California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - 31

11

SoCal Stargazing Tour
TWENTYNINE PALMS

BORREGO SPRINGS

ARCH ROCK
NATURE TRAIL
CHOLLA CACTUS GARDEN

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP

CAP ROCK AT
JOSHUA TREE

The next morning, snake your way down the twisting Banner Grade
to Borrego Springs, California's first designated International Dark
Sky Community. Surrounded by mountains and located in the midst
of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park's 600,000-acres, the small town
is uniquely sheltered from the glare of urban lights. Pitch-black nights

JULIAN

are illuminated by millions of stars, but daylight also offers plenty of
charms. Take a driving tour of what are known as Borrego Springs' Sky
Art Sculptures, a series of fantastic metal animals by Ricardo Breceda.
Walk to the palm oasis in Borrego Palm Canyon or hike through The
Slot, a narrow siltstone canyon sculpted by water and time.
After the sun sets, head to Borrego Palm Canyon Campground,
where free stargazing events are offered on select weekends. Or book
a spot with Borrego Night Sky Tours and join astronomer Dennis

SAN DIEGO

Mammana on a private excursion. If you'd rather stargaze solo, there's
no bad site in the park, but astronomy clubs flock to Little Blair Valley

Drive your way to distant galaxies and cosmic
nebulae on this star-studded road trip.
Thanks to low humidity and a remote location far from urban glare,

for its clear skies. Other top spots are Culp Valley and Mountain Palm
Springs Campground, but you might need four-wheel drive.
On day three, roll along the Salton Sea's northwest shore to Joshua
Tree National Park. Wind through smoke-tree-dotted desert washes

the California desert lends itself to jet-black nights and clear skies-the

to the Cholla Cactus Garden, where hundreds of teddybear cholla

perfect conditions for admiring the heavens. This itinerary takes you to

fade into a backdrop of purple hills. Work your way north to the park's

places where you can peer through telescopes, talk with astronomers,

higher elevations to marvel at cartoon-like Joshua trees. At White

and gaze in awe at glowing planets and sparkling stars set against a

Tank Campground, stroll to Arch Rock, a graceful span of ivory-hued

black velvet canvas.

granite. Wander the path around Skull Rock, or hike to the summit of

From San Diego, the most intriguing route to the desert is through

5,457-foot Ryan Mountain for panoramic views.

the mountains. Follow Highway 79 to the Gold Rush town of Julian,

As evening falls, pick a spot to lay out a blanket near Cap Rock's

beloved by apple-pie fans for its overflowing orchards and buttery

quirky rock formations. If you're willing to backtrack, Pinto Basin Road

crusts. Dig into a slice at Julian Pie Company or Apple Alley Bakery,

south of the Cholla Cactus Garden has little car traffic and extremely

then head to the Observer's Inn, an astronomy-themed bed-and-

dark skies. Or head north to Sky's the Limit Observatory and Nature

breakfast boasting three research-grade telescopes. Every evening,

Center just outside the park's Twentynine Palms entrance. Every

innkeeper Michael Leigh offers one-hour guided "sky tours" in his

Saturday night, an impromptu "star party" takes place-amateur

rooftop observatory (and non-guests are welcome, too, with a $30

astronomers set up their telescopes, and visitors gather with lawn

advanced reservation).

chairs and binoculars to share in the stellar spectacle.

31



California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures

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California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - Cover1
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California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - 1
California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - Contents
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