The 3 deserts of California

California is the United States’ poster child for sun-kissed skin and summer settings. Located on the west coast of the country, these are the three deserts of California.

The United States offers a million shades of scenery and atmospheres, depending on personal preference. It is also home to three main stretches of sand that offer tonnes of attractions. This is all you need to know about the three deserts of California.

California is perhaps one of the country’s most popular states, boasting a sunshine climate that makes it an ideal destination year-round.

Home to boundless coastlines, pristine beaches, dynamic cities, and colourful inhabitants, there’s much to see and do in California.

3. The Great Basin Desert – the country’s only ‘cold’ desert

The Great Basin Desert is one of the three deserts of California.

Nestled between the Sierra Nevada and the Wasatch Range in western America is the mighty Great Basin Desert. This desert covers the states of Nevada, Idaho, Utah, and eastern California.

It is different from the other entries on our list of the three deserts of California as it is deemed the only ‘cold’ desert in the United States. This means that while summer is dry and hot, winter sees most of its precipitation in the form of snow. This is a sight to behold, we tell you!

The desert in question results from a natural phenomenon called the ‘rainshadow effect’. This is where the wind blows in from the Pacific Ocean and passes over the Sierra Nevada.

The Great Basin Desert is the States' only cold desert.

During this process, the winds lose most of their moisture via rainfall, and by the time they reach the other side of the mountain range, the winds are dry resulting in the Great Basin Desert.

A whopping 33 summits stand tall in this desert, with some stretching 9,800 feet (3,000 metres) to the sky. The valleys are also elevated, and the terrain ranges from pinyon-juniper forests to low salty dry lakes.

2. The Colorado Desert – for desert resorts and star-studded festivals

The Colorado Desert is a must-visit when it comes to deserts of California.
Credit: Pixabay / Pexels

Located in California is the Colorado Desert. This expanse is, in fact, part of the larger Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran Desert is a 260,000 square-kilometre (100,000 square-miles) stretch of land that touches Arizona, Mexico, and California, of course.

The Colorado Desert is one of the three deserts of California, and it occupies approximately 7 million acres (which translates to about 28,000 square kilometres).

Unlike the other entries on our list of Californian deserts, the Colorado Desert boasts a unique climate. With more summer days than its competitors, little to no frost (even during winter), and two rainy seasons (one during summer and another during winter), its climate distinguishes it from all others.

Coachella takes place on the Colorado Desert.

The Colorado Desert has become increasingly popular in recent years. This is because it is home to Coachella Valley, where a star-studded music and arts festival takes place annually.

In this desert, resort cities like Palm Springs thrive. Favoured by the rich and famous as a respite from the busy city life of LA, a trip to the Colorado Desert can be quite the experience after all.

1. The Mojave Desert – the Californian desert for attractions

Joshua Trees on the Mojave Desert.

Arguably the Mojave Desert is one of America’s most famous desert destinations for native and international tourists. It is located mainly in California, with areas stretching into Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.

Much like the aforementioned Great Basin Desert, the Mojave Desert is a result of the ‘rainshadow effect‘. Spanning 124,000 square kilometres (47,877 square miles), the region’s most iconic species is the Joshua Tree. This tree is solely indigenous to the Mojave Desert.

Sparsely populated with temperatures that can soar above 40°C (104°F), this harsh climate makes it a challenge for life to prosper. It is widely uninhabited, aside from its small-town settlements that dot the landscape. The largest city in the Mojave Desert is Las Vegas, although this is not in California but in Nevada.

The Mojave Desert is perhaps the most famous of the deserts of California.
Credit: Pixabay / ArtTower

Aside from Las Vegas, however, there are tonnes of reasons to visit this desert of California.

Joshua Tree National Park, a hidden gem in the USA in spring, Death Valley National Park, and the Mojave National Preserve are key attractions for those who love the great outdoors. Ripe with mountain hikes, outdoor excursions, impressive backdrops, and stunning landscapes, there is, in fact, much to keep you curious in this Californian desert.

Paris Donnatella Callan
Paris Donnatella Callan
Paris Donnatella Callan is an avid writer and traveller. From a young age, nomadic parents placed a strong emphasis on education in real experience and the outdoors - a trait which has carried through her life and into her career. She has travelled Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Australia and still claims that wanderlust tempts her daily. Saying that she believes Ireland - her homeland - is the most enchanting place she has ever been and is passionate about documenting the Emerald Isle. Chances are, you can find her drinking coffee in some hidden gem cafe in Dublin, planning her next big trip.

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