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18 Best Day Trips from Palm Springs

Looking for the best day trips from Palm Springs? I got you covered with 18 fantastic destinations that you can visit from your desert getaway.

Palm Springs is California’s desert oasis, the preferred getaway destination for celebrities back in the day. Today, it has become a popular travel destination for everyone.

Besides boasting lush resorts and the perfect combination of nature and elegance, it’s also close to other great destinations that you can (and should!) visit. 

Here are the best day trips from Palm Springs. If you are spending a weekend in Palm Springs or more, you can easily add at least one of these destinations to your itinerary.

Joshua Tree National Park

Distance from Palm Springs: 34 miles / 55 km. 45 minutes driving time.

An image of cacti in Joshua Tree National Park  inserted in a post about day trips from Palm Springs

Joshua Tree National Park is a protected area of 3,200 km², widely famous for its beautiful desert scenarios. The park receives 2.8 million visitors every year and offers an immense amount of outdoor activities, becoming a paradise for nature lovers.

On your day trip to Joshua Tree from Palm Springs, you’ll be spoiled for things to do. Think hiking on its many trails, horseback riding, biking, bird watching, and rock climbing, among others. Camping is allowed, so you can find your spot and enjoy a couple of nights under the stars. 

If you’re visiting in spring or fall you can even sign up for one of the photography workshops. You’ll head into the desert with a professional to capture the iconic Joshua trees and amazing landscapes. This is certainly one of the best national parks near Palm Springs. 

If you’d like to spend more than a day in the park, check out my Joshua Tree 3-day itinerary for more info on what to do and where to stay!

➤ With the Joshua Tree National Park Jeep Tour you’ll get to explore the park in a 4×4 Jeep. This way you’ll go to places where regular vehicles can’t, enjoying an adventurous drive. Keep in mind that the trails are rugged and only available for jeeps, meaning the ride will be bumpy. Transportation from Palm Springs, snacks, and water are included. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ The Joshua Tree National Park Driving Tour offers a scenic drive through the park in air-conditioned vans. It’s a more comfortable ride, suitable for everyone, and you’ll get to see the beautiful sights of the Colorado and Mojave deserts, catch glimpses of the wildlife and walk the easy trail into the rocks at Keys View and Hidden Valley. Transportation from Palm Desert is included. ➥ BOOK IT HERE   

Joshua Tree National Park Opening Hours: 24 hours, daily.  Visitor Centers Opening Hours:  Daily from 8 AM to 5 PM.

Palm Desert

Distance from Palm Springs to Palm Desert: 14 miles / 23 km. Approximately 30 minutes driving time. 

Image of a golf course by a lake, dotted with palm trees in Palm Desert, one of the best day trips from Palm Springs destinations

Driving from Palm Springs to Palm Desert only takes 30 minutes. This has contributed to making Palm Desert one of the most popular day trip destinations. 

With the desert landscape as a backdrop, in Palm Desert you’ll find the fanciest shops, country clubs, golf courses, and restaurants to enjoy the most luxurious day.

One of Palm Desert’s main attractions is El Paseo, an outdoor shopping district that’s home to over 200 stores, dining options, and art galleries. If you visit on a weekend you’ll also get to enjoy the Street Fair and the Farmer’s Markets.

If you’re traveling with children you’ll particularly like the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens, which shelters around 500 desert-dwelling animals, including camels and cheetahs, on 1,800 acres (730 ha).

The Zoo & Gardens’ mission is the protection of endangered species and desert conservation. They carry out education programs, so you’ll learn all about the animals and the importance of their preservation when visiting. 

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Distance from Palm Springs: 67 miles / 107 km. Approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes driving time. 

A dragon-shaped metal sculpture in Anza Borrego Desert State Park

The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is three times smaller in size than Joshua Tree National Park. Still, it has plenty to offer. With its extensive palm trees oases, slot canyons, and cactus-studded hills, Anza-Borrego is an outworldly destination and a fabulous day trip from Palm Springs

At the park you’ll be able to walk the famous Palm Canyon trail, a moderated 2.9-mile loop trail great for hiking enthusiasts. You can also explore the wind caves and the Pumpkin Patch, an amazing area covered with rocks that resemble pumpkins. If you’re feeling adventurous, spend the night at the campground to enjoy the mind-blowing stargazing opportunities!

