Looking for the best day trips from Palm Springs? These are the destinations you need to check out AND how you can get to them.

The gorgeous city of Palm Springs might boast plenty of things to do but, after a few days exploring this desert resort, I guarantee you’ll be itching to venture further. I certainly was on a recent trip.

Not to worry, that’s where my guide to epic Palm Springs day trips comes in.

As it turns out, Palm Springs day trips can vary wildly from desert hikes to picturesque greenery, historical pilgrimages, and even a dose of city slicking if that’s what you’re into. 

So, strap on your comfiest walking shoes and get ready to discover the best day trips from Palm Springs – I’m about to bless you with total travel inspo.

The Best Day Trips From Palm Springs 

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Avid readers will know that I love a good national park to explore. And Joshua Tree National Park has a lot to offer – gorgeous desert flora in the Cholla Cactus Nature Trail, mighty boulders to scramble in Hidden Valley, and that’s before I even mention the many glorious hikes. 

Talking of treks, Skull Rock in Joshua Tree is a popular trail, thanks to its odd (and frankly, slightly creepy) formation. And Ryan Mountain will test the limits of your calves, but it’ll be worth it, I promise. 

The area’s rich history from the Gold Rush era has left reminders dotted here and there in the form of abandoned mines and rusted cars. Why am I still talking? A day trip to Joshua Tree from Palm Springs just goes without saying. 

How to Get There: The MBTA bus 15 travels from Palm Springs Airport to the Yucca Trail & Airway. From there, catch a taxi to Joshua Tree. 

Average journey duration: 1 hour 15 minutes.

Route 66 


Get your kicks on Route 66. This iconic road crossing over eight states is the inspiration behind too many movies and songs. So, naturally, it’s one of the best day trips from Palm Springs.

There are plenty of pit stops along the way, including some epic views of the Grand Canyon and Roy’s Motel and Café, where you’ll see vintage cars and artworks. 

You’ll also want to visit the Gemini Giant in Illinois, the Blue Whale in Oklahoma, or the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. 

How to Get There: Take the bus to the San Bernardino Transit Centre, then the train from San Bernardino Downtown Station to Covina Station. Take a taxi the rest of the way. 

Average journey duration: 4 hours.

Amboy Crater 

Amboy Crater 

Sitting pretty in the Mojave Desert is the Amboy Crater. It’s an extinct volcano crater that spans over 43 miles of lava fields and an impressive 3,097 feet above sea level. It became famous as a side attraction when Route 66 opened up, though I think it demands your full attention. 

The crater offers a hike to the bottom in a surreal moonscape of pathways scattered with black volcanic rocks and dried lava lakes. It takes about two to three hours to reach the centre. 

Bring plenty of water with you because it is in the desert, and there aren’t any convenience stores nearby. 

How to Get There: Take the bus from Tahquitz Canyon at Calle Encilia to Mission Lakes at El Mirador, then travel the rest of the way by taxi.  

Average journey duration: 3 hours.

Los Angeles 

Venice Beach, Los Angeles

The City of Angels beckons — are you going to refuse? There are many incredible things to do in Los Angeles, from exploring hiking trails to embarking on gastronomic adventures or getting sun-kissed on sandy beaches. 

The Hollywood sign is a big attraction, as is the Hollywood Walk of Fame. If drinking is what you desire, head for West Hollywood for the trendy bars, or shop ‘til you drop at Rodeo Drive. 

How to Get There: Take the bus from Palm Springs Downtown to Los Angeles Downtown. 

Average journey duration: 2 hours and 15 minutes.


Lake Fulmor Idyllwild

There might be plenty of deserts to pick from around Palm Springs, but Idyllwild offers a lush mountainous escape in the San Jacinto Mountains. Stop here for year-round hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and mountain biking.

You can also enjoy the ambiance of its communities like Fern Valley and Pine Cove, which are home to some of the top artistic communities and even the Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines Festival.  

How to Get There: You’ll have to take a taxi to visit this location. 

Average journey duration: 1 hour.

Santa Monica 

Santa Monica

Dreaming of a beach escape? The Santa Monica Pier is one of the biggest attractions, with seagulls and street artists galore along the boardwalk.

Here you can rent bikes and enjoy a refreshing ride to Venice Beach and its colourful streets and small shops, or stick around and visit the amusement park. 

Third Street Promenade is probably my favourite breakfast spot (touristy, I know – but it’s a goodun’) and is conveniently near the Pier, so it’s the best place to head to first on your day trip. 

How to Get There: Take the bus from Palm Springs Downtown to Los Angeles Downtown. Then take the train from Union Station to Downtown Santa Monica Station. 

Average journey duration: 3 hours and 20 minutes.


Pioneertown, CA

Prepare to step into an old western movie. One of the more unique trips from Palm Springs, a day in Pioneertown will have you humming Old West tunes. 

Designed around the concept of an 1870s frontier town, it resembles a movie set with its old-fashioned constructions. To improve the authenticity of the experience, there’s no cellphone signal. 

But there are plenty of traditional homes and ranches to keep you distracted from your lack of Wi-Fi. Stop by Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace for a hearty BBQ, then enjoy a pleasant hike up the Pioneer Mountain Preserve.

It’s a charming slip-into-the-past experience if you’re in the mood for a digital detox and a day away from modern life. 

How to Get There: Take the bus from Tahquitz Canyon at Calle Encilia to Mission Lakes at El Mirador, then travel by taxi to Pioneertown. 

Average journey duration: 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Whitewater Preserve

Whitewater Preserve Wildlands Conservancy

Next up is an epic day trip… And an easy one, too. The San Bernardino Mountains are home to the Whitewater Preserve, where a sparkling perennial river flows through a desert canyon. 

