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Your Guide to the Beautifully Bizarre Joshua Tree National Park

Camp, hike, and rock climb your way through California’s High Desert.

California’s Joshua Tree National Park embodied many of our pandemic fantasies. East of Los Angeles, the nearly 800,000-acre desert has inspired everything from the iconic U2 album The Joshua Tree to the fictional planet Tatooine in Star Wars. Spanning two very distinct deserts—the Mojave and the Sonoran—Joshua Tree’s hiking trails and campgrounds are wedged between oases (palm tree-dotted desert groves), cactus gardens, canyons, and sculpture-like boulders.

“People come to Joshua Tree for their own special reasons,” says David Smith, park superintendent with the National Park Service. “Sometimes it’s wilderness, other times people come here for the music history, the diversity of raptors, or just the epic landscapes. People come to Joshua Tree to find themselves."

And whether you find yourself in the spiritual sense (Mormons actually named the Joshua trees after biblical prophet Joshua) or are simply here to embrace the beauty of this otherworldly, Dr.Seuss-like desert, Joshua Tree offers pretty much has everything you need to get your fix, from hiking, biking, and rock climbing to camping in UFO-shaped “homes.”

While the park is a patchwork of natural beauty, there are certainly a few less-trodden trails and sights not as easy to find on most maps. Here’s where to look to see Joshua Tree in all of its natural glory—and where to stay and stargaze when the sun goes down.

It’s not hard to see why Joshua Tree National Park attracts more than a million visitors each year. | cb_travel/Shutterstock

The best time to visit Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree is open (and beautiful!) year-round. Come in the spring or fall for the best weather (but keep in mind, the park gets extra busy January through April, so book your Airbnb early). If you visit in the hot summer months, plan outdoor activities early in the morning or later in the day when the air is cooler.

On average, most people spend about four hours in the park, but given Joshua Tree’s abundance of jaw-dropping geological sights and trails, one could spend days exploring the otherworldly landscape.

It’s worth stopping at the roadside attractions leading up to the park. | Flystock/Shutterstock

Fuel up in the funky artist towns nearby

There are over 100 miles of roads within the park and not a gas station in sight, so fill up beforehand. The quirky towns surrounding the park—particularly Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, and Yucca Valley—are your best bet for grabbing a bite and a beer after a long day in the park.

Populated by UFOlogists, solitude seekers, antique dealers, and offbeat creatives drawn to the pull of the desert, there are plenty of unusual adventures to be had in these towns. Be sure to stop by Pioneertown, which served as a film set for old Westerns in a past life and today houses the area’s most famous bar and music venue, Pappy & Harriet’s.

Cycle through the park’s backcountry dirt roads. | Kit Leong/Shutterstock

Getting into Joshua Tree National Park

The park’s larger than Rhode Island, which means there’s a lot of ground to cover. Of the three main entrances, the Joshua Tree entrance (known as the West Entrance) is often the busiest. The North and South Entrances near Twentynine Palms and the Cottonwood Visitors Center, respectively, are far less crowded. Get there early; parking lots tend to fill up by mid-morning.

Just drive up to one of the park’s entrances and pay at the booth. A seven-day vehicle permit runs $30. Alternatively, $55 gets you a pass valid for a full year—or, if you think you’ll visit more than one national park in the next 12 months (and you should!), NPS offers an $80 pass that scores you entry to any park for a year.

The reward: spectacular rock formations on either side. | My Good Images/Shutterstock

Hit Joshua Tree’s best hiking trails

Once you’re all geared up with the right shoes and as much water as you can carry (seriously, it’s hot), it’s time to hit the trails. Skull Rock Nature Trail is one of the most popular in the park. From the Jumbo Rocks Campground, it’ll take you winding through about 1.7 miles of desert until you arrive at Skull Rock, an enormous boulder with two eye sockets carved into it by years of water erosion. It’s a pretty mild route and great for beginners.

The second trail you should hit is the Wonderland of Rocks, which—can you believe it—is a wonderland of rocks! Pebbles, stones, and giant boulders are yours to traverse for 5.5 glorious miles. Given the terrain, it’s considered a difficult trail, so be sure you’re up to the task.

Sara Combs from The Joshua Tree House has written an entire book about Joshua Tree with her husband, Rich. She recommends three underrated hiking trails: Willow Hole Trail, which covers 6.8 miles of relatively flat land; Pine City Trail, a moderate, four-mile trek where you’ll see a sprawling rock canyon and very few other humans; and North View Trail, a six-mile hike that can be tricky to navigate at times (download a map!), but will drop you into steep canyon aisles and desert dry washes lush with Joshua trees.

There’s also a ton of trails for riding horses and mountain bikes, if you prefer something speedier than hoofin’ it yourself. The winding roads through the park are perfect for motorcyclists, as well—just watch for desert tortoises crossing the road.

