Desert Points of Interest

Points of Interest in the Desert

California Desert attractions are as simple as a poppy preserve. Others include ghost towns and caverns. From the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine to the Imperial Dunes in Anza-Borrego, here you'll find unique Desert points of interest and other popular attractions.

North Mojave

Inn at Benton Hot Springs is located approximately 40 miles north of Bishop and east of Lee Vining near the junction of Highways 6 & 120. Benton Hot Springs is a rustic resort offering a B&B Inn, two vacation homes and 10 campsites that each come with their own private soaking tub filled with naturally heated spring water. The campsites are available for day use or overnight camping and feature either wooden or concrete hot tubs. Just 4 miles east is the historic town of Benton that was once a railroad stop on the way to the Bodie gold mine.

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Ancient Bristlecone Pine Tree is located east of Big Pine off Highway 395. This is an ancient forest dating back over 4,000 years. The first half of the forest is viewable from the visitor center parking lot and along trails. The second half is accessible by driving another 12 miles on a sometimes steep dirt road. These trees are not the giants you would expect but much shorter, denser and gnarled by wind specimens. They are the oldest living things on Earth and must be treated with respect and care. Since this forest resides at over 10,000 feet, take precautions for altitude. The forest is accessible from May to October, depending on weather.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center
Highway 168 & White Mountain Road
(760) 873-2500

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Manzanar Internment Camp

Manzanar National Historic Site is located just outside the town of Independence off highway 395. Manzanar is the site of a World War II relocation camp for citizens of Japanese descent. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the American government grew suspicious of Japanese-Americans and decided to place them in camps where their activities could be monitored. Little remains of the original camp. A museum contains artifacts left behind and historical facts and documents about the camp.

Manzanar National Historic Site
5001 Highway 395
Independence, California 93526
(760) 878-2932

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Alabama Hills are located along Whitney Portal Road off Highway 395 in Lone Pine. This is a beautiful rock upwelling landscape that has been worn by centuries of severe weather conditions. Many old western movies, TV commercials and videos were filmed here. Visitors enjoy camping, fishing, hiking and mountain biking. Elk herds can often be seen in this area.

Lone Pine Visitor Center
126 S. Main Street
Lone Pine, California 93545
(877) 253-8981

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Indian Trading Post in Lone Pine

Indian Trading Post is located off Interstate 395 in Lone Pine. Stop off at the Indian Trading Post to see autographs of the many famous actors that have starred in movies that were filmed here. Celebrities have carved and autographed their names around the front door frame and interior walls. The trading post is shared with the Totem café which serves deli-style meals, refreshments and microbrews. An outdoor patio offers views of Mt. Whitney.

Indian Trading Post
137 S. Main Street
Lone Pine, California 93545
(760) 876-4641

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Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

Cerro Gordo Ghost Town is located southwest of Lone Pine, Cerro Gordo is considered to be the one of the finest "authentic ghost towns" in California. In the late 1860's Cerro Gordo was a silver mining boom town that competed with the Comstock Mine of Virginia City. Silver bullion was transported to San Pedro, Los Angeles by way of wagon for shipment to processing elsewhere. Visitors are welcome to stay at original structures on the premise to further explore the town. The original hotel serves meals and home-brewed root beer to visitors. Activities include photography, exploration, mountain biking, off-roading and more. Cerro Gordo is located along a dirt road out of Keeler, approximately one-hour east of Lone Pine.

Cerro Gordo Ghost Town
Keeler, California 93530
(760) 876-5030

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Coso Petroglyphs are located off China Lake Blvd (Highway 178). Tours to the world-famous Coso Petroglyphs are arranged through the Maturango Museum. This is the largest known concentration of Indian petroglyphs in the western hemisphere. The Coso Petroglyphs are on military property so it is mandatory to have a Navy-approved guide from the Maturango Museum. The museum focuses on the natural and cultural history of the Upper Mojave Desert with exhibits on wildlife, paleontology, geology, art and more.

