Ménage à Quatre

Joshua Tree National Park, California

The mountains and mole hills of Joshua Tree National Park     Photo: Corel

Why It Beats Cancú;n » World-class rock climbing (6,000-plus established routes) and bouldering in a secluded 794,000-acre desert playground about 150 miles east of Los Angeles.

Where the Action Is » Joshua Tree straddles two deserts: the Mojave and the Colorado (which is part of the Sonoran Desert). Climbers and hikers generally stick to the higher Mojave region, which flanks the park's northern boundary.

There's More » Climbing is the star attraction here. If you're eager to learn, take a beginner's course from Vertical Adventures (800-514-8785, www.verticaladventures.com), in Joshua Tree. Alternatively, pack a GPS and do some peripatetic backpacking.

Where to Stay » There are nine different campgrounds, but the climbers tend to congregate at Hidden Valley (760-367-5500, www.nps.gov/jotr), where a handful of sport-climbing routes jut directly from tent sites. If you must have a roof over your head, try the 29 Palms Inn (doubles from $110; 760-367-3505, www.29palmsinn.com), in nearby Twentynine Palms, where you can reserve a 70-year-old adobe with a fireplace and private patio.

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