This scenic driving tour climbs from the desert through the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains, before descending again to the desert. The route passes through a series of areas preserved for animal habitat, ranging from desert oasis to snow-capped mountains, and parts of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument and San Bernardino National Forest. Drivers can pull off the winding and often steep road at a number of pulloffs or lookout points, each with habitat ranging from forested mountainsides with pine, oak and fir, to a reservoir, to arid brush- and cactus-covered stretches -- not to mention sweeping views of mountains and valleys.
Picture: A deer stares out from a field of spring wildflowers in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument , near the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway.
Animals you may see here
- Birds: The varied habitats along the Byway attract a variety of birds. Birds of prey including prairie falcons, bald eagles, and white-tailed kites hunt from the skies or perch in trees in various areas. The Santa Rosa Mountains host golden eagles and redtail hawks, among others. Lake Hemet on Highway 74 provides a home for great blue herons and Caspian terns. During the winter, it is home to migrant waterfowl including Canada geese and American white pelicans. California quail live in the surrounding area.
- Other animals: The Santa Rosa Mountains provides habitat for the threatened Peninsular bighorn sheep that can sometimes be spotted on rocky ledges, and for the desert slender salamander. More common wildlife inhabitants include mule deer, bobcats, great plains toads and western rattlesnakes.
Deer might be seen at almost any of the stops along the Byway. Coyotes, gray foxes, California ground squirrels and western gray squirrels may also be seen along the route.
Viewing tips for this area
- The Bureau of Land Management's Visitor Center along Highway 74 offers information on the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway and on the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument .
- Along the sometimes steep and winding road, watch for pulloffs or scenic overlooks where you can take some time to watch for wildlife. For instance, the national forest's Cahuilla Tewanet vista point is wheelchair accessible, and offers a deck viewpoint with picnic tables and a 1/4-mile paved interpretive trail. (Use the "back" button on your browser to return to this page.) The arid surroundings are home to many lizards, and birds including golden eagles and pinyon jays.
- At Indian Vista overlook on State Highway 243, wildlife amid the oak trees and brush includes mule deer, acorn woodpeckers, towhees and many lizards, including alligator lizards, western skinks, and coast-horned lizards.
- Lake Hemet, a municipal reservoir and popular boating and fishing site on Highway 74, attracts resident and wintering waterfowl.
- Be sure to see tips for "Ultimate Wildlife Watching."
How to get here
- From Interstate 10 at Banning, take Highway 243 south through Idyllwild. At Mountain Center, turn left (east) onto Highway 74 (the Palms to Pines Highway). Drive east to Palm Desert. Continue on Highway 74 to rejoin Interstate 10 at Cathedral City, or turn left (west) on Highway 111 to go through Palm Springs before rejoining I-10.
- OR: From Palm Springs, take Highway 111 east to Palm Desert, then Highway 74 west climbing into the Santa Rosa Mountain. At Mountain Center, take Highway 243 north to Banning and Interstate 10.
Size: A driving tour of about 67 miles is designated as the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway. Driving distance to and from Interstate 10 is about 125 miles.
Managed by: Various parcels of public land along or near the Byway are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office; U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest; Lake Hemet Municipal Water District; and other agencies. Some land in the area is privately owned.
The route combines a State Scenic Highway and U.S. Forest Service Scenic Byway.
For more information, contact: The Bureau of Land Management operates a Visitor's Center along the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway, on Highway 74 west of Palm Desert. The Visitor's Center, built in cooperation with the City of Palm Desert, is at the southern entrance to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains
National Monument. Call (760) 862-9984, or drop by -- staff can help visitors with information including scenic overlook locations; a bookstore operated by the non-profit Friends of the Desert offers a wide selection of books, maps and trail guides. The center is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday to Friday, except federal holidays.
Or contact: Bureau of Land Management, Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office; U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest (909) 659-2114; or Lake Hemet Municipal Water District, (909) 658-3241.
Site 195 in the California Wildlife Viewing Guide.
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