Coso Petroglyphs
Maturango Museum
100 East Las Flores Avenue
Ridgecrest, CA 93555
(760) 375-6900

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Scotty's Castle

Scotty's Castle is located in the northern portion of Death Valley National Park. Scotty was an interesting desert character. It is said that he was once in Wild Bill Cody's Wild West Show and was even jailed for a stagecoach robbery in his younger years. His legacy carries on through the Spanish-influenced castle he and a millionaire investor took part in building in this unforgiving desert. Mystery surrounds the castle and whether it was funded by Scotty's secret goldmine or the millionaire's investment into the goldmine that may not have existed. It's worth the drive to see the castle for yourself. Tours through the home are available several times daily.

NOTE: There are multiple points of interest within Death Valley. Go to our Death Valley National Park page to find out more.
Blog Check our Death Valley blog for more details.

Flickr photo album See our Death Valley photo album on Flickr.

Scotty's Castle
Death Valley National Park
Scotty's Castle Road
Death Valley, California 92328

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South Mojave

Dumont Dunes are located between Death Valley and Baker off Highway 127. Dumont Dunes features massive sand dunes standing over 400 feet tall. Dune buggies, motorcycles and ATV's converge on the dunes during the Spring and Fall.

Dumont Dunes
2601 Barstow Road
Baker, CA 92311
(760) 252-6000

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Mitchell Caverns are located between Barstow and Needles off Interstate 40. Mitchell Caverns are situated within Providence Mountains State Park. They feature several limestone caves with large rooms of stalactites and stalagmites. Entrance is by guided tour only and it's recommended you call for reservations.

Mitchell Caverns
Providence Mountains State Park
Baker, California 92309
(760) 928-2586

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Red Rock Canyon is located 25 miles northeast of Mojave on Highway 14. Red Rock Canyon State Park features scenic desert cliffs, buttes and spectacular rock formations. The site has been the backdrop of several movies. Some Indian petroglyphs can be found.

Red Rock Canyon State Park
Cantil, California 93519
(661) 942-0662

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Edwards Air Force Base is located east of Highway 14 near Mojave. This is where the NASA Space Shuttle used to make its landings when the weather in Florida was not favorable. Edwards has served as the base for many notable events in aviation history including the breaking of sound barriers. It was featured in the Hollywood movie, The Right Stuff. Stop by the outdoor museum of vintage warbirds, or take a public tour. Edwards is an Air Force flight test center for new aircraft.

Edwards Air Force Base
215 East Mojave Blvd
Edwards, California 93524
(661) 277-3510

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Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve is located west of Palmdale & Lancaster off Highway 14. Every Spring beginning in April, this region of the desert yields a bountiful bloom of poppies, cream cups, fiddleneck, forget-me-nots, lupine, goldfield, coreopsis and more. These are California's most consistent poppy-bearing fields. Features include a Visitor Center, marked trails and day use areas.

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve
Lancaster, California 93536
(661) 724-1180 or (661) 942-0662

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Calico Ghost Town is located at the intersection of Calico and Ghost Town Roads off Interstate 15 near Yermo. These are the remnants of an actual town and silver mine abandoned many years back and now a tourist attraction. A souvenir shop sells sheriff's badges, holstered six shooters and other Wild West items for children. You can enter a portion of the original mine, ride a narrow gauge train and watch a gun fight reenactment by stunt men dressed in period clothing. POW!
The Knott family purchased this property and started inviting tourists. Having little success at drawing tourists to the location, the Knott's built a replica of Calico on their berry farm in Buena Park. Knott's Berry Farm is now one of the great amusement parks in California and still has the original Calico replica on site.

Calico Ghost Town
Calico & Ghost Town Roads
Calico, California 92398

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Deep Creek Hot Springs are located south of Highway 18 in Apple Valley. Descend Goat Trail to the south into the canyon. Deep Creek flows down from Lake Arrowhead through the steep Deep Creek Canyon. Thermal pools form Deep Creek Hot Springs that are deep enough in some areas for diving. Follow Bowen Ranch Road to the Goat Trail trailhead. Follow the trail south for approximately 2½ miles to the hot springs.

