Film star Ava Gardner once said: “Doing nothing feels like floating on warm water to me. Delightful, perfect.” It’s no surprise she learned the art of doing nothing in Palm Springs where she spent years vacationing – and effortlessly chilling out. Since the 1950s, Palm Springs has been a perennial favorite for leisure seekers and, like Ava, visitors traditionally relax by the pool, brunch on the weekends and sightsee, shop and unwind ever so casually.
But as modern travelers evolve, so do the desert activities – and they’re guaranteed to give you a new kind of thrill. Exciting, active adventures in Palm Springs, from mountain biking to skydiving, have become just as famous as the desert’s low-maintenance sensibilities thanks to the influx of intrepid travelers looking for action-packed fun. In fact, more vacationers are making room in their laid-back itineraries to experience stimulating, outdoor excursions to create unforgettable memories. Pack your sneakers (next to your flip flops, of course) and immerse in these adrenaline-pumping activities that prove Palm Springs has come a long way from being just a relaxing vacation spot.
Skydiving in Palm Springs
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, one of the desert’s most popular attractions, clocks in at an elevation of 8,515 feet. But if you really want to reach great heights (literally!) get geared up in a jumpsuit at Skydive Palm Springs. There you’ll head up into the blue sky for a heart-pounding, 60-second free fall from 14,000 feet, followed by 7–9 minutes sailing through the air taking in the dramatic aerial views of the desert landscape. Most first-timers sign up for tandem skydiving with an instructor, but Skydive Palm Springs offers training for Accelerated Free Fall. The sky’s the limit!
Mountain biking in Palm Canyon
Palm Springs has a series of excellent bike trails, but avid cyclists go gangbusters in Palm Canyon, home to exhilarating cycling fully surrounded by unspoiled nature. The granddaddy of tracks, the Palm Canyon Epic in the Santa Rosa Mountains provides 29 miles of masterfully designed trail riding with some seriously commanding desert scenery to boot. It’s considered the ultimate trail for bike enthusiasts, and it’s perfect for intermediate to advanced levels with its length, various switchbacks and some uphill climbing. For visitors who aren’t exactly seeking Olympic-level pedaling, head to Palm Canyon Pinyons Flat Loop, a significantly shorter and easier course. The 11-mile loop on a single, narrow track is still immersed in magnificent desert landscape. Don’t forget to stay hydrated!
Extreme jeep tours in the valley
With extreme jeep tours, visitors can get their heart pumping without breaking a sweat. Desert Adventures has been offering off-road enthusiasts plenty of reason to explore natural attractions in Palm Springs’ sprawling backyard in signature, eco-friendly red jeeps. Visitors discover history, geology and native flora and fauna in some of the canyon’s most scenic areas. The San Andreas Fault Tour is among the most popular tours, where guests take a joyride through sightseeing paths to the active earthquake fault system then walk steep walls of the deep canyons. The hike highlights some pretty immense scenery you’d never see without the luxury of the jeep.
Wet and wild waterslides
Admit it. You love watersides as much as kids. They’re exciting and wonderfully nostalgic. There’s no better place than the sun-drenched desert to don your bathing suit and head to the water park for wet and wild thrills. The new Wet n’ Wild Water Park is a 16-acre water playground featuring 20 water rides and attractions with 13 crazy watersides (including a high-speed slide 7 stories tall!) and a big wave pool. Splashtopia at Omni Ranch, which recently went through a massive renovation, features two, 100-foot watersides and water-play zones surrounded by a 425-foot lazy river. It even has a tropical vibe with its man-made beach and cliff-side Jacuzzi.
ATV adventures in the desert
Tap into your inner road warrior with ATV Experience, a desert excursion where visitors saddle up in some heavy-duty ATVs for off-road adventures. ATVs are safe and family-friendly, and they give visitors every opportunity to explore the desert while living out their PG-rated, Mad Max fantasies. The invigorating ride snakes through a range of desert trails, from beginners to intermediate, with the backdrop of canyons, ancient geological formations and a whole lotta sky. Best of all? Visitors spot plenty of wildlife on the tour, from deer and rabbits to lizards and eagles.
Where to stay in Palm Springs
Photographs: Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours & Events (2016); ATV Experience