Sharing a list of six of the best day trips from Palm Springs California today! All you need is one day or some weekend getaways to really experience everything the desert has to offer.
Palm Springs is a prime vacation spot. Resorts with pools, lush Airbnbs, high-end hotels, hot springs, shopping, and a whole bunch of ways to relax make it a popular getaway.
If you’re in Palm Springs for an extended period of time and itching to get out to see sights beyond Palm Springs—further than Indian Canyons say—then you’re in luck, because this part of California has a ton of cool stuff to see.
Pssst, heading to Palm Springs? Don’t miss these travel guides to help you plan your trip!
So, I’m sharing my favorite day trips from Palm Springs, to get your inspiration flowing for your vacay here!
6 Day Trips from Palm Springs
Joshua Tree National Park
It would be crazy to pass up the opportunity of visiting Joshua Tree National Park on a day trip.
If you leave your Palm Springs hotel (or Airbnb) by car, you’ll be at the national park in just one hour. Not bad, right?
When you get to this iconic desert park, I recommend hitting up one of the Visitor Centers to learn more about all the things the park has to offer. You’ll then be better equipped to take one of the 12 self-guided nature trails—perfect if you’ve only got a couple hours to spare.
If you want to spend the whole day in the park (I mean, why wouldn’t you?!) then join one of the Keys Ranch guided walking tours for a more in-depth view of the park.
Anza Borrego State Park
For another slice of nature in the desert, Anza Borrego Desert State Park is one hour 40 minutes to two hours’ drive away from Palm Springs, southeastern California. Totally doable in a day’s trip.
If you like your landscapes completely stark and beautiful, then this place is for you—it’s the largest of its kind in the state.
Complete with mountain ranges, you don’t even have to get out of your car to enjoy this place to the fullest. It’s got around 500 miles of roads that run through rocky hills and past stunning streams. There’s also the chance of epic sunsets.
Road trip, anyone? Definitely explore Borrego Springs too for an unforgettable vacation spot.
This is a unique landscape with some incredible photo opportunities—but it gets HOT here, people. Hydrate!
Around three hours by car from downtown Palm Springs, Santa Monica is one of the biggest hubs of California.
If you want a day trip from Santa Monica filled with shopping, outdoor bars, a laid-back atmosphere, and a beach to match—this is the spot for you.
One of the places you should definitely check out while you’re here is Santa Monica Pier. Located on Santa Monica Beach, it has a cool amusement park—complete with a Ferris wheel and roller coaster. There’s even an aquarium!
It’s also in Santa Monica where the iconic Route 66 finishes. Expect to find memorabilia and retro tourist attractions in the vicinity.
If you travel to Santa Monica, you’ll also find the Third Street Promenade, home to high-end brands on the main thoroughfare but with thrift stores and vintage finds to discover just a couple of blocks away.
San Jacinto Mountains
Of all the day trips you could take from Palm Springs, this one is pretty easy as it’s just over an hour away. You don’t even have to hike to get the amazing views from the summit of San Jacinto Peak.
Located in the Greater Palm Springs area, you can take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to get to the top of the mountain. It’s a super fun way to reach the top, with amazing views—all you have to do is drive from Palm Canyon Drive to Chino Canyons Valley Station, which takes just a few minutes.
It goes through five climate zones, climbing over 8,000 feet; you can spot diverse nature as you go, from cacti and deserts to pines.
If you’re hungry at the top, no worries! There’s a cozy lodge at the Tramway Mountain Station where you can dine on some tasty food.
You can take some pretty easy trails beyond the mountain station, too, if your legs are itching for an easygoing hike in this incredible scenery!
Coachella Valley is a desert valley that plays host not only to the iconic festival (Coachella, obviously) but also to a more geological icon—the San Andreas Fault, to be exact.
If you get high up in the Coachella Valley Preserve, you’ll also be able actually to see the San Andreas Fault below. This might sound nerdy but it’s pretty cool to see the joining of two tectonic plates!
Best known for the annual music festival, there’s also a ton of outdoor adventures to be had in the area, making it great for everyone—from hikers to winter sports lovers. The rock climbing is meant to be pretty awesome here too.
The Chocolate Mountains, for example, is a good wilderness spot for anybody who feels like hitting up a hiking trail for the day.
Around 14 miles east of Palm Springs (that’s a super easy drive I’d say), Palm Desert is pretty much the main settlement of Coachella Valley, so if you need a pitstop, this is the place to go.
If you head south, you’ll also hit the San Bernardino National Forest where you can make a stop at the Coachella Valley Vista Point for breathtaking views.
Though it takes around two hours to drive to San Diego, you can also catch the bus or take a train to reach this cool city.
Set in southern California almost on the border with Mexico, San Diego has a warm climate, beaches, the famous Balboa Park to stroll around, and even some pretty lake locations to explore.
The Mexican history of San Diego is reflected in a bunch of ways here—from the historic mission buildings to the Old Town, which marks the site of the first Spanish settlement on the West Coast of the United States in 1769.
Oh, and of course, San Diego is home to the classic California burrito.
So there you have it—some of the best day trips you can take from Palm Springs.
Go ahead and tag me in your Insta stories and pics when you choose to travel to this slice of California because I LOVE seeing these places and I want to see where you decide to go!
Heading to Palm Springs? Check out all my desert content:
It is recommended to spend at least 2 to 3 days in Palm Spring to really enjoy your time in the desert.
Yes, Palm Springs is a great place to travel to for your next vacation there are so many fun activities to try!
The best time of year to visit Palm Springs is from January to April since the weather will be the best.
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.