SoCal's Secret Empire


Jan 4, 2006
Outside Magazine
Joshua Tree

Desert Classic: Joshua Tree at sunset    Photo: PhotoDisc

Idyllwild Before Dark: You don't have to pull an all-nighter to enjoy the conifer-lined singletrack on the 24 Hours of Adrenaline: Idyllwild mountain-bike course, which winds ten miles from Hurkey Creek Campground through the rolling hills next to town. Maps? Ask Bud at Bike Route, the only shop in town since 1972. 951-659-2038
Shuttle in the Sky: Hitch a ride into the San Jacinto Mountains on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which shuttles you to 70 square miles of peak-studded wilderness. From there, hike to the 10,804-foot summit of Mount San Jacinto or trek the Pacific Crest Trail past the crags of Tahquitz, birthplace of climbing's decimal rating system. 888-515-8726,
Climb J-Tree: With 5,000-plus routes, from beginner to 5.13+, the otherworldly boulders of Joshua Tree National Park are rightly renowned as rock-jock heaven. Cram cams on your own or learn with the Joshua Tree Rock Climbing School. 760-366-4745,
The Rage in Perris: Yes, at 13,000 feet, Riverside's sky is blue. Take a fresh-air plunge at Perris Valley Skydiving, North America's largest free-fall operation, offering personalized training for first-time tandem jumpers and advanced sky surfers. Terrestrial types and hair-dryer addicts can get a 145-mph gust from below in its vertical wind tunnel. 800-832-8818,
Kayak Big Bear: Come spring, when the mountain-cradled winter playground of Big Bear Lake awakes from hibernation, rent a craft at Pine Knot Landing and paddle into scenic Boulder and Metcalf bays. Stop to salute the national bird at Grout Bay's bald eagle wintering ground, also home to hundreds of ospreys and ducks. 909-866-2628,
Desert Dancing: Each April, 50,000 sweaty fans swarm the Empire Polo Field for the two-day Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, California's anti-jam-band Bonnaroo. This year, Bloc Party, My Morning Jacket, Franz Ferdinand, and more than 80 other groups and DJs rock the desert. For the authentic experience, stake your tent early. April 29–30;
Flora-and-Fauna Walk: Hike the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail, a rocky five-mile canyon in sprawling Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Bighorn sheep—the namesake borregos—and oases fringed with fan palms are the highlights. Go in April, when temps are mild and the canyon is awash with desert bloom. 760-767-5311,

Outside Idyllwild, the forested seclusion of Boulder Basin Campground provides the perfect place to tuck a tent, and the world-class bouldering on the granite blocks next door is an added incentive. 877-444-6777,
Escape to Palm Springs' retro-chic Orbit In and unwind with a poolside martini and a rubdown at the spa. Doubles, $259; 877-966-7248,