Palm Springs’ sunny skies and 75-degree temperatures have long made it a popular winter getaway ideal for outdoor adventures. In this era of social distancing, the very attractions that have always set us apart — desert, mountain and canyon hiking trails, geologic wonders and al fresco dining — have taken on new significance for visitors. Explore the ideas below for inspiration on planning the perfect socially distant getaway to Palm Springs this winter.
Spend a day in the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians who first inhabited this area thousands of years ago. Indian Canyons, just a short drive south of Palm Springs, features three canyons to explore filled with interpretive signage that shares the rich history of the Agua Caliente.
The most accessible is Andreas Canyon, which includes a mile-long hiking trail, more than 150 plant species, palm trees and rock formations surrounding Andreas Creek. Murray Canyon provides a more secluded hiking alternative; catch a glimpse of big-horn sheep and mule deer as you explore its hiking and equestrian trails. And the drive up the steep road to the 15-mile long Palm Canyon is worth it for the contrasting views of abundant flora against the backdrop of rocky gorges and desert expanses; make sure to stop at the Trading Post there for refreshments or to pick up jewelry, pottery and baskets made by the Agua Caliente. From hiking and biking to horseback riding, (book a Murray Canyon haul ride at Smoke Tree Stables, a Palm Springs mainstay since the 1930s), the Indian Canyons experience must not be missed.
Biking is one of the best ways to experience Palm Springs, as our streets have miles of bike lanes and plenty of spots to park, lock up and roam around town. Take a guided bike tour that offers insight into the city’s rich architecture and history from pros like Bike Palm Springs and Big Wheel Tours. Or rent a bike for a self-guided, close-up view of Palm Springs’ most charming homes in neighborhoods like Old Las Palmas by the Uptown Design District and Indian Canyon Estates in South Palm Springs. It’s easy to spend an entire trip on two wheels in Palm Springs.
One of Palm Springs’ best-kept secrets is its proximity to a waterfall within the middle of the desert. Tahquitz Falls has been surprising visitors in Tahquitz Canyon for generations and is a highlight of a 2-mile hiking trail within the canyon. The 60-foot waterfall fluctuates seasonally, peaking in strength during the winter and early spring. Tahquitz Canyon is operated by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who also run a visitor center where you pay an entrance fee for use of the trail. The spectacular hike and waterfall are worth every penny.
It was only natural to name one of Palm Springs’ most popular hiking trails after Carl Lykken, an avid hiker and trail blazer who co-founded the city’s first department store more than a century ago. The Lykken trail is low-risk, high-reward, a moderate hike near downtown that offers sweeping views of Coachella Valley, nearby mountain ranges, the Indian Canyons, golf courses and downtown Palm Springs. The hike is split into the North and South Lykken Trails; the southern portion, a 2.2-mile round-trip jaunt reached from a trailhead at South Canyon Drive, is the more popular of the two branches. For more hiking options take a look at our Palm Springs hiking guide.
Palm Springs’ sunny, warm winter weather is perfect for patio dining, and the city’s restaurants have embraced al fresco options. Some of the top outdoor dining options include Eight4Nine, a design-focused restaurant in the heart of downtown located within a converted 1954 U.S. Post Office; LuLu California Bistro, which features some of the best views of downtown and North Palm Canyon Drive from its terrace; BlackBook, one of the city’s most popular LGBT hangouts; Tropicale Restaurant, which transports its diners into environs that resemble a rainforest on its patio; and the Escena Lounge & Grill located at the Escena Country Club, which Opentable named one of the top 100 dining options in America for its sweeping views of the surrounding San Jacinto Mountains.
*Note: Dining restricted to take-out only due to current COVID-19 guidelines.