The waters are emerald, and the wildlife is immense: bighorn sheep, bears, deer, and bobcats are just some animals you can catch a glimpse of.

Fellow trekheads will be glad to know that hiking trails are aplenty too – the Whitewater Canyon View Loop Trail is a favourite, as is the Rainbow Rock Canyon. 

How to Get There: You can take a taxi to this location. 

Average journey duration: 30 minutes.

San Diego 

Sunset La Jolla San Diego

It might be a little further out, but getting up early and choosing San Diego as your day trip from Palm Springs won’t disappoint you. 

There are beaches to laze on – Coronado Beach is a sandy beauty, and Flat Rock Beach takes the cake for orange-hued bluffs – and parks to visit: Queen Calafia’s Magic Circle is a whimsical installation, and the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park holds many archaeological treasures. 

San Diego is a hub for arts and culture, from live music events to performing arts centres and museums. Anyone looking to soak up culture will enjoy a day trip here.

How to Get There: Take the bus from Amtrak Bus Stop to San Diego Sante Fe Depot.   

Average journey duration: 5 hours and 40 minutes.

Coachella Valley Preserve 

Coachella Valley Preserve

Pack a picnic and enjoy Coachella Valley Preserve, one of the most beautiful places to visit near Palm Springs. It’s a 45-mile desert valley traversed by the infamous San Andreas Fault, where you’ll find the beautiful Chocolate Mountains. 

The Coachella Walls showcase stellar murals by local artists, and there are two casinos in the valley for risk-takers to enjoy. 

Hiking, horseback riding, and golfing (there are over 125 golf courses here) are all fantastic options, but the area is primarily known for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April. 

How to Get There: Take the bus from N Palm Canyon at Chino to 5th at Vine.

Average journey duration: 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Hassle-free option: Book This Open-Air Jeep Tour.

Salton Sea 

Salton Sea 

Alright, I’ll admit that it’s not the most glamorous of places, but Salton Sea has its own charms. Especially for those who love a good ghost town. 

Take a trip down the road to Bombay Beach to view some unique graffiti, illustrations, and other works of art. The Sole Tree and Salvation Mountain are two of the most popular installations. 

There’s also a visitor centre where you can learn the history of this once-bustling town and a museum showcasing the local ecology. It’s a pretty relaxed place to visit, so enjoy the zen vibe. 

How to Get There: Take the line 8 bus from N Palm Canyon at Chino to 66th Mecca Family HC, then a taxi to Salton Sea Beach. 

Average journey duration: 3 hours and 20 minutes.

Indian Canyons 

Indian Canyons near Palm Springs, CA, USA

If natural beauty is what you seek, Indian Canyons has it in bucket loads. 

Located on the Cahuilla Tribal Lands, the area offers a variety of scenic views that hikers will fawn over (myself included). Hike up to the magical 60-foot waterfall, or take to the Palm Canyon trail to see some of the exotic flora and fauna up close. 

The canyons have much to offer, with Murray Canyon being the home of endangered animal species and the Andreas Canyon giving life to more than 150 plant types. You might even glimpse the elusive Bighorn sheep as you explore… But don’t take my word for it. 

Don’t forget to stop by the tribal museum for some fascinating history on the canyons. 

How to Get There: You can take a taxi to the location.

Average journey duration: 15 minutes. 

Old Town La Quinta 

Old Town La Quinta 

For something a little bit different, retail therapy and a desert paradise combine in Old Town La Quinta. With more than 30 salons and retail outlets, this idyllic small town will drain your wallet but leave you smiling. 

Eateries, hand-crafted jewellery stores, candlemakers: you name it, they have it. You can even go wine tasting or simply people-watch in this gorgeous locale in the Santa Rosa Mountains. 

How to Get There: You can take a taxi to this location. 

Average journey duration: 33 minutes.


Julian Los Angeles 

Next up is a little gem. It might be a tiny town nestled in the foothills of the Cuyamaca Mountains, but Julian is brimming with beauty and life. 

It was originally a gold mining boomtown in the mid-to-late 19th century, so there’s an abundance of preserved buildings in the Designated Historic District to peruse.

If you’re there in October, get ready for the Apple Festival with all the apple pies you could ever want. There’s also a Music at the Marketplace series in autumn, a Vintage Cookbook Fair, and a Fat Tire Bike Festival, to name a few more fun events. 

How to Get There: Take the bus from Palm Springs Downtown to Los Angeles Downtown. Take another bus to College Avenue, El Cajon Transit Centre, and Washington St & Hwy 78. If possible, take a taxi as it’s much faster. 

Average journey duration: Around 2 hours 30 minutes. 

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

It doesn’t get more unique than Salvation Mountain. It’s a work of art made from straw, adobe, and lead-free paint on a hillside by Leonard Knight and features Biblical imagery, verses, and platitudes. 

The Folk Art City of America declared it an important site for folk art, and The Salvation Mountain, Inc NPO keeps it in pristine condition.

It makes for a colourful experience to explore and examine the pieces up close. Even if you’re not particularly religious, it’s a fascinating view into the artist’s heart and will create some fun holiday snapshots.  

How to Get There: Take the bus from N Palm Canyon at Chino to 5th on Vine and then 66th at Mecca Family HC and finally, Club Views at Windlass. From there you’ll have to take a taxi.  

Average journey duration: 5 hours and 15 minutes.

Practical Tips for Easy Day Trips From Palm Springs 

  • If you don’t want to rely on public transport – let’s be real, who does? – renting a car can be a great idea. It can also save time and money in the long run, too. 
  • If you plan on hiking at any of these destinations, wear good shoes like the Tropicfeel Canyon ones that won’t leave your feet begging for mercy. 

Map of Day Tours from Palm Springs

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