Deep Creek Hot Springs
Bowen Ranch Road
Apple Valley, CA 92308

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Palm Springs Points of Interest

Photo Courtesy of Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism

Palm Springs Tram is located off Highway 111 in Palm Springs. Ride two and a half miles in the world's largest rotating tram cars. Climb from the desert floor at 2,600 feet to over 8,500 feet in under 30 minutes. At the top is a restaurant overlooking the entire desert region and a winter adventure center where cross-country skis and snowshoes are rented. Popular activities include sightseeing, hiking and primitive camping.

TIP: The hiking trails ascend to San Jacinto Peak, the second highest peak in Southern California. Continue on the trails to the wonderful mountain community of Idyllwild. The Tram to Idyllwild hike is an approximate 17-mile moderate to strenuous hike.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
One Tramway Road
Palm Springs, California 92262
(888) 515-8726

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Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is located off Highway 62 just north of Palm Springs. Sightseeing, road & mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding and camping are the major activities to be enjoyed in Joshua Tree. Joshua Tree is a high desert and can be a little cooler than Death Valley in the summer months. Joshua Tree has picturesque rock formations that offer rock climbing for all skill levels and forests of Joshua Trees. Most of the beauty and activities are in the northwest section of the park, but the southern portion has cactus gardens that shouldn't be missed. A half-day trip from Palm Springs can be easily accomplished since a drive through the park takes approximately 2-hours including stops at sites. You'll be very tempted to rock climb, so be sure to wear hiking boots, a hat and carry plenty of water.

Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, California 92277-3597

Map  |   pdf Park Map  |   Hotel  |   Camping  |   Website  |   Other Ideas

Tahquitz Canyon is located off Highway 111 in Palm Springs. Ranger-led tours take you along a modestly strenuous hike through a desert oasis of palm trees and freshwater pools. Follow along Tahquitz Creek as it flows from one of California's highest peaks. The reward for this short 2-mile hike is Tahquitz Falls, a 20-foot waterfall at the back of the canyon.

Tahquitz Canyon
500 W. Mesquite Avenue
Palm Springs, California 92264
(760) 416-7044

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Indian Canyons are located at the southern end of Palm Springs off South Palm Canyon Drive. Three canyons including Palm Canyon, Murray Canyon and Andreas Canyon offer visitors a glimpse at real desert oasis. View rows of palm trees, swimming holes, waterfalls, Indian mortars and shaded hiking trails, some up to 15 miles in length. Keep an eye out for big horn sheep that sometimes visit the canyons to water. Consider exploring the canyons on horseback with Smoketree Ranch.

Indian Canyons
38500 South Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, California 92264
(760) 416-7044

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Palm Springs Walk of Stars

Palm Springs Walk of Stars are located on the streets surrounding the intersection of South Palm Canyon Drive & Taquitz Canyon Way. The Palm Springs Walk of Stars honors the celebrities who lived, loved and played in Palm Springs. Stars include Al Jolson, Rudolf Valentino, Shirley Temple, Clark Gable, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Ginger Rogers, Gene Autry, Elvis Presley, Sonny Bono, Ronald Reagan and hundreds more.

Palm Springs Walk of Stars
S. Palm Canyon Drive & Taquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, CA 92263

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Hadley's Fruit Stand

Hadley's fruit stand is located west of Palm Springs along Interstate 10. You'll see the signs and can't miss it. Have you ever had a date shake? It's one of our favorites and practically a tradition among Californians to stop and get one when passing by. Casino Morongo and the Cabazon Factory Outlets now surround the Hadley's store that was once the only building there.

Hadley's Fruit Orchards
48980 Seminole Drive
Cabazon, CA 92230
(888) 854-5655

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Shields Date Gardens

Shields Date Garden is located off Highway 111 near Jefferson Street in Indio. Enjoy one of their famous date shakes, shop the many date-oriented products, or watch a video about dates in their on-site theatre. The store is surrounded by many of the palm trees that provide the dates.

