It's not unheard of for the ground to start shaking in Palm Springs.
A natural palm oasis at the San Andreas Fault — Photo courtesy of heystax
It's not from the crowds at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival or the planes landing at Palm Springs International Airport. Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley actually sit on an intricate system of fault lines, the largest of which is the San Andreas Fault. This transform fault is the result of the Pacific and North American tectonic plates sliding past each other, creating mountains, canyons and, at times, earthquakes.
For locals, a little shaking is business as usual, but for tourists who are used to the ground staying still, a small earthquake can rattle you to your core.
To give you an up-close and personal look at this natural wonder, Desert Adventures offers jeep tours deep into the canyons of the San Andreas Fault. And yes, it's completely safe.
A directional sign at the San Andreas fault line — Photo courtesy of Marco Combs
Known for their red jeeps, Desert Adventures offers a San Andreas Fault Eco-Tour that gives tourists a glimpse into the fault line, the desert's ecosystem and the history of the native Cahuilla people. Book an early morning tour to beat the heat.
The tour guides are nature enthusiasts with vast knowledge of the local geology and history. Tours typically start with a visit to a natural desert oasis, where you'll see a pool of pristine water that's bubbled up from the natural aquifers under the desert floor. These aquifers are what nourish the palm oases you sometimes see on nature trails and hikes throughout the desert.
A natural pond at the San Andreas fault line — Photo courtesy of Marco Combs
Speaking of nature trails and hiking, you'll have a chance to walk through fairly flat, easy-to-navigate trails while on the tour, including the short hike to the palm oasis. Afterward, you'll venture deeper into an exclusive part of the fault line and visit a recreated Cahuilla Indian village. Your tour guide will explain how the native people survived in the desert without the modern luxuries of air conditioning and swimming pools.
The next part of the tour is the heart of the fault line. You'll drive through narrow slot canyons formed by millions of years of pressure causing the ground to jet upward. These tall, striated rocks create an almost-eerie quiet, and it's hard not to wonder at the power of nature while surrounded by the canyon and wrapped in its silence.
The Desert Adventures tour takes you through slot canyons in the fault — Photo courtesy of KateEditor
You'll also have a chance to climb up a narrow slot canyon. The sandstone walls of these deep canyons have been polished and smoothed from the force of rushing water over millions of years.
While you probably won't feel an earthquake during your tour, you will walk away with a deeper understanding for both the fault line and the early history of the area.
Desert Adventures often offers tour packages that include lunch, a convenient way to end your San Andreas Fault tour. If you don't opt for a meal package, you can always enjoy lunch at one of Palm Springs' best restaurants after your tour.