Running along the eastern edge of California for roughly half its length, the state's strikingly beautiful deserts are enigmatic and surprisingly varied. to the northeast is death Valley National Park, home to the lowest spot in the Western hemisphere. Fewer than 100mi/161km southeast is the high-desert terrain of Mojave National Preserve, a major recreation area. the southernmost end of the Mojave extends into Joshua tree National Park, popular with hikers, campers and rock climbers. Closer to San Diego are the enchanting, colorful landscapes of Anza-Borrego desert State Park. Between Anza-Borrego and Joshua tree is the Coachella Valley, with its string of resort towns, including Palm Springs, a popular film-industry hangout known for fabulous mid-century modern architecture.
ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK
Pitch a tent (best in autumn or spring) in this vast park - including a dozen wilderness areas of creek-fed washes, palm groves and cacti. For cyclists, the park has some 500mi/805km of primitive jeep trails and paved roads, all great for exploring.
KEYS RAN CH IN JOSHUA TR EE NATIONAL PARK
Book ahead for the popular walking tour of this rugged ranch with a colorful past. Feast your eyes on the vistas from Keys View - some days you can see all the way to Mexico.
NATURAL HOT MINERAL SPRINGS DESERT HOT SPRINGS
Get yourself into hot water the easy way at any of a dozen or so day-spa pools and grottoes fed by thermal springs.
PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY PALM SPRINGS
Hang on - glass-walled cars take just 10 minutes to lift you more than a mile into the pristine wilds of Mount San Jacinto State Park.