The best roads and spots you can visit in Anza-Borrego are Fonts Point, Clarks Dry Lake, Borrego Palm Canyon, Galleta Meadows and its over 100 metal sculptures, and The Slot. If you’re visiting during the spring, you can’t miss the wildflowers. 

It is highly recommended that you begin your journey just northwest of Borrego Springs. This is where the Park’s Visitor Center is, so you can get insights on where to go and updates on the trails and roads. 

Anza-Borrego Opening Hours: Daily from dawn until dusk.  Visitor Center Opening Hours: Daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Temecula Valley

Distance from Palm Springs: 80 miles / 128 km. Approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes driving time.  

An image of vineyards with vividly green leaves, brown soil and a hill in the background, on a cloudy day in Temecula Valley, one of the best day trips from Palm Springs

Temecula Valley is Southern California’s Wine County, and one of the best Palm Springs day trips if you’re a wine enthusiast. But besides the drinks, Temecula Valley also offers incredible views, entertainment, and great food

Some of the most fun activities you can do here besides wine tasting include flying in a hot air balloon, golfing with a view, visiting the Old Town to take in its historic architecture, and going restaurant hunting to find the perfect spot for dinner. 

You could easily combine the Temecula Valley and Palm Springs for a great 3-day trip from Los Angeles!

Since drinking and driving is NOT a good combination, your best bet to really enjoy the trip is either choosing a non-drinking designated driver, or booking a tour that includes roundtrip transportation

➤ The All-Inclusive Wine Tasting Tour of Temecula Valley offers pickup and drop off at your hotel in Palm Springs. You’ll visit Temecula’s best wineries and go on a drinking journey with fellow wine-lovers. You’ll also enjoy a hearty lunch at a winery, learn all about the process from a vintner and have the chance to buy bottles of your favorite wines. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Sunnylands Desert Garden in Rancho Mirage

Distance from Palm Springs: 12 miles / 19 km. Approximately 20 minutes driving time.

Image of a vast garden with trees and cacti taken on a sunny day
Image by bonandbon vía DepositPhotos

Sunnylands is a historic, magnificent estate built in 1963 that has been the gathering place of several US presidents, royalty, and Hollywood stars. Today, this estate serves as a neutral meeting place for world leaders, but when it’s not being used it’s open to the public. 

There are tours you can take to wander around the estate and learn about its numerous paintings and sculptures. You’ll also find out the history of the place, and discover who were the world-renowned people that visited it before you.  

The beautiful gardens are an art piece on their own, designed to reflect the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings of the house, and they’re free to visit. There are also exhibitions, a cafe, and a gift shop. 

TIP: If you want to tour the mansion, tickets are available for purchase on their website, and you should get them one month in advance, as they sell out pretty quickly. 

Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday from 8.30 AM to 4 PM. 

Coachella Valley Preserve

Distance from Palm Springs to Coachella: 29 miles / 47 km. Approximately 40 minutes driving time.  

Image of the Coachella Valley Reserve at dusk, inserted in a post about day trips from Palm Springs

The Coachella Valley Preserve, also known as The Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve, is a 20,000-acre sanctuary dedicated to preserving the local wildlife and rare species. One of the most iconic inhabitants is the fringe-toed lizard, which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. 

Besides the wildlife, Coachella Valley Preserve is also home to several dunes, naturally formed over thousands of years, wetlands, and the famous Palm Oases. These are fed by the underground water that seeps out of the San Andreas Fault into the surface.

The preserve also features many hiking trails, so if you enjoy a good dose of exercise be sure to check Hidden Palms, Moon Country, McCallum Pond, or Willis Palms, as they’re some of the best trails in the area. 

Fun Fact: In 1905 the land was bought for just two mules and a wagon by Luis Whilhelm. It was his 12th son, Paul, who several years later created the reserve. 

Opening Hours: Daily from 7 AM to 7 PM.


Distance from Palm Springs: 30 miles / 48 km. Approximately 40 minutes driving time. 

Wooden constructions in a desert landscape, imitating a western town

If you’ve ever seen an old Western movie, visiting Pioneertown will seem like stepping into one. You’ll be expecting horses and gunshots any minute as you stroll around (don’t worry, it’s not gonna happen!)

