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10 Top-Rated Attractions in the California Desert Region in 2023

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A Cook, Software analyst & Blogger.

Attractions in the California Desert Region: California boasts diverse natural landscapes. While it is mostly known for its stunning beaches and majestic mountains, the Golden State also draws many to explore its enchanting deserts.

From sand dunes to oases and endemic plants and animals, fascinating sights await explorers in the California Desert Region. 

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The state is home to areas of the Colorado Desert, the Great Basin Desert, and the Mojave Desert that feature plenty of attractions. 

Wondering where to begin?

We’ve got you covered with our list of 10 top-rated attractions in the California Desert Region: – 

Dive in!

 Death Valley National Park #1

How about visiting the driest, and hottest point of the country?

Head to Death Valley National Park.

A few hours’ drive away from Los Angeles, the park features various fascinating attractions that draw many tourists throughout the year.

From sand dunes, and mountains to black volcanic fields, colourful hills, and salt flats, you’ll find everything here.

It’s intriguing to find cracked dry earth as well as a lake in this valley. Take Highway 190 to go through numerous attractions of the region.

Feel like spending the night here?

You’ll find numerous hotels and campgrounds inside the park. 

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park #2

Featuring some of the most mesmerizing desert landscapes in the country, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park offers a scenic escape into nature.

Sprawled over 600,000 acres, it’s California’s largest state park. Named after Juan Bautista de Anza, a Spanish explorer who led an excursion through the region in the late eighteenth century.

It’s also believed that the word “Borrego” (meaning lamb) in the name is due to the large population of bighorn sheep here.

From sand dunes and cacti to canyons and palm groves, there are many natural attractions to enjoy here.

What’s more?

If you’re visiting in April, you may even find stunning desert flowers and cacti in bloom, leading to a colourful vista amidst the desert landscape.

Enjoy stunning views from Font’s Point, check out sculptures at the Galleta Meadows Estate, enjoy walking through the Borrego Badlands, or witness the stunning dark night skies while camping, there is a plethora of activities to enjoy here.

While there are two formal campgrounds, you can also go for free dispersed camping. Just make sure to abide by some basic rules. 

Salton Sea State Recreation Area #3

This stunning area has a fascinating history. In 1905, an ancient dried-up lakebed was flooded by the Colorado River.

Over the subsequent two years, the flooding continued.

This “sea” today attracts adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers alike to enjoy a fun outing here. With over 400 different bird species calling it home, the place attracts many birders.

You can also enjoy plenty of recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, and boating amongst others.

What’s more?

There are several trails, campsites, and picnic areas. No wonder it’s one of the best attractions in California’s desert region. 

Kelso Dunes #4

The largest dunes in the Mojave Desert, Kelso Dunes cover miles, making for a stunning sight. Some of them rise over 600 feet in height, offering an adventurous hike to the top.

Attractions in the California Desert Region

The hike can be difficult but it’s only three miles to and from the highest point and the views from the top are breath-taking.

If you prefer a more laid-back outing, you can get great pictures especially if you visit late afternoon when the golden hour hits.

The dunes seem majestic with golden hues. 

Palm Springs & Palm Desert #5

Looking for the perfect combination of a stunning desert landscape with access to a big city entertainment scene?

Head to Palm Springs.

Perched on the edge of the Colorado Desert, the bustling city comes with plenty of attractive offerings. The city is located at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains which adds to its charm.

You can explore an array of shopping, dining, and entertainment options in the vibrant downtown area.

Seeking some adventure?

Take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to get to the top of Mount San Jacinto. You’ll also find the city’s most impressive hiking trails here.

If you’re an avid golfer, head to Palm Desert, a popular golfing destination. 

Joshua Tree National Park #6

With its fascinating rock formations and scenic mountains, this national park seems straight out of a postcard.

It is named after the Joshua tree, a unique whimsical-looking tree that grows only in the Mojave Desert. It has a longevity of around a hundred years and is a treat for photographers.

What’s more?

There are many hiking trails here.

One of the best sites to hike is the “Wonderland of Rocks”, which features intriguing rock formations in a maze-like manner and abundant Joshua trees.

You can also catch a stunning sunset at Keys View and explore Barker Dam.

The park abounds with wildlife including antelopes and coyotes. Make sure you’re prepared for the heat if you’re visiting during summer. 

Red Rock Canyon State Park #7

From cliffs to buttes, the Red Rock Canyon State Park features plenty of impressive attractions that draw many visitors to enjoy an unforgettable outing here.

The striking red rocks make it a photographer’s haven. One of the best activities to enjoy here is to go on a jeep ride through the Last Chance Canyon which was carved out of a flash flood.

Attractions in the California Desert Region

If you’re a history buff, you’ll love spotting remains of villages and rock art.

Seeking some adrenaline rush?

Enjoy hiking on one of the several trails that go through the desert. Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy spotting creatures such as hawks, roadrunners, and lizards here.

Feel like spending some more time here?

Spend the night at the Ricardo Campground.

Calico Ghost Town #8

Travel back to the 19th century as you explore this intriguing ghost town.

Founded in 1881, it was a silver mining town but became a ghost town after the silver price crash in 1893.

Attractions in the California Desert Region

There are many historic sites here such as the Calico Jail, the bottle house, the school house, the Maggie mine, and a blacksmith shop amongst others. Going through this ghost town offers a unique and fun experience. 

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve #9

Bring your binoculars as you visit one of the most popular birding spots in the state.

Nestled in the Morongo Valley, the preserve covers some areas of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert.

Home to over 250 species of birds, the area is a haven for birders. You can also enjoy hiking on the wide variety of trails here.

What’s more?

It’s free to enter. You can also contribute via a donation if you wish. 

Lava Beds National Monument #10

Love the idea of going inside ancient lava tubes?

Head to Lava Beds National Monument.

You’ll find a spectacular rugged landscape here that features many cinder cones, pit craters, and spatter cones. 

Attractions in the California Desert Region

This volcanic area is home to around 500 lava tubes. These tubes are caves that were formed over half a million years due to lava flow.

If you’d like to know more about these fascinating structures, go for a guided tour of these lava tubes where you’ll be given proper equipment. If you choose to venture on your own, make sure you have a flashlight.

So, pick the one that attracts you the most and get ready for an epic adventure in California’s desert region. 

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Q. What is interesting about California’s desert region?

The California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) covers almost one-fourth of the state, being sprawled over 25 million acres. Another intriguing fact is that the Great Basin bristlecone pine which grows in the Great Basin Desert is the world’s longest-lived life form. 

Q. What is the desert region of California?

California’s desert region includes parts of the Mojave Desert, the Colorado Desert, and the Great Basin Desert.

Q. What are some physical features in the desert region of California?

The desert region in California has many fascinating features such as sand dunes, salt flats, and lakes amongst others. 

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