It's time for day 2 of our fabulous mini road trip to the Palm Springs area. You can read about day 1 here.
Once we were up and dressed, we headed to the Mission Hills Market & Cafe which is located at The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa. It opens at 6am, but we didn't get a start quite that early, it was more like 8am. We picked up a few fresh bakery items, coffee and drinks for the kids and made our way to Joshua Tree National Park for a breakfast picnic and hike at Cottonwood Springs.
It took about 50 minutes (give or take) to drive to the Visitor Center at Cottonwood Springs, where we picked up our free annual National Park Pass (military pass) and went over a map to find a couple of kid-friendly hiking trails with the staff.
On our way to the hiking trail we stopped at the Cottonwood Campground, which was completely deserted, and we enjoyed our picnic breakfast in the quiet listening to birds chirping nearby. We also spotted lots of black-tailed jack rabbits, who were a little wary of us. We took a short walk after breakfast and they kept a close eye on us to make sure we didn't get too close.
After our little walk to look for more jackrabbits and birds we drove to the end of the road where the hiking trail started. We didn't go too far because we had a big day ahead of us, but did take a short walk to the top of the stairs you can see in one of the pictures below.
Once we were done with our short hike, we hopped into the car and drove into Joshua Tree National Park stopping at various signs along the way to learn more about the landscape.
We headed back to The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa at lunchtime, changed into swimsuits and headed straight for the Las Brisas pool again. We ordered poolside lunches and drinks from the Las Brisas Café and Caliente Bar, and then Flynn headed back to the waterslide while M and I swam in the pool for an hour.
After lunch and a swim, we took off again. This time we hopped into the car for a 25 minute drive to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway where we took a ride on the aerial tram from Chino Canyon to the Mountain Station at Mount San Jacinto State Park. We had booked tickets the day before, including dinner reservations at Peaks Restaurant located inside the Mountain Station.
The ride on the aerial tram is fabulous and the kids (especially Flynn) loved it. It's all standing room on the tram, but it very slowly rotates 360 degrees as you go up the mountain so you get to experience the views from every angle.
Before dinner we headed out on a nature walk, where we spotted various birds, squirrels and even a snake slithered across the path right in front of us. It was absolutely breathtaking up there. We also went inside the Mountain Station and watch a short film about the area and took in the amazing views, and the not-so-amazing ones, being the billowing smoke from the nearby mountain fires.
After exploring a little, we headed to dinner at Peaks Restaurant and had a fabulous view from our window table. The kids were thrilled to see a raccoon on the deck outside begging for food from all of the visitors.
Take a look at the bottom right photo above. This was what I could see in my mirror as we were driving back to The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa. As the sun was setting, it was turning the smoke from the local mountain fire brilliant shades of orange, yellow and red.
Plan your next California weekend adventure with the help of Starwood. They've sent a few of us to various locations in California to give you the very best insider tips, check out kid-friendly resorts and gather information on each area to make your California weekend vacation a fabulous one.
- Starwood California Weekends website
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- Starwood Prefered Guest on Twitter #CaliforniaWeekends
- Starwood Prefered Guest on Pinterest
- The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa on Facebook
- The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa on Twitter
- The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa on Instagram
Disclosure: We were provided with two nights accommodation at The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa and dinner at Pinzimini.