Outside of Palm Springs, Southern California’s deserts are best known for low-rent amenities like scrubby plants, failed developments and junked cars. However, within two state parks are three badland oases — all best appreciated before Memorial Day.
|The Palms at Indian Head
2220 Hoberg Rd.
Borrego Springs, Calif.
|La Casa del Zorro Desert Resort
3845 Yaqui Pass Rd.
Borrego Springs, Calif.
|Furnace Creek Inn
Death Valley, Calif.
Closes May 13; reopens Oct. 13
|Circa: 1947. Rebuilt twice, once after a fire in 1958 and again in 1993, when owners David and Cynthia Leibert bought and refurbished the dilapidated California Modern resort.
Bragging rights: Once a favorite of Bing Crosby, Montgomery Clift, Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe
Amenities: Oversized Olympic-length pool; expect the original subterranean grotto bar to be restored this time next year.
Best room: Nos. 11 & 12, which have oversized stone fireplaces, wet bars, private entrances and overlook the pool ($189)
Natural wonder: Hotel shares a common boundary with the Anza-Borrego State Park; Palm Canyon hiking trail starts at the Palms’ back door and visuals include a waterfall and bighorn sheep.
Food: Hotel restaurant Krazy Coyote closes for the season on Mother’s Day, but the Leiberts also own in-town sister eatery Red Ocotillo, which serves breakfast all day.
And: Warm cookies delivered at sunset; no phones in the rooms.
Bragging rights: Area film shoots have included “Damnation Alley,” “Bugsy” and “The Young Lions.”
Amenities: Five pools, archery range, tennis courts and access to Rams Hill Country Club
Best room: Casitas with 1-4 bedrooms, all with fireplaces, private pool and spa ($385- $1,660)
Natural wonder: Desert eco-tours led by Paul Johnson, former naturalist for the Anza-Borrego State Park, include a dry wash full of smoke trees where white-throated thrushes roost upside down at night, crimson-tipped ocotillo bushes and pungent creosote plants topped with bright yellow flowers.
Food: 6,600-bottle wine cellar in the Butterfield Room; local produce like dates and Borrego grapefruit
And: Slippers laid out at turndown; staff prides itself on discretion.
Bragging rights: Honeymoon spot for Clark Gable and Carole Lombard
Amenities: Spring-fed swimming pool, horseback riding, private 3,000-foot airstrip and the world’s lowest golf course, 214 feet below sea level
Best room: The freestanding Pool Bungalow, with a private stairway to the pool ($375).
Natural wonder: Four miles away is the Devil’s Golf Course, a collection of jagged crystalline salt formations; 17 miles away is Badwater, 282 feet below sea level and the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.
Food: Rattlesnake empanadas at the Inn Dining Room — yep, tastes like chicken.
And: The extra gravitational pull at the Furnace Creek course means recalibrating your golf game.