There’s really no bad view here. | Andrey Zheludev/Shutterstock

Check out Joshua Tree’s most Instagrammable sites

The aforementioned Skull Rock is a great one, and then there’s Arch Rock, a 30-foot-tall formation that’s a favorite of night photographers looking to capture the Milky Way on camera. Though it’s not technically in the park, it’s worth seeking out Giant Rock, an enormous, free-standing boulder that has a bizarre backstory involving Hopi shamans, an espionage conspiracy, and a UFO convention. You know, desert things.

Around sunrise or sunset, wander over to Keys View, the highest lookout point in Joshua Tree. Views look out across the Coachella Valley, and on clear days, you can see as far as the Salton Sea and Palm Springs. If you’re entering from the north, stop to check out the towering rock formations in Indian Cove, considered some of the best in the park.

Desert daggers are just the start. | JeniFoto/Shutterstock

Scope out the unparalleled plant and animal life

You’re probably familiar with the park’s tall and spiky namesake: the Yucca brevifolia, more commonly known as the Joshua tree. (In Spanish, the tree is known as izote de desierto, or desert dagger.) It’s important to remember that since these trees are endemic to this 1,235-square-mile expanse of desert, they’re strictly protected—so no touching!

Visit the Cholla Cactus Garden (at sunset, if you can swing it) to walk amongst hundreds of beautiful cholla. Swaying in the desert breeze, they almost resemble coral (and, much like coral, should be left alone). You’ll also probably spot the ocotillo plant, which is technically a succulent but is most closely related to blueberries and tea.

Joshua Tree National Park is more known for its flora than fauna, but there’s plenty of wildlife in and around the park. Birding is especially popular, with native species like roadrunners, raptors, and tons of migratory flocks. Predators like bobcats, coyotes, and snakes are also found in these parts, in addition to California’s state reptile, the desert tortoise.

Even beginners can get their climbing fix here. | Greg Epperson/Shutterstock

Find out why Joshua Tree is a rock climber’s paradise

Whether you’re new to climbing or navigate cliffs like a pro, Joshua Tree’s 9,000-plus climbing routes mean there’s something for every skillset. (We also feel the need to note that most of the routes have fantastic names like Yabba Dabba Don’t, Breakfast of Champions, Room to Shroom, Dangling Woo Li Master, and Possessed By Elvis.)

If you’re a beginner or intermediate climber, head over to the Quail Springs area, home to the affectionately named Trashcan Rock. One of the most popular climbing spots due to its relative ease (and cool shade that covers it during the afternoon), expect to wait in line for your go. Intersection Rock is also great for novices, while The Eye is one of the best for the views (it ends with a tunnel that opens up to sweeping shots of the desert).

If you want a challenge—seriously, these climbs will be intense—push your skills to the limit with Big Moe, a classic climb known to test even more experienced climbers; Lost Horse Wall, for some of the longest routes in the park; or make the 1,500-foot-steep scramble up Saddle Rock for great multi-pitch climbing.

Gear up at Joshua Tree Outfitters (their storefront is currently closed due to COVID-19, but equipment rentals and guide books are still available by appointment) or Nomad Ventures. If you think you’ll need some help navigating the climbs, consider hiring a guide from Cliffhanger Guidesor book a group rock climbing class with Vertical Adventures.

You’re looking at some of the clearest night skies in the country. | Digati Photography/Shutterstock

Settle in for some stargazing

Joshua Tree National Park is a silver-tier International Dark Sky Park, which means nighttime can be pretty extraordinary. Even though its location is pretty remote, the western part of the park gets a fair amount of light pollution from nearby Palm Springs. Stick to the central part of the park, especially along Pinto Basin Road—it’s the perfect place to admire the Big Dipper, Milky Way, and shooting stars.

Sleep in everything from a classic camper van or tent to a giant UFO. | Felicia Lee/Shutterstock

Where to lay your weary head at night

Of the 520 campsites in Joshua Tree National Park, about half are first-come, first-serve. The other half take reservations through It's notoriously difficult to score weekend spots, so during peak times, look for reservation-only campsites. Book the Cottonwood campground for stargazing, or White Tank Campground, which is dotted with some awe-inspiring rock formations that are millennia in the making.

If you’re more of an indoorsy person, Joshua Tree is famous for its off-the-wall Airbnbs, meaning you can sleep in, say, a giant UFO or a converted 1950s Spartan trailer.

Getting off-the-grid is part of the charm. | ThroughLensPhotosNVideos/Shutterstock

What to bring and other essential tips for visitors

Sunscreen and water are must-haves year-round. The National Park Service stresses that there are no water sources inside the park, so again, pack a lot of water—and then pack some more. Binoculars, sturdy hiking shoes, snacks, a flashlight, and hats are also recommended. If you find yourself in need of additional supplies, Coyote Corner, a combination gift shop and general store, sits just outside the park. They sell everything from camping supplies to locally-made goods.