In fact, this town was actually a permanent TV and movie set built in the 1940’s in order to avoid rebuilding western-like towns over and over for every picture or show they had to shoot. Hundreds of movies were filmed here, and now you get to wander on its main street and pretend you’re in one of them. 

Among the buildings you’ll find in Pioneertown are a saloon, a prison, a motel, a public telegraph, and restaurants where you can actually eat. Visiting Pioneertown is one of the most unique things to do around Palm Springs, CA. 

Huntington Gardens

Distance from Palm Springs: 104 miles / 167 km. Approximately 1 hour 50 minutes driving time. 

A girl and a boy sitting next to a pond in Huntington Gardens

Your next day trip destination is Huntington Gardens, an incredible place that boasts more than 16 thousand species of plants and 16 themed gardens. This makes your visit a colorful one that smells amazing.

You’ll be lost in flowers, plants, and lily ponds as you make your way across bridges to explore the mausoleum and the glorious Chinese and Japanese gardens.

Save some time to visit the library and the museum as well, or grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a snack with views of the wonderful estate.

Opening Hours: Wednesday to Monday from 10 AM to 5 PM. 

Laguna Beach

Distance from Palm Springs: 102 miles / 164 km. Approximately 1 hour 50 minutes driving time. 

An image of Laguna Beach, showcasing the blue sea on the right, and the coastline with houses and vegetation on the left

With just over 9 square miles of land, Laguna Beach attracts more than 6 million visitors each year. This small coastal city in Orange County has more than 30 beautiful cove beaches, hiking trails, and great parks. It’s a perfect destination to enjoy the sun and some beach activities!

There are fantastic restaurants as well, and the nightlife is pretty lively; if you visit during the summer, you’ll probably be able to enjoy one of the many events and festivals the town hosts. Laguna Beach is one of the nearest beaches to Palm Springs, so it’s a perfect destination if you’re looking for some time by the ocean. 

➤ With the Laguna Beach Kayak Tour with Sea Lion Viewing you’ll get to paddle along the coastline and see hidden reefs, kelp forests, and sheltered coves. You’ll also meet the sea lion colonies of the area, and be on the lookout for dolphins and garibaldi fish. As a plus, you’ll learn about the area’s ecosystems from your knowledgeable guide. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ The waves at the beach are phenomenal for surfing, so it’s a great idea to join a Surf Lesson in Laguna Beach that will enable you to catch some waves and enjoy the turquoise waters from a different perspective. Laguna Beach is one of the most iconic surf destinations, so you’ll be glad to have surfed there! ➥ BOOK IT HERE

San Diego

Distance from Palm Springs: 140 miles / 225 km. Approximately 2 hours 20 minutes driving time.  

An image of Downtown San Diego, with  its buildings lit up for the evening. Inserted in a post about Palm Springs day trips

The Palm Springs to San Diego drive time is considerably higher than the previous destinations’, but it’s definitely worth it. San Diego sits on the Pacific coast, and besides the gorgeous beaches, it has a lot more to offer its visitors. 

When in San Diego you can’t miss the Old Town area and the largest urban park in the US, Balboa Park. At the park you’ll find museums, over 20 gardens, natural vegetation zones, and theaters, so you’re likely to spend a whole afternoon wandering in there. 

Among the fabulous activities you can enjoy in San Diego, these are two of the best. 

➤ Take a San Diego Harbor Cruise to enjoy a narrated tour as you relax and appreciate the city’s skyline from the water. You’ll cruise under Coronado Bridge and spot the US Naval fleet, as well as some sea lions. Snacks and beverages are available at the onboard bar, and you can choose between a 1-hour or 2-hour cruise. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ If sailing is not your thing, join the San Diego Scenic Tour to explore the highlights of the city and the neighboring areas. You’ll head to the beaches in La Jolla, enjoy the views from Mt. Soledad and check out the luxurious mansions and classic hotel at Coronado Island. You’ll also get to visit Balboa Park and Old Town, learning all about the city’s history along the way. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Venice Beach & Santa Monica

Distance from Palm Springs: 121 miles / 195 km. Approximately 2 hours driving time. 

