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California Desert Road Trip

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378.5 miles: 7 hours, 23 minutes
The granddaddy of SoCal desert resorts, Palm Springs has been attracting road-tripping, sunshine-seeking Los Angelenos since the 1920s. And the city's enticing, modern-day combo of swank hotels, tony shopping, fine dining and golf courses galore means it's as popular as ever. On this adventure you'll also behold the stark beauty of Joshua Tree National Park.
1
Los Angeles to Twentynine Palms
144.0 miles: 2 hours, 29 minutes
Soon after Riverside County suburbia gives way to wide open spaces, thousands of windmill turbines dotting the desert make for a curious sight. They also signal you've reached the San Gorgonio Pass. Just ahead lies the SR 62 turnoff for the Mojave Desert town of Twentynine Palms, a popular overnight base for exploring nearby Joshua Tree National Park.
2
Twentynine Palms to Chiriaco Summit
54.6 miles: 1 hours, 20 minutes
This leg tours the heart of Joshua Tree National Park, named for its signature, spiky species of yucca. Among the twisted trees you'll see bizarre rock formations and granite, jumbo-sized boulders in all sorts of fantastic shapes (don't miss Skull Rock). To get a good feel for the place, go hiking. With 3 hours to spare, try the trek to 49 Palms Oasis.
3
Chiriaco Summit to Palm Springs
62.0 miles: 1 hours, 19 minutes
Departing the south side of Joshua Tree, you'll zip across the arid Coachella Valley en route to Palm Springs. Check into a plush resort/spa, rinse off the road dust and lounge by the pool. Go shopping along Palm Canyon Drive. Play a round of golf. Or if you're still in the mood for nature, walk the pretty Agua Caliente Indian Canyons at the south end of town.
4
Palm Springs to Los Angeles
118.0 miles: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Palm Springs is backed by the lofty San Jacinto Mountains, and you won't want to leave before riding the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Boasting knockout views, the rotating gondolas travel from the desert floor to an elevation of some 8,500 feet in 10 minutes. Heading back to L.A. on a Sunday? Be aware that late afternoon traffic will seriously test your nerves.