To avoid being one of the approximately 60 search-and-rescue operations Joshua Tree has every year, it’s recommended to explore the park with a buddy and always let people know where you’re going. Cell phones don’t work in most of the park, so if communication is crucial, bring a satellite phone and a printed map to get around.

Over 80% of Joshua Tree is officially designated wilderness—emphasis on wild. Be respectful of wildlife to avoid an encounter with an angry critter. And if you remember one thing about your visit to Joshua Tree National Park, it should be “leave no trace.” Be sure to leave the park as pristine as you found it to help preserve its natural beauty for generations to come.

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Beth Demmon is a contributor for Thrillist.
Tiana Attride is a travel writer and editor based in New York. Follow her on Instagram.

This Seemingly Apocalyptic Desert Lake Is Alive with Art

If an acid trip was a place, this magical barren landscape would be it.

An armchair in the middle of Bombay beach
An armchair sits alone in the desert. | Mika.laujin/Shutterstock

Despite first impressions, the Salton Sea is far from lifeless. The apocalypse has, in fact, not visited this often-overlooked section of Southern California, but you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise—what with the rotted beach houses, discarded boats, and piles of dead fish (we’ll get there).

If your California dreams lean more Tahoe villa than desert oasis, you probably haven’t experienced the largest lake in California. Located about 60 miles south of Palm Springs, the Salton Sea was created in 1905 when the Colorado River flooded the Imperial Valley, which sits 227 feet below sea level (not the first time this valley flooded). The sudden appearance of a lake ushered in resorts, fancy houses, and even The Beach Boys. The area was dubbed the “Salton Riviera” back in its 1950s heyday, netting more annual visitors than Yosemite.

Bombay Beach Marina
Bombay Beach once attracted beach-goers from all over the world. | J Carr Photo/Shutterstock

By the 1970s, however, the lake was drying up. The accidental water mass had no natural outflow, and thus no stabilization system. It soon grew saltier than sea water. The runoff started killing off the fish, and those ever-present vacationers finally said, “Maybe let’s go to Yosemite instead.” The Salton Sea has since become legend among abandoned places enthusiasts, seemingly tempting fate even further by straddling the San Andreas Fault.

But here’s the thing: The Salton Sea still has a local population—a point driven home by Estamos Aquí, a documentary made by young residents. From the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians who have always been there to transplants who settled there more recently, the Salton Sea is no ghost town. Somehow, despite the fact that the lake continues to shrink—and solutions to mitigate the resulting toxic dust just aren’t coming together—life is flourishing.

trees in the Salton Sea
Keep an eye out for the Salton Sea’s striking blue water. | Judd Irish Bradley/Shutterstock

Enter Salton Sea’s thriving arts scene. If you dig an oddball desert aesthetic that’s less corporate than Coachella and less tech bro-ey than Burning Man, the Salton Sea promises to deliver. Head south on California 111 past the date farms, keep an eye out for the sparkling blue water, ignore the dead fish smell, and immerse yourself in this bizarro little piece of the world. Here are just a few of the wonders that await.

Bombay Beach Drive In
The Bombay Beach Drive-In” looks like a post-rapture drive-in theater. | RMF/Shutterstock

Bombay Beach

Bombay Beach is basically the Art Basel of the Salton Sea. The community of 215 is littered with large-scale art, thanks to the Bombay Beach Biennale, a yearly (yes, the name contradicts that) three-day celebration that brings more than 150 art installations to town. Festival founders Lily Johnson White, Stefan Ashkenazy, and Tao Ruspoli—the latter of whom runs the coolest Airbnb at the Salton Sea—created the event, which includes everything from sunrise opera performances to a banned-book library.

An abstract art plane fuselage at Bombay beach
“Lodestar” by Randy Polumbo arcs into the sky. | Paul Briden/Shutterstock

You can visit Bombay Beach anytime to see the art that lingers long after the festival. One of the most captivating installations, “The Bombay Beach Drive-In” by Stefan Ashkenazy, Sean Dale Taylor, and Arwen Byrd, consists of rusted cars facing a blank screen (like a drive-in movie theater, but post-Rapture). Another must-see is “Lodestar” by Randy Polumbo, a crashed plane that kind of looks like a carnival ride.

Head down to the beach and you’ll see a swingset out in the water. It’s “The Water Ain't That Bad, It's Just Salty” by Chris “Ssippi” Wessman and Damon James Duke. (Side note: A lot of people wade out to this and take thirst traps.) Back on the sand, among all of the fish bones, you’ll find “The only other thing is nothing” by Michael Daniel Birnberg—also known as MIDABI—a metal sign that says exactly that.

Welcome to the Ski Inn, the lowest bar in the Western Hemisphere. | Ski Inn

There are many other installations, including a 40-foot-long fish/aircraft (“Da Vinci Fish” by Sean Guerrero, Royce Carlson, Juanita Hull-Carlson, and John Murphy) and a door that leads nowhere (“The Open House” by Keith Jones and Lee Henderson). After checking them out, grab a cheap drink at the Ski Inn—the lowest bar in the Western Hemisphere—before moseying along.

