Palm Springs is a beautiful desert city in California full of golf courses, stylish hotels, spas, and boutiques. If that's what you're into, it's a great place to spend some time. But for me- someone who loves active travel, getting out into nature and exploring- it was harder to connect with the city.
So, we decided to set out on some day trips from Palm Springs to see what cool things we could find in the surrounding desert and mountains. Luckily, the area did not disappoint and we found several interesting places to visit near Palm Springs.
Day Trips From Palm Springs
Here's a look at our side trips from Palm Springs, followed by some thoughts on each place we visited. I hope you find this guide helpful for deciding where to visit around Palm Springs and planning some enjoyable day trips out of the city.
Joshua Tree National Park
The best day trip from Palm Springs is Joshua Tree National Park, thanks to an ancient landscape that is both geologically interesting and visually captivating. From its namesake Joshua Tree, a curious looking plant with contorted branches and dagger-shaped leaves, to the massive eroded boulders forming walls across the desert, it's a park that'll make you feel like you've gone back in time and to another planet.While you can see plenty of great scenery during a drive through the park, the best way to experience Joshua Tree is by getting out and walking. There are numerous nature trails and hikes of varying degrees of difficulty that showcase the park's most iconic terrain. Whether you're strolling through a cactus garden, hiking to a hidden oasis, or bouldering above a valley, there are plenty of fun ways to actively explore Joshua Tree National Park.

Borrego Springs
The tiny town of Borrego Springs could be overshadowed by the surrounding Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, but is an attraction in its own right because of the vision and creativity of a local landowner and artist Ricardo Breceda. There are over 100 metal sculptures scattered across the desert near town and setting out to find them is a fun day trip from Palm Springs for the whole family.
Most of the super-sized sculptures are of animals, both real and imagined, including mammoths, dinosaurs, camels, horses, and more. The most famous sculpture is that of a serpent so long it crosses to the other side of the road. Borrego Springs is also a Dark Sky Community, so if you stay until after sunset, on a clear night you’ll be able to see a dazzling sky full of stars

Painted Canyon and Ladder Canyon Trail
For an active and adventurous side trip from Palm Springs, head to the Mecca Hills Wilderness to explore Painted Canyon via the Ladder Canyon Trail. This moderate, 7.2 km (4.5 mi) trail has a bit of everything you’d expect from a great hike, plus a few fun extras. The trail scrambles over a rockfall, passes through a slot canyon, climbs up to a ridge with a view of the Salton Sea, then returns along the bottom of a wide canyon.
Throughout the hike there are several ladders you have to climb, some up steep canyon walls, which can test your nerve but adds excitement to the adventure. Idyllwild and the San Bernardino National Forest A trip to the San Bernardino National Forest brings both a change of elevation and scenery.
During the winding drive up the mountains, you’ll see the dusty, desert landscape transition to a wilderness area of coniferous forest. Take notice of the trees and the huge pine cones hanging from their branches. Coulter pines produce the heaviest cone of any pine tree, so heavy they’re jokingly referred to as “widowmakers” by locals. Two worthwhile stopping points on the scenic drive through San Bernardino National Forest are the Idyllwild Nature Centre and community of Idyllwild. The nature centre has some hiking trails, a viewpoint, and a small museum, whereas Idyllwild is a creative, unpretentious small town with locally owned shops, restaurants, cafes, and galleries. The best thing about Idyllwild though is that the mayor is a dog. Look how cute Mayor Max is in his tie!