Your ultimate Palm Springs bucket list

Palm Springs

Palm Springs is known as Hollywood’s playground, synonymous with all things mod and glitzy. But right alongside the glam are plenty of chances for rugged adventure, no matter what your speed. Whether you’re planning a girlfriends’ getaway or sneaking off for a romantic rendezvous, inject some adrenaline into your sunny Palm Springs vacation with these bucket list-worthy activities.

Joshua Tree, Palm Springs
Joshua Tree National Park

Rock climbing – Joshua Tree National Park, an easy and scenic hour-long drive from Palm Springs, is home to some of the most magnificent rock climbing in the world, and the best way to experience it is one handhold at a time. Owner-operated Cliffhanger Guides specializes in bespoke climbing tours, connecting people of all ages and abilities with the many wonders of the park. No matter if you’re scrambling up a rock face for the first time or an experienced climber game for a new challenge, these tours are certain to expand your horizons.

Hike to San Jacinto Peak – Every part of this hike is breathtaking, including the act of getting to this trailhead. First ride the famed Palm Springs Aerial Tramway all the way to the top, a spectacular 10-minute journey through five ecosystems on the world’s largest rotating tram. From the Mountain Station, it’s an 11-mile alpine trek to the peak and back, burning off yesterday’s cocktails with an elevation gain of more than 2,000 feet. Definitely pack water and a hearty snack.

Head off road – Looking to blaze your own trail? Navigate desert dunes and rambling roads on ATVs from Off Road Rentals and Tours. These self-guided tours allow anyone with a keen sense of adventure to burn rubber on steep grades, tangle with hills and zip through dips. Yes, you will get dirty, but no, you won’t care.

Mountain biking – The local guides at Big Wheel bicycle tours are certain the desert is best experienced on two wheels, and they’ll make a believer out of you. Take a heart-pounding ride through rugged canyons, into wildlife preserves and along fault lines, even if you have no mountain biking experience whatsoever. Push through burn in your quads to witness the kind of jaw-dropping vistas typically reserved for bighorn sheep and leave with a meaningful appreciation for the desert landscape.

Indulge yourself – Tasting flights of wine, beer or liquor are standard fare. But a flight of fancy pork? The bacon flight at Cheeky’s is a celebration of everything crisp, salty and delicious, offering a five-stripe sampler for $5. The Cheeky’s menu changes weekly, curating the freshest meats and produce from local farms, so the flight is never the same twice. Past offerings have included jalapeño, Thai sweet chili, truffle salt, toasted sesame and dark chocolate syrup bacon, which means there’s sure to be a cure for whatever ails you.