Salton Sea History Museum
The colorful North Shore Beach & Yacht Club in 2013. | Salton Sea History Museum

The North Shore Beach and Yacht Club

Bombay Beach’s dried-up lake bed is scattered with discarded boats that have been reimagined as canvases, but a little less than 20 miles in the opposite direction lies an under-the-radar attraction for architecture buffs. The North Shore Beach and Yacht Club originally opened in 1959 as a ritzy hangout and a fixture of the Salton Riviera scene. But like much of the area, it became battered by both time and the elements, ultimately throwing in the towel in 1981 and sitting empty for decades, gathering dust and graffiti.

Today, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places and, following a multimillion-dollar restoration process, it’s been reimagined as the Salton Sea Museum and community center. So why all the attention for what could have otherwise been the abandoned shell of a marina? Because it was designed by Albert Frey, the father of desert modernism (think retro motels with breeze blocks or those Mad Men episodes where Don goes to California). Designed to look like a submarine, the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club is outfitted with nautical porthole windows similar to the ones Frey installed in one of his own homes. People pay for architecture tours in Palm Springs without realizing that one of Frey’s coolest designs is hidden in plain sight over at the Salton Sea.

Entrance sign to Slab City

Salvation Mountain and Slab City

Located 20 miles south of Bombay Beach, Salvation Mountain stands tall, looking like what people who’ve never dropped acid probably imagine an acid trip to be like (we guess). The rainbow-painted, 50-foot clay mound is outfitted with a yellow staircase, flowers, birds, hearts, and colorful stripes (Fun fact: Kesha filmed a music video here). Salvation Mountain was created by Leonard Knight, a Korean War veteran who found Jesus while reciting the Sinner’s Prayer in a van in San Diego.

A colorful artificial mountain
Kevin Key/Shutterstock

Knight originally wanted to spread the Good Word via hot air balloon, but upon discovering the California desert, he instead decided to build his own colorful mountain. He toiled away at the mess of paint and clay during the day and slept in his truck at night until his work was complete. Knight passed away in 2014 at the age of 82, but Salvation Mountain lives on, still bearing the words of that prayer he spoke in the van all those years ago: “Jesus, I'm a sinner, please come upon my body and into my heart.”

Salvation Mountain and a sign that says Respect the Art
The local community is fiercely protective of their creations. | Grindstone Media Group/Shutterstock

Venture beyond Salvation Mountain and you’ll find yourself in Slab City, the self-proclaimed “last free place in America.” This rogue settlement rose up from the parched desert after World War II marine base Camp Dunlap was demolished, leaving behind the concrete slabs that give the settlement its name. The sprawling and extremely unofficial town is populated by snowbirds, artists, and dedicated desert rats who all have one thing in common: A desire to live very, very off the grid.

Historic motel on the north shore of the Salton Sea
An abandoned motel beckons passersby. | Bob Reynolds/Shutterstock

Residents—technically squatters—have no running water and no access to electricity. Some say they have no laws. What they do have, however, is a vibrant community situated in a harsh, unforgiving environment. Summer temperatures can soar above 110 degrees while winter winds bring an unholy chill, but the people remain. These days, there’s even a library, a hostel, and a solar-powered music venue. If the Salton Sea gives you apocalyptic vibes, Slab City is proof that even in a post-apocalyptic landscape, art, human spirit, and creativity can flourish.

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Krista Diamond is a freelance/fiction writer who lives in (and often writes about) Las Vegas. Her writing has been featured in The New York Times, HuffPost, Eater, Business Insider, Fodor’s, and Desert Companion.

Dining Around The Desert: Zin American Bistro, Palm Springs

Open since 2004 in Palm Springs

I'm late to the party with knowing about Zin in Palm Springs as it's a favorite of my team member Betsy Justice.

Since opening in 2004, Zin American Bistro has been the place to go for wine, creative, fresh, locally sourced cuisine and craft cocktails. Their heated and cooled large patio is perfect for Champagne brunches, relaxed lunches and late night dining.

With 17 consecutive Wine Spectator Awards, including five consecutive Best of Award of Excellence and the incredible pricing, their wine list is one of the best in the valley.

Michael and I found ourselves in Palm Springs last week and since it was restaurant week, we decided to take the opportunity to try a  place that was new to us.

Although they have a very nice patio, it was the hottest day of the year at that point and we elected to sit inside at the bar.

Michael started out with a Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned made with Redemption Rye, Mandarine Napoleon Liqueur Orange Bitters and a Luxardo Cherry, and I enjoyed the Watermelon-Mint Gimlet with Racquet Club Vodka, Local Watermelon Juice, Mint and Lime. Both were very well made and we'd have them again.