Shields Date Gardens
80-225 Highway 111
Indio, California 92201
(760) 347-7768

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Cabot's Pueblo Museum is located north of Interstate 10 from Palm Drive. Cabot's Pueblo Museum is a Hopi-inspired pueblo made of reclaimed and found objects. Originally constructed in 1939, the pueblo is four-stories, 5,000 square feet and includes 35 rooms. It was built by homesteader and Desert Hot Springs' founder, Cabot Yerxa.

Cabot's Pueblo Museum
67616 East Desert View Avenue
Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
(760) 329-7610

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Tank at the General Patton Memorial Museum

General Patton Memorial Museum is located off Highway 10 between Indio and Desert Center. The museum is a military history museum with exhibits ranging from World War I through the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The location was the heart of the Desert Training Center of WWII and General Patton's headquarters.

General Patton Memorial Museum
62510 Chiriaco Rd
Chiriaco Summit, CA 92201
(760) 227-3483

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Sky's the Limit Observatory is located south of Highway 62 on Utah Trail. The Observatory holds regular events to view into the universe for viewings of meteor showers, nebulas, planets, solar systems, galaxies and more.

Sky's the Limit Observatory
9697 Utah Trail
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
(760) 367-7222

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Pioneertown is located north of Highway 62 from Pioneertown Road. Pioneertown was founded in 1946 by a group of Hollywood investors looking to build a replica 1870's Western town for filming movies. More than 50 films and several television shows were filmed in Pioneertown throughout the 1940's and 1950's. Today, Pappy & Harriett's Pioneertown features the same Western town with a popular bar where live music and great barbecue draws visitors from all around.

53688 Pioneertown Road
Pioneertown, CA, 92268
(760) 365-5956

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Galleta Meadows Estate is located in Borrego Springs off Highway 78, east of San Diego. Galleta Meadows is one man's vision of bringing art to the stark desert landscape. Along Borrego Springs Road between town and the mountains are dozens of life-size iron sculptures of dinosaurs, camels, tortoises, a Jeep, gold miner and more. The vision of land owner Dennis Avery and skills of iron artist Ricardo Breceda came together to create an interesting desert of art.

Galleta Meadows Estate
Borrego Springs Road
Borrego Springs, CA 92004

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Imperial & Algonis Dunes are located between Brawley and the Arizona border. Also known as 'Glamis', this is an off-roading paradise. Dune buggies, motorcycles and ATV's converge on the dunes by the thousands during the Spring and Fall to take advantage of nearly 120,000 acres of sand dunes. These dunes are the largest in California at over 40-miles in length and 5-miles wide.

Bureau of Land Management
El Centro Field Office
1661 S. 4th Street
El Centro CA 92243
(760) 337-4400

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Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves is located east of San Diego off Highway 78. Situated in Anza-Borrego State Park, the mud caves were formed by heavy flash flooding over a period of 5 million years. These slot canyons and large crevices include Plunge Pool Cave, Hidden Cave and many more. Terrain includes fossils and interesting mineral formations. Stop in to the State Park headquarters for information, directions and guide services to the caves.

Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves
Anza-Borrego State Park
200 Palm Canyon Drive
Borrego Springs, California 92004
(760) 767-5311

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Colorado River

Lake Havasu is located on the California border with Arizona between Highways 40 and 62. Houseboating, speed boating, water skiing, fishing, sunbathing and people watching are the main attractions. The actual 'London Bridge' was moved here and rebuilt in Lake Havasu City. This is a very popular destination for college students and partiers during the spring and summer breaks. It's a great place to water ski or learn to if you've never done it before.

Lake Havasu Tourism
314 London Bridge Road
Lake Havasu City, Arizona 86403
(800) 242-8278

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Blythe Intanglios are located approximately 15 miles north of Blythe off Highway 95. The Blythe Intanglios are huge gravel pictographs drawn out on the desert floor. Several human, animal and labyrinth figures were made by native Indian cultures hundreds and possibly thousands of years ago. Best observed from the air, they were not discovered until the 1930's.

Blythe Intanglios
Highway 95
Blythe, California 92225

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Points of Interest by Region

California by Region

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