We just got home from a week long California adventure. One we’ll definitely cherish…and one that left us exhausted!
We rented a hotel in Palm Springs for the week. It was more of a home base than anything since we spent most of our time at Joshua Tree. This turned out to be a really good move, I’m a novice camper so it was nice to have showers and a good bed in between changing campsites.
Palm Springs Hotel
The hotel we picked was Palm Canyon Resort and Spa. It was nothing special. Whenever we stay in a hotel we try to get one with a swimming pool so Brooklyn can practice. This one had two large swimming pools with fun slides. It was a great price with a large one bedroom, living room and kitchen. Overall it was a bit rundown. The room had a distinct smell from their cleaning products which seemed more like they were hiding something. You can tell they were trying but was a bit rough around the edges. Based on the price and convenience I’d stay there again. The people who worked there were all nice.
San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm
Our first morning Brooklyn woke extremely early since we were all still on east coast time. At 5:45am we loaded into the car and drove to the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm about 15 minutes away. We wanted to see the windmills and were stunned by the views of the spectacular sunrise. Rolling clouds with the the changing sun altered the landscape every few minutes with light popping off rocks, windmills and mountains. It was pretty magical. We found a great area to pull over and explore on Tipton Road off Route 111, great spot to take in the sunrise show.
Joshua Tree, Indian Cove Campground
Now the camping! First day we stayed in the reservation required campground in Joshua Tree called Indian Cove. This was about 45 minutes from our hotel. The rolling clouds we enjoyed during the sunrise turned into storm clouds. And by the time we arrived at the campsite, early afternoon, it was completely empty. All of the campsites at this campground are great, each one has it’s own little rock formation which makes it feel secluded. And there are very clean bathrooms (no running water) within walking distance from all sites. We reserved site #4 and hurried to get our tent set up before the rain. Throughout the afternoon we did a lot of hiking and climbed the rocks in the cove and hid during quick bursts of rain showers. Our 4 year old had endless rocks next to the site to boulder and scramble on with a regular pair of sneakers. We watched a powerful lightening storm, and chased about 15 rainbows. It was so fun. Made me feel like a kid again, which was kind of cool since it was my 42nd birthday. A couple friends from Los Angeles joined us in the evening and reserved site #5 just across from us. We had a really special night in what felt like our own private Joshua Tree. There wasn’t a whole lot of wildlife, but we did see two road runners, lizards, beetles and a rabbit.
Joshua Tree, Jumbo Rocks Campground
We could only secure a one night reservation at Indian Cove, as the rest of the weekend was booked. This site fills up regularly on Fridays and Saturdays. So the next morning we packed camp and drove deeper into the Joshua Tree Park to a first-come-first-serve campground called Jumbo Rocks. When we arrived many sites were already secured, we drove around a bit and found an open one, #68, and we happen to think it was one of the best! We booked it for two days and set up camp. Each spot comes with a fire ring, separate grill and stone picnic table. We perched our tent on a summit overlooking much of the campground, it was one of the few spots that had summits like this.
We hiked a lot this day. We drove out to Keys View to take in the vista overlooking all of Coachella valley.
Then down to Hidden Valley and did a one mile loop hike. This is definitely recommended for families. We saw lots of rock climbers rappelling down steep formations. Everyone was very friendly and some showed us how they were using their climbing gear which fascinated Brooklyn.
By the evening we ended up driving back to our hotel, about 1 hour away. We were able to swim, take hot showers and sleep well in proper beds for the night.
Cabazon Dinosaur Museum
Up bright and early the next day en route to Joshua Tree again. On the drive we made a stop at Worlds Biggest Dinosaur Museum, Cabazon Dinosaurs. This is a 2 star museum, with pretty busted displays. But 5 stars for kitschy factor. We loved it. And had a blast taking ridiculous pictures of ourselves with the busted props. Brooklyn actually learned a lot about the different kinds of dinosaurs.
After the dinosaurs we drove back out to the Jumbo Rocks and did some more exploring. Our best climbing hike (no gear) of the trip was in Hall of Horrors. This was really fun and the most challenging rock climbing we did with our 4 year old.
Another friend of ours drove in from LA and camped with us this night. We cooked, star gazed and took in the beauty of the desert. This campground was at capacity, buzzing with families and lots of chatter. Brooklyn made a couple friends then running, climbing and playing with walkie talkies ensued. Early in the morning we heard a pack of coyotes howling. Rabbits, lizards, beetles and a kangaroo mouse made an appearance. Brooklyn recorded all of this in her Jr Rangers booklet provided at entrance of the Park. Upon exit at the visitors center (north entrance) this filled out booklet earned her a badge, Jr Ranger hat and an illustrated book written by a local ranger. I went into this experience afraid of seeing lots of spiders and snakes, but there really weren’t many creepy crawlies at all. Nothing like camping in the woods in the east coast.
We packed up camp mid morning the next day and headed back to the resort to clean up and swim. That afternoon we drove to Indian Canyons, about 5 minutes from our hotel. This is located on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. We did an easy one mile loop hike at the Andreas Canyon. This canyon has magnificent contrasts of stark desert and lush palms with a spring running through it. I’ve never seen anything like it and was in awe of such beauty. Andreas trail and Palm Canyon are must sees here. Both can be driven to and the trail heads start at the parking lot.
Our final evening we went into downtown Palm Springs and had a fantastic dinner at Las Casuelas Mexican restaurant. It was really nice. Palm Springs has more of a Florida feel than I expected. And since we were in a touristy area, it was touristy. I didn’t really get to know Palm Springs and see the renowned architecture like I was hoping since we spent so much time in the desert. But I also didn’t get the strong desire to return to see it. I can’t wait to get back to Joshua Tree though. And since Palm Springs is so convenient I’ll likely be staying there again. Maybe next time I’ll have more opportunity to give it a chance.
If you’ve never gone camping before with your family check out these tips from fellow blogger Jenny Holt.