The Restaurant Week menu was three courses. One of us had a Half Wedge Salad, Country Fried Chicken with creamed spinach, mashed potatoes, and country gravy, while the other one had Cantaloupe Gazpacho and Classic Moules Mariners & Frites. You can likely figure out who had what. For desert we shared Creme Brûlée and Cheesecake. We also shared a nice bottle of Turnbull Sauvignon Blanc which was perfect for the weather.

The regular menu has a wide variety of items from Chicken Schnitzel to Braised Short Ribs, to Cauliflower Steak and White Cheddar Mac & Cheese.

It's a pleasing atmosphere, right on the main drag with very good service, and excellent food. We'll be back!

Read more about Zin America Bistro and view the menu here...


198 S. Palm Canyon Drive,
Palm Springs, CA 92262


Lunch Everyday

Monday, Thursday, Friday,: 11AM - 3PM

Brunch / Lunch

Saturday & Sunday: 9AM - 3PM


Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday:  Beginning at 4:30PM

Happy Hour

Monday - Saturday 11am - 3, 4:30 - 6

Open holidays with special prix fixe menu.

Reservations strongly recommended for dinner

Please call 760-322-6300 to be placed on Brunch waitlist

Talus – A Bold New Vision of Community, Hospitality & Sustainability

Courtesy of Christine Loomis, Desert Golf & Tennis

Planning a getaway to the Coachella Valley? May we suggest late 2022 or 2023—that is if you want to be among the first to experience the newly imagined TALUS La Quinta, an ambitious rebranding of a resort and residential community that aims to set an extraordinary new standard in desert hospitality. To say there’s a high level of anticipation and excitement surrounding the long-delayed development at SilverRock is an understatement.

NOTE: You must have one of our team accompany you on your first visit or introduce you in order to retain your right to your own representation to look after your fiduciary best interests. Contact Sheri Dettman & Associates for information.

Phase 1 of the 525-acre development includes two luxury hotels, spas, private residences, a new golf clubhouse, extensive dining options and more. The luxury Montage Hotel will feature134 casita-style guest rooms, while the Pendry Hotel, a “lifestyle” brand, will offer 200 guest rooms. In between the two will be a 70,000 square-foot conference center, which will open concurrently with the Montage Hotel.

Randy J. Duncan, general manager and director of golf at SilverRock, says the completed project will elevate golf across the desert. “SilverRock opened on Valentine’s Day, 2005. Since then, it’s been a golf course, clubhouse, golf operations and some F&B, all surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of acres of undeveloped land. When this project is complete, it’s going to be the mecca of the desert. The quality and high standards Montage brings to the community will have a positive impact on the golf experience. I’m excited about the future.”

Work is moving full steam ahead. The Montage is slated to open in Spring 2023, while the Pendry will welcome its first guests in 2024. Both properties are part of Montage International. Jeff Yamaguchi, VP of real estate with TALUS, says the first of the 29 single-family Montage-branded homes will be ready in November 2022. Delivery of the first Pendry-branded condos is scheduled for February 2023. These 55 condo units will be built in 11 three-story buildings, five residences or “stacked flats” per building.

The design aesthetic across TALUS celebrates Desert Modernism, a low-profile style that welcomes the desert landscape in. Montage staff will manage the homes and owners can opt to put residences in a short-term rental program, providing another option for out-of-town guests wanting more than a hotel room for their Coachella Valley stay.

The new golf clubhouse is scheduled to open at the start of the next fall season. Golf and F&B operations will move to the new clubhouse, leaving historic Ahmanson Ranch House ready for its transformation into an exciting new dining venue.

What won’t change is the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, which completed a significant renovation several years ago. It will remain open to the public—and to hotel guests when they arrive. And residents of La Quinta, wherever they live in town, will still have the La Quinta Resident Program available to them. Duncan says retaining the resident program was always in the plan. “Elements of the program may change,” he notes, “but the program will remain.”

TALUS La Quinta has been described as a community-focused around wellness, activity and sustainability, within the context of respect for and enjoyment of the natural desert landscape. “TALUS is your wellspring in the desert, alive with opportunities to nourish body, mind and soul,” it says on the website. Another spot proclaims, “You feel powerful, yet unusually peaceful as you connect with the cadence and rhythm of the land. It’s the next chapter of SilverRock, a place to truly be alive and well.”

It may be marketing hype, yet the passion of developers for this project makes one wonder if a community, this community, actually can offer all that up in a tangible, meaningful way. Yamaguchi says TALUS absolutely can and will. “There’s a distinct energy derived from the mountains and the land. ‘Talus’ is defined as a gathering of rock fragments at the base of a mountain, and that was the inspiration behind the name change. Our goal is to create a gathering place and a unique assemblage of experiences for every family generation.”

When asked about the more esoteric goals of the project, Yamaguchi’s passion is clear. In terms of sustainability, he says solar energy is a core element of the residences. And though recycled materials won’t feature in construction until after Phase 1, he points out that they’ve reduced concrete and steel in the residential construction in favor of expansive use of glass, which simultaneously helps connect residents to the outside environment and reduces energy costs. “Glass helps keep homes warmer in winter by allowing heat in, and in summer, the double-paned glass will make the homes both cooler and more energy-efficient,” he says.

