Don't Panic Travel Guides, Greater LA (Day Trips), Palm Springs

Don’t Panic : LA to Palm Springs

Palm Springs is located about 2 hours from everywhere in LA, and not only is this drive easy, it takes you to a completely different side of Southern California.  Even if you’re only visiting LA for a week, this is a trip you have got to take.  I’m going to go over the different ways to get to Palm Spring from Los Angeles and then give out some tips for the must see stops around the area.

By Train:

Amtrak offers the Sunset Limited rail line that connects LA’s Union Station in downtown to the Palm Spring Train Station in about 2.5 hours.  Once you arrive in Palm Springs, you’ll need to take a taxi into town.  Very affordable and comfortable, this is a great choice if you just want to stay at your hotel and walk around the town.

By Bus:

Connecting the Greyhound Bus Station in Downtown LA to Palm Spring, bus service runs several times a day between the two cities.  Taking between 2.5-3.5 hours and costing about the same as the train, this is really only a good option for people who can’t make the Sunset Limited’s departure time.  I do want to note that the downtown LA’s Greyhound Station is outside of the major downtown area and can be difficult to reach by public transportation.

By Car: Suggested

Directly East of LA along the I-10 freeway, this drive is the best way to travel to and experience Palm Springs. No matter where you are in LA, you probably no more than 1 freeway away from I-10.

  • Hollywood/Studio City/Sherman Oaks : Take I-101 South to I-10 East
  • Airport : Take I-105 East to I-605 North then I-10 East
  • Santa Monica/Venice/Culver City/Downtown : Hop on the I-10 East
  • Burbank/Los Feliz : Take I-5 South to I-1o East

Once you are on the I-10, it’s a straight shot to Palm Spring, where you’ll exit to the right onto CA-111 and be minutes from your hotel.

Ace Hotel Signage - Palm SpringsAlong the way, there are a few places that are worth noticing or stopping to see:

  • Cabazon Dinosaurs‘The World’s Biggest Dinosaurs’ – just off I-10 outside of Palm Springs – you may remember these dinosaurs from “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”.  You can stop and see the dinosaurs for free, and if you’re really into dinosaurs, a museum ticket will get you into to see the animatronic dinos.
  • Windmills Outside of Palm SpringsMorongo Casino Resort and Spa – If you’ve listened to the radio in LA, you’ve heard their commercials and know that Morongo is ‘less than 90 minutes from wherever you are’.  The closest thing to a Vegas style casino around Palm Spring, Morongo offers slots, card games, a slew of different restaurants, and a regular concert series that even attracts some larger names.
  • Desert Hills Premium Outlets – A medium sized strip mall near Morongo that is home to a dozen outlet shops.  Check out their site or just drive by for their latest stores.
  • Palm Springs Windmills – While not a stop, the rows and rows of windmills that loom over the desert right before Palm Springs are definitely a sight to see.  Pulling off on a side road promises the chance for some unique picture where technology meets the dust and sand of the desert.

Besides being affordable and flexible, driving to Palm Springs – and having a car – makes it super easy to explore some of the nearby sights – which are some of the most unique in the US.  Here’s a quick list of what’s nearby that can’t be missed.

Salvation Mountain CaliforniaThe Salton Sea – Easily in my Top 5 Off-The-Beaten-Path American Attractions.  This lake cannot support the life that once helped make the area a booming resort town.  Now dried fish litter the shore, more washing up daily, and the town nearby is in shambles.  Visiting here is visiting a post-apocalyptic world.

Salvation Mountain – Heading East from Palm Springs, roads dead end at an enormous, multicolored man made mountain.  Built to the glory of God, this mountain is constantly growing and changing as more bits and pieces are tacked on and other parts are repainted.

Joshua Tree – Home to the most unusual natural landscape in SoCal, Joshua Tree boasts climbing and hiking right from the roadside.  Make sure to visit the upper loop where the most visually stunning elements of the park are grouped.

Slab City – Adding on to the uniqueness of the dessert, there is the off-the-grid space of Slab City.  Out beyond Salvation Mountain, this collection of concrete slabs – left behind by a forgotten army base is now home to all those who want to be left alone.  Visit here and get weird.