail is pretty broad, narrowing at a few points. This trail is a fantastic choice for hikers of all abilities, and the distance is not too long for young legs. Keep your eyes on the little ones for some mild rock climbing on the side of the trail. 

Skull Rock hike is scenic and can be quite educational. You could do this hike in as little as 40 minutes, but there is much to do and learn, so you should allow yourself more time—signs posted along the trail identify local fauna and describe its role in the desert ecosystem.

Making the Trip from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree

The trip from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree is an easy one at just about 40 miles. Just follow CA-62 E into Whitewater and Yucca Trail. In under an hour, you can get from point A to point B. 

If you’re planning a trip to Southern California from far away, you can fly into Palm Springs International Airport and rent a car to check out all of these great destinations. A convertible may or not be possible depending on how many little ones you have and their ages! Flying into Los Angeles Airport is also an option but that drive is going to take you a few hours. So, it really depends on what else you have planned for your trip.

One thing is for sure, no matter if you’re traveling with the kids or have an adult getaway, there are plenty of things to put on your itinerary from Palm Springs to Joshua Tree. 

Check out these tips for more fun ideas about traveling with the family. If you want more ideas about traveling in the desert, check this out.

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