By: Laura Randall
It’s prime vacation season, and with that comes the joys and challenges of deciding how exactly to spend all that leisure time.
Some people want their vacations to be all about infinity pools, umbrella-topped drinks, and large costumed characters. Others prefer to scale a mountain or master a new activity like standup paddleboarding or camel trekking. I say, why not do both?
As I rolled into Palm Springs on a recent holiday weekend, I had only one thing on my mind — hiking the mountains that surround the resort town. I had an agenda and a looming book deadline and figured there would be little time for lounging by the pool or browsing the boutiques of Palm Canyon Drive. But with some planning (and a reliable alarm clock) I was able to squeeze in some quality pool time and sample the town’s nightlife without feeling any guilt about leaving my hiking boots behind.
Most trails in Palm Springs are open dawn to dusk, so I was able to get up early and hit the trails long before the trendy brunch spots started pouring the first mimosas of the day. I ran into other hikers on the trails, mostly locals carrying out regular exercise routines, all of us quietly soaking up the expansive desert views and fresh morning air. Then I rolled back to the hotel around noon and cooled off and fueled up as the midday temperatures peaked. By 5 p.m., I was ready to hit the trails again for a sunset hike.
It helps when trail systems are within easy walking or driving distance from hotels, as many are in Palm Springs. But most resort destinations have hiking or walking paths within reach. It helps to research them via guidebooks or web sites in advance of your trip, but you can also ask around once you get to your destination. Another possibility is combining a long urban walk or bike ride to an attraction. When in a big city, skip the subway and put on your sneakers to trek to a museum or district you want to check out. You’ll probably discover new attractions or eateries along the way. Just remember to pack lightly or it will feel more like drudgery than a brisk walk.
In Los Angeles, you can visit an iconic attraction and take a vigorous hike without moving your car. The Griffith Observatory shares a parking lot with the Charlie Turner Trail, a popular three-mile hike that leads up to Mt. Hollywood and unforgettable city-to-ocean views. Not far away, the Palos Verdes Peninsula has a well-maintained network of hiking trails that lead circuitously to quiet beaches and tidepool areas.
I returned home from my three days in Palm Springs feeling rested yet energized by all that good old-fashioned exercise. I’m confident my next vacation will combine leisure time and physical fitness in a way that leaves me with lasting memories.
A native of suburban Philadelphia, Laura Randall has lived in the Los Angeles area since 1999. Her byline can be found in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Sunset Magazine, and many other consumer magazines and newspapers. She is the author of Peaceful Places: Los Angeles, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Los Angeles, and Day & Overnight Hikes in Palm Springs (all published by Menasha Ridge). A mother of two, she writes about her explorations and discoveries in Los Angeles County (both with and without kids) on HikeswithJack.wordpress.com.