Palm Springs on the Desert Region of California Travel guide
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Palm Springs

Made famous by Dean Martin and the Rat Pack, Palm Springs lies close to the line of the San Palm Springs Andreas Fault, which passes along the middle of the Coachella Valley. Palm Springs has an ideal, tourist-friendly location on the edge of the great deserts of Southern California, flanked by high forested mountains that provide an escape from the prevailing heat that persists for most of the year, and yet only 2 hours drive from the expanding metropolis of Los Angeles. Palm Springs has an endless series of expensive houses, pristine shopping arcades and lush green golf courses, all interspersed by palm trees. The scenic surroundings and year-round sunshine are the main reasons why the town has grown into an exclusive retreat and retirement centre. Palm Springs is just one part of a stretch of continuous development along the Coachella Valley which also includes La Quinta, Cathedral City and Palm Desert.

North of Palm Springs marks the start of the Mojave Desert - a vast sandy plain with only occasional habitation, although the immediate north east is hillier - the Little San Bernardino Mountains rise to 5,000 feet and are covered with the many curious plants of the Joshua Tree National Park. The San Jacinto range is the highest in California south of the Sierra Nevada's; they border the Coachella Valley to the south and support a wide range of climate zones. Snow often persists on the 11,000 foot peaks until June, when the temperature 10 miles away on the valley floor may be well over 100. The best (and easiest) way to experience the mountains is via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the cable car is perfectly safe but rocks alarmingly when crossing its supporting pylons.

Southeast of Palm Springs, the super-expensive suburbia continues 20 miles to La Quinta and Indio, and then is abruptly replaced by rather uninspiring farmland and small, dusty settlements with a distinct Mexican feel. The elevation drops to sea level and below - this part of California is exceedingly hot and humid during summer, and the nearby town of Thermal is often the hottest place in the whole US. Just down the road from Thermal, Box Canyon Road (Avenue 66) leads to I-10 along an unusual narrow canyon with gray/brown dusty-looking rocks, in layers which are quite twisted and distorted - this is one of several places in the Palm Springs area where the effects of the San Andreas Fault are visible.

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