The health of residents and visitors was also a consideration in construction and hospitality practices. “We’re putting in an air purification system attached to HVAC, which filters out particles down to .03microns,” Yamaguchi notes. “Given the events of the past 18 months, air quality is a huge consideration for everyone. We want to create an extra level of confidence for residents and their guests by providing a safer, healthier living environment.” Most exciting is the vision for a farm in the next development phase. “We’re hoping to create a farm where we’ll grow products for culinary and spa programs, and also create an opportunity for organic composting,” Yamaguchi says. “Additionally, we want to curate a farm-to-table culinary experience that will be available to residents, hotel guests and people in the local community. “Agriculture,” he continues, has been integral to the Coachella Valley’s history and identity. With the evolution of plant-based palates and dietary requirements, we think it’s time to make it a priority going forward.”

Another goal is to-take wellness to the next level by establishing regimes and protocols that tap into the spiritual aspects of wellness. There are no concrete plans on that yet, but Yamaguchi says they’ll likely come toward the end of next year.” In the end, he says, “We want TALUS to be a sanctuary, a place where you not only connect with the land, the sky and the mountains but also where you reconnect with family and rejuvenate your soul.”

That’s a tall order for a desert golf resort. But TALUS La Quinta is focused on setting a new standard altogether. “To be able to bring this level of luxury hospitality to the valley is really exciting and really important,” Yamaguchi says. “The Coachella Valley has never had a 5-Diamond, 5-Star resort; given the history of this destination, that’s hard to believe. We believe TALUS will change that.”

Hype? Maybe. But our bet—and hope—is that TALUS La Quinta will live up to everything it’s meant to be.

Contact Sheri Dettman & Associates for a private introduction to the Talus La Quinta homes and development.

Pickleball Is Hot in the Valley

By Morgan Evans

Once upon a time, there were four pickleball courts in the Coachella Valley desert. Cahuilla Park in Palm Desert was one of the early oasis facilities. Fast forward eight years and the growth of the game can be seen in every park, country club, and gated community. The valley became a hotbed of pickleball activity, culminating with one of the world’s leading sports venues, The Indian Wells Tennis Garden hosting the Margaritaville National Pickleball Championship.

If you are already an avid player wondering where to get your fix or perhaps a tennis player looking to relive former glory then here’s a handful of the top destinations around the desert.

In the category of public parks, there are really only three hotspots that most pickleball junkies frequent. In the Palm Springs area, Demuth Park on Mesquite Ave is the place to go. With 12 courts and a delightful crowd of locals, you’ll be sure to get a good game and plenty of laughs along the way. Heading east on Country Club Drive is the famous Freedom Park. This eight-court public facility was the evolution from the original offering in the Desert, Cahuilla Park. The city recently made some very welcome upgrades to allow for more seating, extra room around the courts, and most importantly, some of the best lighting you’ll find outside of Indian Well Tennis Garden. During peak season from approximately 8 am - 11 am each and every morning and after 5 pm in the afternoon you’ll find an eclectic bunch battling for bragging rights. South of Freedom Park, nestled near the La Quinta Cove is the last little gem in the public arena, Fritz Burns Park on 52nd Ave boasts 8 courts, and much like Freedom Park, it attracts a nice mix of newcomers and seasoned players alike.

There is no shortage of private and semi-private pickleball options around the desert, the old adage ‘If you build it they will come’ is alive and well. Pickleball is now a staple part of every major country club and gated community from Palm Springs to Indio and beyond. All of the most exclusive clubs have courts and member play, however, there is a handful that stand out for having more active programs and tuition available.

Indian Well Tennis Garden can’t really be mentioned in the same light as the others, although it does host the national championships in November. Its pickleball courts only exist for that period and therefore can’t be considered a club, per se. Let’s start off on the eastern part of the Valley with PGA West in La Quinta, CA’. Known predominantly for its world-class golf courses, PGA West has 16 Pickleball courts and a drop-in fee for guests of members. If you’re in the market for something closer to the heart of the desert then Desert Horizons Country Club, off Hwy 111 is certainly worth checking out. This little gem is also home to Kim Jagd, one of the game’s best Senior Pro players and this writer’s first- ever mixed doubles partner. Tennis and Pickleball lessons are available with the resident coach Caroline Vis, former top WTA player. Speaking of great players, Sherri Steinhauer, former LPGA great and budding senior pro pickleball player is an honorary member and wonderful ambassador to the game and her stomping grounds, Mission Hills Country Club. With 12 courts, and lessons available from former WTA player, Anna Maria Ruffles, as well as veteran Ric Moore, Mission Hills caters to most levels and also has league play.

