The Coachella Valley and the high desert offer many memorable experiences for hiking, dining and retail. But it doesn’t stop there — there’s also things to do for thrill seekers, art lovers and those seeking different ways to take in the outdoors.
Here’s our list of must-do activities in the Coachella Valley and beyond….
Location: Beal Road, Slab City (two blocks down is the closest numbered address, for Bunker Hill/Spillway Motor Sport, if that’s what your GPS requires: 600 Beal Road, Niland)
Hours: Daylight hours every day of the year
The romance of the unclaimed West with land still left to stake as your own is mostly a long-ago dream. But a reminiscence of that can still be felt in Slab City, a makeshift community of RV snowbirds, wandering artists and individuals fleeing a capitalist world. The community sits atop the former Fort Dunlap, abandoned by the U.S. Marine Corps in 1956. The base was dismantled except for the slabs that served as its foundations. The community has built faux-streets, a coffee stand, shacks and even a library around those slabs. Nearby, visitors can find a murky hot spring, a sculpture garden and Salvation Mountain, a man-made hill coated in paint and Bible verses.
Location: 53-688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; 5-9:30 p.m. Monday
This roadhouse, located off the beaten path in Pioneertown, has an extensive history. In 2016, Consequence of Sound named Pappy and Harriet’s among the top 100 U.S. Music Venues. Music acts such as Pixies, OneRepublic, Patti Smith and many more have performed here. Paul McCartney announced a surprise show at Pappy and Harriet’s in 2016 in between the weekends of his performances at the music festival Desert Trip. Aside from it being an iconic music venue, it’s also a great place to eat, with a menu boasting Tex-Mex cuisine, steaks, ribs and Nachos von Rabbit, named after Joshua Tree electro-pop musician Jesika von Rabbit. This is a popular destination and you might have to put your name on the waiting list for a table, but don’t let that deter your plans. You can enjoy a drink at the bar or explore the nearby former western film set constructed by Cowboy actors Gene Autry and Roy Rogers in 1946 while you wait.
Location: 9160 Whitewater Canyon Road, Whitewater
Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
The Whitewater Preserve includes thousands of acres sucked between the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains, including dunes that lie at the meeting of the Whitewater and San Gorgonio Rivers. The acres are home to deer, bear and the magical bighorn sheep. The Desert Sun staff recommends hiking to Rainbow Rock Canyon, which is a 6.3-mile out-and-back trail that takes you past colored rocks (think pink, green and blue pinstripes on the stones) to a glittery waterfall. On the way, you’ll climb through overgrown thickets and might even spot some of the feral cattle that roam the hillsides. Pro tip: The area around the waterfall is shaded, so it’s perfect for a picnic. Just take out whatever trash you pack in!
Location: 29-200 Thousand Palms Canyon Road, Thousand Palms
Hours: May 1-Sept. 30: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Sunday; Oct. 1-Nov. 30: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday; Dec. 1-April 30: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday
The Thousand Palms Oasis has a lot of palms, if that’s what you’re into. But seriously, you’ll see them in a whole new light as you traverse the maze of bridges over bubbling streams beneath the palms’ canopies. It’s significantly cooler in the shade of this spot, so don’t be afraid to make a trip on a warm day. It’s also home to a variety of wildlife great for birdwatchers and lizard watchers alike. (Just don’t get too close to the palm tree skirts: They’re home to rats.) The preserve includes 30 miles of trails, picnic areas and wildflowers, and it’s free to the public.