From stylish Palm Springs to prickly places off the beaten path, California’s Central Desert Region is a land of unconventional beauty, glitzy resort towns and plenty to see and do with your pooch. Discover what lies in the Golden State’s golden desert. The best time to visit is from November through April, when the weather will be more comfortable for your dog.
Posted by Billy Francis
Things to Do
Hike through out-of-this-world surroundings, prance around prickly plant life, and enjoy a polo match with your pooch in California’s unique Central Desert Region.
Pamper Your Pooch in Palm Springs
If Fido’s going to live the life of an A-lister, he needs to look the part. Start your day of indulgence at The Barking Lot in Cathedral City with a cut and blowdry. Or, treat your best friend to a relaxing puppy facial at Miriam’s Poochella. Then, deck him out with a new wardrobe and buy him a new toy from Cold Nose Warm Heart.
Hit the Road, Fido!
Pilot the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway from Palm Desert to Banning to see the best of the region’s wilderness from the comfort of your car. This 67-mile road captures an array of beautiful natural features, including desert palms, high country conifer forests and snow-capped mountains. Stop along the way to take in the sights at Coachella Valley Vista Point and Lake Hemet Campground, both of which welcome leashed dogs.
Saddle Up for a Good Time
If Fido wants to cheer on his fellow four-legged athletes, he should get his tail down to Eldorado Polo Club in Indio for Sunday tailgating. Watch galloping horses race by from the comfort of your own lawn chair on the sidelines. Visit the Clubhouse Courtyard for take-away food and beverages, or bring along a picnic, snacks and plenty of treats for your dog to enjoy as both of you watch the action. General tailgating admission is $10 for humans and free for dogs.
Discover the Desert
Climbers flock to Joshua Tree National Park to traverse rugged rock formations scattered among the desert landscape. Dogs are not allowed on trails. However they are free to join you on park roads like Bighorn Pass Road and Geology Tour Road, which give visitors a taste of the surroundings. You can also take a walk together on the Oasis of Mara Nature Trail, and don’t forget to call in at Keys View, a lookout with spectacular views of Coachella Valley.
Outbound Hounds Only
For people and pups who want freedom in the desert, Cap Homme and Ralph Adams Park in Palm Desert is a great alternative to Joshua Tree. Situated between Santa Rosa and the San Jacinto Mountains, the pet-friendly park features a variety of multi-use trails, including The Cross Trail, which leads to a huge, iconic cross at the top. There's also a large off-leash area for adventurous Alsatians to roam without being held back.
Take a Walk in a Prickly “Pawradise”
Moorten Botanical Garden in Palm Springs opened in 1938 and has been showcasing the eye-catching flora of the Central Desert Region ever since. This cactarium and nursery welcomes leashed dogs to walk the pathways that wind around barbed beauties of all sizes, as well as crystals, colorful rocks, ancient fossils, pioneer and gold-mining relics. Keep your pup close to avoid him getting an unwanted poke.
Play Off-Leash in Style
Get the scoop from local Labs who know the region best at Palm Springs Dog Park. This popular downtown park is divided into small and large dog sections, equipped with fire hydrants, drinking fountains, picnic tables and benches made from recycled materials, shade structures to escape the heat during the day, and solar lighting for after sunset. For more off-leash fun in a larger space, visit Rancho Mirage Dog Park. Described as a doggy oasis in the desert, the fenced park is also split into small and large sections, offering canopies for shade and obstacles for climbing. Afterwards, grab snacks for the pack from nearby Bones-N-Scones.
Places to Stay
With chic stays, regal resorts and panoramic desert views, you and your furry companion will be spoiled for choice in the desert.
No Ordinary La Quinta
La Quinta Resort & Club by Waldorf Astoria (not affiliated with the popular Wyndham chain) goes above and beyond to impress four-legged guests. Reserve a casita together and sign up for the exclusive PAWS La Quinta Canine Experience for dog-friendly, in-room and resort amenities. Very important pups will receive stainless steel food and water bowls, a placemat and door hanger, a resort map with marked doggie relief stations, and a plush bed to use during their stay. Take Fido for a walk on hiking trails that wind around 45 acres of open grounds.
Arrive in Style
Make a big entrance at ARRIVE Palm Springs in the heart of downtown. Each room is light, airy and elegantly designed with amenities to encourage relaxation, including Egyptian cotton bedding, plush robes, and Malin + Goetz bath amenities. Well-behaved dogs are welcome to stay in your room unattended if you need to make a quick trip to town.