Toscana Country Club offers a luxury setting, befitting of its exclusive membership in all its sports offerings, pickleball being no exception. With six courts, superb lighting, and competitive league play, Toscana is a great experience, especially for night play. Just north is another pickleball haven, Indian Ridge Country Club. Legend of the Desert, Randy Berg and newly appointed head professional, Mathew Yavorsky handle programming with ease and sunny disposition. Indian Ridge CC has seven courts and offers lessons, competitive play, and entertaining exhibition matches. Right next door is the former home to Marcin Rozpedski, The Lakes Country Club. As the world’s number one singles player during the years 2015 - 2017, Rozpedski grew the program leaps and bounds. Donnie Felich, a 5.0 player and top instructor now runs the program with nine permanent courts used year-round.

We have saved the best to last because let’s be honest, if you were just told about Palm Desert Resort Country Club at the beginning, then you may not have kept reading. PDR, as it’s referred to, is the best of both worlds. It’s a private club, for the public, offering yearly, monthly, and even weekly memberships to one and all. With 24 courts and over 700 members, PDR is truly the heart of Pickleball in the Valley. Regular league play, round robins, clinics, camps, and private lessons are all available. The best of the best come to practice with their peers and you’ll find some of the best teaching alongside a team of highly qualified coaches, all under the watchful eye of the incomparable Charis Romano.

The Coachella Valley has always been known for golf and tennis. Slowly but surely, and thanks to the variety of people and facilities like those aforementioned, it’s also become one of the world’s most endearing pickleball meccas.

Morgan Evans is a Selkirk Pro and Team Coach. He is also a commentator for the Professional Pickleball Association and the co-founder of

DesertGolf&tennis • AprilMAy2022 31


‘Pickleball Is the Wild, Wild West’: Inside the Fight Over the Fastest-Growing Sport in America

Dining Around The Desert: Porta Via, Palm Desert

My friend Ambria wrote this article and I thought she did a great job, so why reinvent the wheel? I've added my own notes and photos.

This New Palm Desert Restaurant Will Be Your Go-to Dining Destination

Add This Newbie to Your Foodie Bucket List

As you enter through the green front doors flanked by breeze blocks, a vibrant interior is unveiled with brass details, warm millwork and an exquisite terrazzo-tiled floor. Complete with heaters and misters, the patio of Palm Desert’s all-new Porta Via is shaded by a stunning pergola and offers diners a front-row view of the surrounding mountains.

Credit: George Duchannes

Porta Via at The Shops on El Paseo is the fourth restaurant location for owner Peter Garland. The new addition to Palm Desert fills the 5,000-square-foot space at the corner of El Paseo and Ocotillo Dr, which was previously occupied by Escada. For the restaurant design, Garland partnered with LA Times Top 25 Designer Sophie Goineau to incorporate the midcentury design elements the desert is so famously known for. This is the third time this duo has collaborated on a space, and guests are sure to be smitten by the stunning attention to detail throughout the venue. “A neighborhood restaurant with a world-class feel” is how Garland describes the vibe they embody at Porta Via Palm Desert.

Described as an upscale-California bistro, Porta Via features seasonal and organic ingredients while serving weekend brunch, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. The menu at Porta Via was inspired by Garland’s cooking philosophy: combine the best seasonal, organic ingredients and prepare them simply.

Credit: George Duchannes

Menu highlights include the Porta Via Salad (fresh butter lettuce, sweet Maui onion, dill, chervil, French feta and avocado, all tossed in a housemade champagne shallot vinaigrette) along with the Grilled Ōra King Salmon, Butternut Squash Tortellini and Chef Brennens daily oyster and raw-bar selections. Also featured are artisan-inspired cocktails using locally sourced fruits, herbs and wines from small producers with sustainable and organic practices, in extension of the restaurant’s philosophy. A selection of champagne and sparkling wine are offered for celebratory events.

From healthy to hearty, the innovative menu will have something for everyone. “We are looking forward to opening the doors and welcoming the community,” shares Porta Via General Manager Rebecca Elliott. “Personally, I’m so excited to build upon the relationships I’ve nurtured in my years of hospitality and provide a warm welcome to the people of Palm Desert.”

The restaurant hopes to create a place in Palm Desert where locals and tourists alike will be welcomed by a hospitality-centered staff. “Whether it be brunch with friends, a business luncheon or a date night out, Porta Via Palm Desert will be the place you’ll want to meet,” says Elliott. Those familiar with her know the special touches she adds to a dining experience and the genuine warmth she brings to each guest.

Officially opened on May 5th, Porta Via is a vibrant and welcomed addition to El Paseo and the desert dining scene.

Sheri's notes:

Michael and I were greeted warmly by the several hosts and seated quickly at one of the half booths with views out to the patio and street.  I really like the entire vibe and color scheme as it echoes my office colors and feel.

