Photos: The Under-The-Radar Desert Oasis Where You Should See The Super Bloom, Stat
Attention super bloom seekers: it's not just Anza-Borrego. To the north and over the Santa Rosas, stretches of the Coachella Valley are in full bloom. Carpets of desert sunflower, accentuated by the pinks and purples of sand verbena and phacelia, are lining streets and filling open spaces.
As I drove a dozen or so miles through the communities of Desert Edge and Sky Valley, I kept wanting to pull over and get out, just like thousands of tourists are doing right these days at Henderson Canyon in Anza. But it was not parkland. It was lots of private property (for sale!) and I knew something was better to be found down the road anyway.
Thousand Palms Oasis is a quiet nature preserve tucked into the Indio Hills north of Interstate 10. It's namesake is the main attraction: cool, shady palm groves nurtured by natural springs, products of the San Andreas Fault. Even without wildflowers, it's worth adding to your Palm Springs trip itinerary, especially if you've already done Indian Canyons. Stepping into one of these groves on a hot day approaching three digits overwhelmed me with calm.
But the free preserve, one of 75 or so in California operated by the Center for Natural Lands Management and acquired a few years ago, is more than just oases. There are hundreds of acres of other desert habitat types—and that's where the wildflowers are.
Park in the free parking lot off Thousand Palms Canyon Road and head to the visitor center in the first grove for maps, information, bathrooms, and the such. Walk a mile through a desert wash to the serene McCallum Oasis (see above photo) and then to the Moon Country Trail, which should perhaps be temporarily changed to Bloom Country (har).
Almost immediately, color flanks the sandy trail. Head to the vista point first, about a quarter-mile in, affording you 360-degree views (to the north are the Little San Bernardino Mountains, which are the southern border of Joshua Tree National Park). Many use this as a turning around point, but there's so much more. Continue northwest where you'll gain views of flowers framing snow-capped San Gorgonio, the tallest peak in Southern California. And keep your eyes open for lizards. I saw a handful of desert iguanas, a horned lizard, a zebra-trailed lizard, and a couple side-blotched. It could have only gotten better if I came upon a desert tortoise munching on a flower petal.
Beers at Coachella Valley Brewing Company. (Photo by Zach Behrens/LAist)
Moon Country is a loop trail, but there is an option to do 1.5-mile roundtrip spur into Moon Canyon or do a larger, more intensive 7-mile loop by adding Herman's Hike (consult the preserve's map brochure). But on a hot sunny day, the four-mile round trip, two filled with wildflowers, was perfect for me. And then topped off by a beer 15 minutes down the road at the Coachella Valley Brewing Company? I couldn't ask for more.
Thousand Palms Oasis is located at 29200 Thousand Palms Canyon Road in Thousand Palms, California.
Zach Behrens is an adventurer and botanizer based in Los Angeles. Follow his hikes on Instagram.