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Sunday, 7 March 2021

A Desert Road Trip: Las Vegas to Palm Springs

One year ago today, just a week before the world shut down, I was on my way from Palm Springs to Las Vegas for a flight home after the annual Alt Summit blogging conference. I had planned to share all about my trip as soon as I got home, but with everything that ensued it felt a little irresponsible to post about a fun trip. Plus, with the entire family suddenly home 24 hours a day and being thrown into the world of home learning time for blogging wasn't really something I had much of. 

The world is obviously still under the grip of the virus, but with vaccinations rolling out and a new, much more responsible federal government that actually takes the pandemic seriously, things are looking up. So today I thought I'd finally share that road trip and my time in Palm Springs with you all. A word of warning, you're going to see lots of pics of me here and not a single pic of my kids! 

Alt Summit is my favorite conference for bloggers, influencers and creatives. Each year it takes place in late Winter/early Spring in Palm Springs, California. In past years I've either flown direct or driven from San Francisco. This was my first year attending after our move to Colorado, and unable to get direct flights with one of my chosen airlines, I decided to fly to Las Vegas and drive the rest of the way with my friend Sareka who was flying in from Michigan. I met Sareka at Alt Summit the year before when we were roomies. That's my favorite thing about Alt Summit. I always learn a lot when I'm there, but the connections and friendship I've made are the best part. 

The drive between Las Vegas and Palm Springs is about four hours long. With a few stops thrown in it ended up taking the better part of a day in each direction. There are a couple of different routes that you can take, and we opted to go with the route that took us through Mojave National Preserve, a small section of Route 66, and past the northern entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. I've shared a map of the route at the end of this post. My plan had actually been to take one of the other routes this year, but Alt Summit, like most conferences, was cancelled due to the pandemic. 

Our first stop, and one that you will see no matter which route you take, was the iconic Seven Magic Mountains sculptures. If you've been here a while (or even just a short time) you'll likely know that I'm a big fan of colorful art. I'd been wanting to visit Seven Magic Mountains for years, and I've got to say that they didn't disappoint. Well, the crowds did - I would've preferred to have it all to ourselves, but that just shows how popular it is. If you're not familiar with Seven Magic Mountains, it's a series of seven sculptures reminiscent of balancing rocks, or cairns. The sort of sculpture you often find on desert hikes, but on a much larger scale. And slightly more colorful too! These 25 foot tall sculptures by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone were installed back in 2016 and were originally only supposed to be in place for two years. They proved to be so popular that the installment was given an extension through to the end of 2021. If you 've been wanting to see them in person, this is your year to do it! 


From Seven Magic Mountains we continued on through Mojave National Preserve, stopping a few times to take pictures of rocky outcrops, cholla cacti and Joshua trees. 




As it was getting late in the day we continued on straight to Palm Springs, making note of a few places to stop on our drive back.

Six days later we were on the road again driving the same route in reverse. This time we made sure to stop at a few different places. Our first stop was the northern entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. If we had more time I would've loved to have ventured into the park to explore, but we had flights out of Las Vegas that evening. Plus I'd visited Joshua Tree in the past. You can see that visit here.  

During our brief stop by the entrance of Joshua Tree NP we checked out some little wild west buildings, lots of cacti and a couple of gift stores. 


Back on the road our next stop was the tiny "town" of Amboy on Route 66. Now I use the word town in the loosest sense. There's really only a motel here, and it's a motel that hasn't been in use in an awfully long time. It's a great stop though if you're a fan of mid century design and the hey day of Route 66. The motel features a classic neon sign that can be see from quite far away. It's a great spot for cheesy photos! While the motel itself is not in use, the adjoining gas station is and has plenty of snacks and souvenirs available along with gas. The staff are super friendly and gave us tips about other things to see in the area as well as a little history about the motel.
 

After a quick stop at Roy's we took a little detour to nearby Amboy Crater as recommended by the gas station staff. This 250ft high volcanic cinder cone sits just a short drive from Amboy and is surrounded by blackened earth formed by lava. A hiking trail leads to the rim, but unfortunately we were short on time so we just took a short walk close to the parking lot. Wildflowers had just started blooming so there was plenty of color dotted around the black volcanic rock and desert sand. 


Back on track we made another stop along Route 66. On our drive to Palm Springs we had spotted two marble lion statues in the middle of nowhere. We'd been unable to stop at the time but made a note of where they were for our drive back. This time we made sure to stop and check them out. We couldn't really find any information about why these two lion statues are located out in the desert, but I love that there's a sense of mystery about them. On closer inspection we discovered that people have left small offerings in the form of rolled up money and other small trinkets under the paws of the lions. 


From here on we headed back through Mojave National Preserve where we stopped to check out some of the more impressive Joshua trees. 




It was getting late in the afternoon by now so we headed straight on to the airport in Las Vegas without any further stops. 

If you're planning a desert road trip between Las Vegas and Palm Springs here are my favorite places to stop and check out along the route that we took:
Seven Magic Mountains
Mojave National Preserve

And here's a map of the route we took. You can find it on Google Maps here.


Other routes take you past the original McDonald's in San Bernadino, which is now a museum, and the Cabazon Dinosaurs just west of Palm Springs. I had planned to visit the McDonald's museum on our trip this year, but as mentioned earlier, that has been put on hold until next year's Alt Summit. 

If you're visiting Palm Springs and looking for fun things to do in and around the city here are some of my favorites:
Joshua Tree National Park

For Las Vegas most of my favorite things to do involve getting out of the city. I'm not really a Vegas fan but it is a great starting point for adventures near by. Here are some of my favorites:
Grand Canyon (You can see our first visit pre-kids here)
You can see our visits to Las Vegas here and here

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