We started off with a couple of the house specialty drinks. I had Summer In A Glass which is organic vodka, watermelon, lemonade, and mint. Michael had the Island Old Fashioned, made with 15-year aged rum, pineapple, Luxardo Cherry, orange syrup, and bitters. Both were great and we can't wait to try more of the specialty drinks.

We then shared the Tuna Tower as an appetizer which was light and refreshing. I had the Butternut Squash Ravioli with arugula and a white wine sage cream sauce, and Michael had the Brick-Pressed Roasted Chicken with sauteed green chard, mashed potatoes, and a rosemary citrus sauce.

Everything was expertly prepared, our server, Sebastian, was very attentive, as were the bussers and the rest of the staff.

Clearly, the owners of Porta Via know what they are doing, and have good training in place. We'll be returning for a team dinner in a couple of weeks and we are all looking forward to it.

Porta Via Palm Desert

Porta Via Palm Desert
73100 El Paseo
Palm Desert, CA 92260

Dining Around Laguna Beach: Splashes, Sapphire, Ysidro

Those of you who have been with me for a long time know that I lost my late husband, Bill, in 2016 to a glioblastoma brain tumor. In 2018, I met Michael, and we got engaged in 2019. Well, we finally pulled the trigger and got married on April 1st!

We went to the Surf and Sand in Laguna Beach for a few days as a quick get-away. One of the wonderful things about that area is so many great restaurants and the fabulous ocean, of course. And it’s only 2 hours away from the desert.

I’m not going to detail every last meal, but rather give you the highlights, as I highly recommend all of these restaurants.

The first night we dined with good friends Dean and Debbie at Ysidora at The Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The service was outstanding, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming, the company couldn't have been better, (along with that vintage bottle of Dom from Dean and Deb) and we all went away very glad that we’d had our first night’s dinner there.

The next night we went to Sapphire in Laguna Beach. We sat outside on their spacious patio and made good use of all the heaters as April at the beach is NOT April in the desert!

We started with cast iron roasted brussels sprouts, Romanesco cauliflower, and Kurobuta Pork Belly. Outstanding!

Michael had the crispy duroc pork schnitzel with maitake mushrooms, garden herb spaetzle, baby rainbow carrots, Meyer lemon, and basil emulsion.

I went lighter and had the chardonnay steamed Manilla clams, Mexican white prawns, and P.E.I. mussels with saffron pearl couscous, Spanish chorizo, melted garlic, and charred tomato broth.
Even though we were stuffed, we managed to find room for the Meyer lemon crème Brulee.

We will definitely be back the next time we are in the area.

As we stayed at the Surf and Sand, we had lunch at Splashes one day, which was very good. I had the Avocado Toast with heirloom tomatoes, poached eggs, shaved radish, and everything seasoning. Michael had the Grass-Fed Burger with Fresno onion jam, pepper jack, tomato, pickles, and truffle aioli.

My mom joined us for dinner one night. She had fish tacos, I had seared scallops with crisp enoki mushrooms, pickled cauliflower, puffed quinoa, and a tellicherry pomegranate reduction. Michael had lobster bisque and Icelandic cod in brick dough with purple sweet potato, heirloom carrots, heart of palm salad, yuzu, and white soy gel.

I’ve never had anything less than a stellar meal at Splashes, and this was no exception. It’s the one place I always go to in Laguna.

Dining Around the Desert: Los Arcos, La Quinta


Los Arcos is a 10-month-old, family-run, Mexican restaurant in La Quinta. Located in the “old” Ralph’s shopping center at the end of Washington, across from Starbucks.

I’d been seeing glowing reviews on Nextdoor, and so Michael and I decided to try it as there’s always room for another good Mexican restaurant in my book!

We arrived around 6:15 PM and the place was already pretty full. We opted to sit on the patio and soon Jesus arrived to greet us and take our drink order. They have applied for a liquor license, but for now, it’s just beer and wine.

Along with our beers, we started with chips, salsa, and Fresh Tableside Guacamole. Made with avocados, tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapenos, and their secret spices, it was very tasty and chunky, just how I like it. The chips were fresh, thin, and perfectly salted. The salsa was very good and came with a kick.

I had a Taco Salad with shredded Chicken which was fine, but nothing spectacular. Next time I’ll try something different as the food that was coming out of the kitchen looked great.

Michael, on the other hand, had the Mojarra Frita. A deep-fried whole tilapia fish served a bed of mixed bell peppers piled on a cast-iron skillet. Served with your choice of corn or flour tortillas. Garnished with pico de Gallo, lettuce, and avocado. It was presented sizzling on a platter and was wonderful. Moist, with crispy skin, just like a whole fish should be.


Los Arcos has an extensive menu with a nice selection of burritos, tacos, chile Rellenos, etc…everything you’d expect. The prices are very reasonable with nothing over $24.

Our server, Jesus, is also one of the owners, and couldn’t have been more personable, as was all the staff. We will be back soon!

Open from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM, 7 days a week.

50855 Washington St, La Quinta



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