A woman standing in the street in Venice Beach, under a sign that reads ''Venice''

One of the best road trips from Palm Springs is toward Venice Beach & Santa Monica, two gorgeous neighborhoods located in West LA that face the Pacific Ocean. 

Walking from Venice Beach to Santa Monica (or the other way around) is probably the best way to explore both areas, as you’ll pass by all the highlights and enjoy what they have to offer

Regardless of how you visit, however, there are some spots you absolutely cannot miss. These include Santa Monica’s Pier, Venice Boardwalk, Muscle Beach, and the Venice Canals, built in the 1900s to emulate Venice, Italy. Sunbathing at the beach while sipping cocktails and going for brunch are some of the most popular activities in the area. You wouldn’t want to skip that, would you?

A stroll along the colorful Abbot Kinney Blvd is also highly recommended. If you enjoy shopping, you’ll never want to leave Third Street Promenade. It’s an open-air shopping mall with countless stores at affordable prices, movie theaters, and other entertainment options. 

Downtown LA & Hollywood

Distance from Palm Springs: 107 miles / 172 km. Approximately 1 hour 40 minutes driving time. 

Los Angeles is a must-visit if you’re in the area Heading to Downtown LA and Hollywood, therefore, is one of the best things to do around Palm Springs

Downtown LA is the perfect destination if you enjoy walking around, as you’ll be able to enjoy its glorious landmarks on foot. These include Walt Disney Concert Hall, Little Tokyo, Bradbury Building, and Angels Flight Railway, no less!

Then there’s Hollywood, which doesn’t need an introduction. From the iconic sign to the Dolby Theater or Hollywood Walk of Fame, all of its landmarks are worldwide known. Go shopping at Rodeo Drive, spot celebrities in Beverly Hills, and visit the movie studios to enjoy the full experience of being in Hollywood. 

Staying in LA for longer? Check out my Los Angeles 2-day itinerary to plan your stay there!

Big Bear Lake

Distance from Palm Springs: 82 miles / 132 km. Approximately 1 hour 40 minutes driving time. 

Big Bear Lake, and in the distance a few houses on the lakeside, and a mountain covered in trees and snow

If you’re longing for a day in nature, Big Bear Lake is the perfect day trip from Palm Springs. This small city sits on the banks of the beautiful Big Bear Lake. Surrounded by woods, it’s the perfect place for hiking, swimming, and enjoying scenic views.

If you visit in winter, snowboarding and skiing are must-do’s! You’ll also find plenty of shops and restaurants in the area, which means you won’t be getting completely off the grid. There are loads of things to do in Big Bear Lake, despite it being small!

If you’re a foodie, you’ll be glad to know that Grizzly Manor Cafe, Mountain Munchies, Royal Thai Cafe, and Big Bear Lake Brewing Company offer astounding dishes and beer! 

➤ For some outdoor adrenaline, go on the Zipline Tour that offers 9 different high-speed ziplines and a thrilling suspension bridge. You’ll glide among the trees with excellent views of Johnson Valley, and enjoy the most adventurous day. Equipment is included, and so is water, a locker for your belongings, and transportation from the center. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ If you like your adventures a little more low-key, get the Private Hike with Lake Swimming Experience. In this tour, you’ll follow your guide through a gorgeous hiking trail all the way to a beautiful scenic lake viewpoint. After the hike, you’ll also get to sail on a boat and swim in the lake to cool off. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

Painted Canyon

Distance from Palm Springs: 17 miles / 27 km. Approximately 35 minutes driving time. 

Image of Painted Canyon in California, inserted in a post about day trips from Palm Springs

Painted Canyon is another hikers’ paradise. Located in Mecca, the 5-mile loop trail is the highlight of the area, surrounded by enormous eroded rocks, some of which are over 600 million years old.

The hiking difficulty is moderate, so you have to be in good physical condition to try it. If you’re up for it, you can choose between The Painted Canyon hike or The Ladder Canyon hike. 

Birdwatching is also a great activity that can be enjoyed here if you’re not hiking. The colorful rock walls, painted by the minerals, are another wonder to look at! You can enjoy a picnic amongst them, and drive around to enjoy the fantastic views.  


Distance from Palm Springs to Pasadena: 106 miles / 171 km. Approximately 1 hour 40 minutes driving time. 