Dark Skies and Good Times
Spend a long weekend with your best friend at the Goat House in Landers. Inside the well-furnished home, you’ll find an electric fireplace to warm Fido’s paws on chilly nights, a kitchen to cook up a feast, and a bright bedroom. Step outside and wake up to gorgeous desert sunrises, take a dip in the cowboy tub, swing in the hammock, and stay up late into the night admiring the vast array of constellations lighting up the dark sky.
Best Western Knows Best
After a day of watching polo in the sun, Fido will be ready to retire to his room at Best Western Date Tree Hotel. Surrounded by grassy areas perfect for a morning walk with your dog, it’s a great pick for pet owners who are looking for a convenient and comfortable stay. If your pup needs to burn off more energy before bedtime, pay a visit to nearby Mulligan Dog Park.
Plush Digs Near the Park
Designer dogs (and scruffy ones, too) can experience a sophisticated stay at Desert Blush. Located five minutes from the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, this elegantly designed home makes a great hub to explore the park and beyond. Whip up dinner in the full kitchen, chill in the sunroom, and take in the mountain views from the fully fenced backyard.
The End of the Road
Located at the end of the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway in Banning, Shiloh Space is a welcome place to park for the night. This tiny home has a fully fenced backyard, so your pooch can roam free while you enjoy mountain and valley views. Hiking hounds will find a bounty of dog-friendly trails at nearby Humber Park in Idyllwild.
“Pawsitive” Vibes Only
Book a stay at this rejuvenating dog-friendly oasis in Desert Hot Springs. Situated in Miracle Hill, a positive energy vortex known for its healing hot springs, mindful mutts will appreciate a break at this sleek Airbnb. Highlights include an indoor/outdoor living space with huge windows that frame a stunning mountain, contemporary and vintage furnishings, a 6-foot projector for screenings of Fido’s favorite movies, and water for his bowl that’s known for being rich in minerals.
From a restaurant featured in films to coffee with a view, California’s Central Desert Region has a lot to offer foodies and their furry friends.
“Where Dogs Bring Their Humans”
Bring your best bud to Boozehounds, where you can fill up his IG feed and his belly at the same time. Dishing up Southern Cali cuisine with global influences, this chic restaurant is decorated with eye-catching neon lights emblazoned with dog-centric sayings that make a great backdrop for a photoshoot. The kitchen offers up a menu for four-legged guests that includes a chicken bowl, beef bowl, weenie-tini and a variety of snacks, all designed with health in mind. Reservations for pet-friendly seating is available, and guests dining with pups are asked to enter through the "Doggy Door."
Music to Fido’s Ears
Tack Room Tavern is a western-themed restaurant in Indio. Well-behaved dogs are welcome to join their owners on the lively covered patio for a night of fun and revelry. While you cozy up next to one of the heaters or fire pits, let one of the rockin’ bands provide the soundtrack from the outdoor stage. The menu is full of classic American fare like burgers, hot dogs and a selection of brunch specials during the day.
Brew With a View
Begin your morning the right way at the original Koffi in Palm Springs. Grab a drink to-go and enjoy it in the courtyard with your dog. Soak up the unbelievable views of Mount San Jacinto with your specialty coffee or juice, and if you’re feeling peckish, order a grilled breakfast sandwich to kickstart your morning.
Big “Pawtions” Please
Bountiful bites await you and your pooch at Sherman's Deli & Bakery, a Palm Springs staple since 1963. Order from favorites like Sherman’s Philly, chopped liver or a patty melt, and enjoy it on the dog-friendly, covered patio outside. Don’t want to share your meal with your canine dining partner? Fortunately for her, waiters have been known to bring treats to the table.
It’s Coffee Time
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is a popular chain of coffee shops that welcomes dogs on the pet-friendly patio. This location in La Quinta will dish up a special pup cup for your best friend to devour when the sun is shining. Pair a coffee or tea with a toasted breakfast sandwich and head to Pioneer Dog Park to burn off the calories.
Mosey on Down for Lunch
Formerly the home of an outlaw biker burrito bar, biking Bichons don’t need to avoid Pappys and Harriets these days. Fans of westerns will recognize the restaurant from numerous movies filmed in Pioneer in the 1950s. Nowadays, dig into favorites like burgers and steaks with your pooch by your side on the pet-friendly patio. Pull over at nearby Desert Christ Park to see another historic relic in the region.
Munch With Mountain Views
For a blend of rustic Italian cuisine and family recipes, reserve a table at Backstreet Bistro. The menu features a variety of delicious dishes including fresh fish, pasta, homemade soups, and options for healthy diets. You and your pooch can enjoy live jazz every Tuesday evening and Saturday afternoon on the fenced and misted patio, with the San Jacinto Mountains as your backdrop.