Desert Day Trips From San Diego

We may not think about our nearby desert destinations in the fall or winter months, but ironically, those are some of the better times to go. Forget about visiting next summer – head there now!

Enjoy the local desert parks in temperatures ranging from the low-60s to the mid-70s in November and December (in January, these places get pretty cold). These mild temperatures reduce the possibility of heatstroke or discomfort from the cold, making it a safer time for your family to walk around or hike.

If your family is in need of a day of exploring and adventure, check out our three favorite family-friendly day trips to local deserts for some ideas:

Palm Springs

One of the most popular vacation spots for adults living in southern California, Palm Springs also makes an awesome trip for kids who don’t mind the car ride, because there is so much to do. The area’s Living Desert features a zoo with animals from North America, Africa, Asia, and Australia, as well as various botanical gardens with desert plants.

Do your kids like machines or vehicles? The Palm Springs Air Museum has one of the world’s largest collections of operable post-war aircraft. The museum is highly interactive and also offers a ride in a vintage Warbird plane. Do you have a child who loves dinosaurs?

Then be sure to stop by Cabazon Dinosaurs for a large exhibit of lifelike dinosaurs, fossil panning, a dino dig and more. Palm Springs is also home to the Aerial Tramway, which is the “world’s largest rotating tramcar” that brings passengers into the mountains for breathtaking views, hiking and skiing.

Borrego Springs

Surrounded by the country’s biggest desert state park, (it’s also California’s largest park), if you’re family is looking for a peaceful adventure that’s far from the city and close to nature, this is it. Visit the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for hiking trails and beautiful scenes of desert flowers and rock formations. Intrigue your kids with a brief hike to Ghost Mountain, which has an old homestead on top of a hill supposedly haunted by Cahuilla ghosts. Also in the Anza-Borrego park, the Slot (or sometimes called the Slot Canyons) is a path that takes you through narrow siltstone rock openings. There are tons of other trails, hikes, and scenic locations for your family to get its fill of fresh air and picturesque views.

Joshua Tree National Park

This is a one-of-a-kind park is where two separate desert systems collide. The Colorado Desert has a low elevation, sand dunes and grows the esteemed saguaro cactus. The Mojave Desert has a high elevation, is more mountainous, and is the only desert with Joshua trees (yuccas). Joshua Tree Park has a wide variety of nature trails, moderate hikes and more challenging hikes or rock climbs, if you have older, athletic children. Venture out into the park to find photo-op-worthy rock formations, such as Skull Rock and Arch Rock, as well as gardens of cactus and desert flowers.

If you are planning a trip to the desert with your family, here are some important items to bring:

  • Plenty of water bottles
  • Snacks and food
  • Sunscreen
  • First aid kit
  • Compass
  • Swiss Army Knife or a similar tool
  • Jackets and different layers of clothing
  • Flashlight
  • Camera

Visiting the desert in the fall or winter months makes the trip easier and safer for your entire family.

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