Image of a white building with a terracotta dome roof, taken in Pasadena

Internationally known for its Rose Parades and Tournament of Roses, Pasadena is a great place to visit near Palm Springs. 

Old Town Pasadena is full of shops and restaurants, and you shouldn’t miss Colorado Bvd and Paseo Outdoor Shopping Mall, the best places to visit in Downtown Pasadena.

Every first week of the month there is a Rose Parade; if you can manage to visit Pasadena during that time you’ll enjoy it in full bloom. The very best time to visit, however, is for the New Year’s parade that takes place on January 1st and that marks the start of the Rose Bowl Game. 

You should also visit the Rose Bowl Stadium, which is the 50th largest stadium in the world. The Norton Simon Museum and the Pacific Asian Museum are also highly recommended. To marvel at thousands of California native plants, there’s no place like Arlington Gardens. See? There are loads to do in Pasadena!

You can end your trip by enjoying a hike at the Eaton Canyon. It is only a 3.5-mile roundtrip hike with great waterfalls and nature. 


Distance from Palm Springs: 95 miles / 153 km. Approximately 1.5 hours driving time. 

Image of the Cinderella Castle in Disneyland during a day trip from Palm Springs

They say Disneyland should be visited (at least!) once in a lifetime, don’t they? Then grab your comfy shoes because you’ll be doing a lot of running around in this magnificent park that instantly turns people of all ages into children again. 

Disneyland is an all-time classic destination for families and groups of friends (and solo travelers, and couples…) and it’s definitely worth the drive from Palm Springs. Whether you’re a Star Wars fan, watched all the Avengers’ movies in order, or have ever enjoyed a good Pixar movie, you’ll find your favorite Disney theme at the park and enjoy all the others. 

Countless rides, shows, parades, and events will keep you entertained all day, and you’ll also find many restaurants on-site (some of them themed!) to refuel your energies. 

Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 10 PM, although on mid-week days during the off-season it may close earlier. 

Castaic Lake

Distance from Palm Springs: 148 miles / 238 km. Approximately 2 hours 40 minutes driving time. 

A wooden pier surrounded by the water of Castaic Lake, with reddish mountains in the distance

If you enjoy fishing, swimming, and spending time outdoors, then you’ll enjoy the day trip to Castaic Lake

Castaic lake is the largest water reservoir in Southern California, and it covers 11,200 acres of parkland.  You have to pay an entrance fee to access it, which is around 12 dollars at the time of writing. This will enable you to swim at the beach, use the BBQ facilities, use the camping site, and access the boat rentals.

If you own a kayak you’re allowed to take it out on the lake, or you could even bring your camping gear and stay for the night. 

Hiking, horseback riding, and jet-skiing are other activities you may enjoy during your time here. 

Newport Beach

Distance from Palm Springs: 102 miles / 164 km. Approximately 1 hour 40 minutes driving time.  

Image of a large body of water with boats in it, taken in Newport Beach

Are you a beach person? Then there’s yet another destination you may be interested in. The coastal city of Newport Beach offers magnificent beaches, and it’s best known for its long harbor and the amusement park facing the ocean. 

Some of the world’s largest whales come near the Newport shores for a splash. If you’re lucky you may spot the grey whales during the winter months, and blue whales in the summer!

➤ To increase those chances, go on a Whale-Watching Cruise from Newport Beach to see these glorious animals up close. You may also get to see dolphins and other marine animals while you cruise listening to your guide’s insights on the native California marine life. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

After meeting the whales and spending some time laying under the sun or practicing water sports, you can go shopping at Lido Marina Village, visit Balboa Island or head to Sherman Library & Gardens for some botanical exploration. 

As you can see, the day trip destinations from Palm Springs are various, and all of them magnificent. Depending on your interests, some may appeal to you more than others…And you may want to extend your time in the desert to include more than one. Feel free to blame it on me if you’re asking your boss for extended vacation!

  • Virginia Bello

    Virginia is a writer originally from Montevideo, Uruguay. She left her career as a TV Producer to gain more freedom and never looked back. She's been traveling the world full-time ever since! Virginia has traveled extensively through Latin America, Europe and Asia. You can currently find her gallivanting through Southeast Asia.