Some people’s idea of the perfect vacation includes dust, rocks, scorpions, and spiky shrubs. In Southern California, that means desert. March is usually the best time to catch the wildflowers blooming (check the wildflower reports on your favorite desert’s website).
Start out in the south at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Hike, bike, or off-road in the biggest state park in California. You can even camp wherever you want to in this lovely southern desert. The wildflowers bloom earlier here than at any other California desert—sometimes even in February.
Next, drive north up to Joshua Tree National Monument for nature both accessible and extreme. Day-trippers from nearby Palm Springs tend to stick to the roads and the short hikes to native palm oases; rock climbers will camp for days while scaling the thousands of big rocks. Expect the wildflowers earliest in the less-traveled southern end of Joshua Tree, with later blooms in the popular northern sections.
Farther north is Death Valley National Park. California’s most famous desert sits lower than any other land in the Western Hemisphere. Sticking to the road gets you to many of the gorgeous sights in the parched valley. But head off-road, or hike out away from the highway, to listen to the quietest landscape anywhere in the state.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition