Palm Springs has long been a haven for the stars. Hollywood’s famous citizens have flocked to this desert oasis for decades to enjoy a break from Los Angeles’ hustle, bustle, and general stress. But did you know it’s also a pretty good spot for seeing the astronomical wonders overhead, if you know where to go? The Greater Palm Springs (GPS) area, comprised of nine communities, is also home to pockets of natural beauty and dark skies. If you want to go stargazing in Palm Springs, here’s where you need to go.
Ready to learn where to go stargazing in Palm Springs? Read on for ten spots for stargazing in the Coachella Valley and beyond. We also included a few good tours we found if you want to book a more organized stargazing experience in Greater Palm Springs.
10 Great Spots for Stargazing in Greater Palm Springs
Below you’ll find nine stargazing spots around the Coachella Valley and Greater Palm Springs. I’ve organized them using Palm Springs as the originating point since it’s near the center of the area; the locations are organized from nearest to furthest. The longer you’re willing to drive, the better the dark sky quality will be!
Rancho Mirage Library & Observatory
Rancho Mirage Observatory is one of the most commonly recommended spots for stargazing in GPS, especially if you’re a beginner or want to go stargazing as a family. They hold regular astronomy events that will teach you about the wonders of the night sky throughout the year; be sure to check the Library calendar of events to see when the next one is happening.
- Distance from Palm Springs: 20 minutes
- Address: CA-111, Rancho Mirage, CA
- Website: ranchomiragelibrary.org
Coachella Valley Preserve
While Joshua Tree National Park (below) is the larger and more popular spot for stargazing in Greater Palm Springs, Coachella Valley Preserve is a good contender available with a much shorter drive. Located south of J-Tree, you’ll experience a little more light pollution, but this is a good spot to go if you don’t want to spend the whole night driving (or an overnight in the park).
- Distance from Palm Springs: 25 minutes
- Address: Thousand Palms Canyon Road
- Website: blm.gov/visit/coachella-valley-preserve
Whitewater Canyon Preserve
Another good option less than thirty minutes’ drive from Palm Springs, Whitewater Canyon Preserve is located to the northeast of GPS toward San Bernardino National Forest. The area is an alcove of natural beauty and offers some protection from the lights of L.A. and Greater Palm Springs, as well as the glow from nearby I-10.
- Distance from Palm Springs: 25 minutes
- Address: 9160 Whitewater Canyon Rd, Whitewater, CA
- Website: wildlandsconservancy.org/preserve_whitewater.html
Sky Valley, as the name suggests, is another option, though a bit less protected from light pollution than some of the other natural preserves and open spaces in the area. Sky Valley is located near the south border of Joshua Tree National Park along Dillon Road and is an census-designated community – but isn’t as developed as other communities and can therefore be a good option if you’re looking for somewhere new to stargaze in the area.
- Distance from Palm Springs: 30 minutes
North of Desert Hot Springs
Desert Hot Springs is one of the nine communities in Greater Palm Springs; north of town you can drive up the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains that form the southwestern part of Joshua Tree National Park. You won’t be within the park, but on the border, and can still enjoy the dark sky benefits that the park’s limited development offer.
- Distance from Palm Springs: 30-35 minutes
- GPS Coordinates: 33.9880172, -116.5761143
Note: I used GPS coordinates to mark this location on the map; you can go anywhere along Annadale Avenue to find a good spot to pull over and enjoy the stars.
Salton Sea State Recreation Area
Salton Sea draws visitors during the daytime; it’s a fascinating geological wonder in the Greater Palm Springs area. There’s also a state recreation area on the north shore that offers decent stargazing if you want to visit after the sun goes down. There is some light pollution from communities around the Sea, but it’s a great spot to watch sunset, see the stars appear, and then enjoy the night sky overhead.
- Distance from Palm Springs: 55-60 minutes
- Address: 100225 State Park Rd, Mecca, CA
- Website: parks.ca.gov/?page_id=639
Burns Piñon Ridge Reserve
“Set in the Morongo Basin of the western Mojave Desert, the Burns Piñon Ridge Reserve is a dry, boulder-strewn landscape of shallow canyons and ridges,” reads the University of California Natural Reserve System, describing this area north of the town of Yucca Valley, CA. It’s a small 300-acre natural area that’s perfect for escaping the lights of the towns along Highway 62 and enjoying the stars.
- Distance from Palm Springs: 60 minutes
- Address: Yucca Valley, CA
- Website: ucnrs.org/reserves/burns-pinon-ridge-reserve
Joshua Tree National Park
You already know that we say Joshua Tree National Park is one of the best places for stargazing in Southern California; our Joshua Tree stargazing guide details everything you need to know in order to plan a trip, and we recommend it as a spot for stargazing from Los Angeles and even San Diego if you have the time to drive there. While there is a bit of light pollution from the Coachella Valley, the area makes up for it with the otherworldly landscape here on earth.
If you’re based in Greater Palm Springs, the time it takes to reach Joshua Tree depends a long on which route you take to the park and how far you want to drive into the park to enjoy the night sky. It’s roughly 45 minutes from Palm Springs to the Joshua Tree Visitors Center in the town of Joshua Tree; it’s another 20 minutes to reach the park boundary from there. Or you can enter the park near the Cottonwood Visitor Center – that takes over an hour, and you’ll still need to drive into the southern part of the park from there.
In any event, the distance and time are such that you probably want to plan an overnight stargazing trip to Joshua Tree rather than doing it in a single night – but it is one of the best spots for stargazing in the region, and well worth the journey if you make it.
- Distance from Palm Springs: 60-90 minutes
- Website: nps.gov/jotr/index.htm
Corn Spring Campsite
Joshua Tree National Park is so popular, you might want to avoid the crowds and do an overnight stargazing trip elsewhere in the region. If that’s the case, Corn Spring Campsite – out along Corn Springs Road to the southeast of the Coachella Valley – is a good option. It’s a very remote area that’s perfect for escaping light pollution; the campground is located within a canyon of the Chuckwalla Mountains.
During the day, you can explore the petroglyphs in the area, which date back 10,000 years and are some of the best examples of rock art in the Colorado Desert.
- Distance from Palm Springs: 100 minutes
- Address: Corn Springs Rd, California
- Website: blm.gov/visit/search-details/15179/1
Mt. San Jacinto State Park
Here’s one last option in case the nine varied spots we’ve highlighted so far haven’t seemed quite right for your next stargazing adventure. Mt. San Jacinto State Park and the titular mountain is a popular spot for outdoor adventures including hiking; at night you can also rise above the light pollution (and air pollution) to see the stars.
The best way to reach Mt. San Jacinto is by taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway; you’ll be on the tram schedule to get back down the mountain, but it’s a cool ride up the mountain to some epic views of Palm Springs and the surrounding mountain range – plus the night sky overhead.
- Distance from Palm Springs: 15 minutes + Tram Ride
- Address: 1 Tram Way, Palm Springs, CA
- Website: pstramway.com
Stargazing Tours in Palm Springs
If you’d like to do a stargazing tour instead of heading out on your own, there are a few good options to consider:
- Palm Springs Stargazing has a location 30 minutes outside Palm Springs where you can discover the wonders of the night sky; each tour guarantees you’ll see at least six deep space objects through the telescope.
- Sky Watcher Star Tours offers two different private tour options, and astronomy and history lessons as part of the tour too.
- Gargan Optics Observatory is a privately-owned observatory in the Greater Palm Springs area; you need to arrange a visit in advance but it’s a fun way to have a private tour of the night sky.
Do you have other questions about stargazing in Palm Springs? Know of another great stargazing spot to share? Let us know in the comments!
Featured photo credit: Brooke Binkowski via Flickr