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Inland Empire Drive Tour
A Seven-Day Road Trip of Eastern SoCal
Tour San Bernardino, Redlands, and Beaumont, and hit I-10 for Palm Springs, Indio, and Joshua Tree National Monument. Then on to Blythe, Parker Dam Lake Havasu City, Needles, and the East Mojave National Scenic Area. Head west to Barstow on Route 66 and I-40, then hit I-15 south to Victorville and back to San Bernardino.
Day 1 & 2: SAN BERNARDINO / REDLANDS / BEAUMONT
San Bernardino, Redlands, and Beaumont are part of California's "Inland Empire.” Even though the Spanish established a San Gabriel Mission extension here in 1830, it was a group of head-strong Mormons from Utah (without the blessings of Brigham Young) that founded San Bernardino in 1851. On Court Street, a marker indicates where they built a 700 by 300-foot stockade for protection during a local uprising.
Visit A Special Place Children’s Museum, 1003 East Highland, (909) 881-1201, where kids have fun interacting with hands-on exhibits. You can fish, swim, picnic and enjoy the water slide at Glen Helen Regional Park, 2555 Devore Road, (909) 880-2522. Until 1880, when citrus groves began developing, the area was dotted with cattle ranches. The area is now a major contributor to California’s citrus production.
In Redlands, visit some of the 350 Victorian-era mansions built by citrus industry fortunes. Known as the “Marmalade Mansions,” several are open to the public. The Morey Mansion, 190 Terracina Blvd., (909) 793-7970, is open for tours, call for times. Kimberly Crest House & Gardens, 1325 Prospect Park, (909) 792-2111, built in 1897 on 6.25 acres, is a 3-story French Chateau with gardens and fruit groves. The only Abraham Lincoln Shrine & Museum, (909) 798-7632, west of the Mississippi is in Redlands at Smiley Park, behind the A. K. Smiley Library, 125 Vine Street, (909) 798-7565, itself on the California Historic Landmark list. The San Bernardino Asistencia Mission, 26930 Barton Road, (909) 793-5402, was built in 1830. It was part of a second phase inland-mission thrust by the Franciscans that ended in 1834. Restoration began in the 1930s. Two other historic buildings in town to see are: the Post Office, 201 Brookside Avenue at Eureka, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and the Santa Fe Railway Station, Redlands & Orange Street.
San Bernardino County Museum, 2024 Orange Tree Lane, (909) 798-8570, admission fee, has a Conestoga wagon and interesting artifacts from the Calico Early Man site near Barstow. Take the Yucaipa Blvd. exit east from I-10 to Oak Glen Road and the Yucaipa Adobe, San Bernardino County’s oldest house, built in 1842. Yucaipa, Oak Glen and Cherry Valley are apple-growing areas. Tour the Los Rios Ranch, 39610 Oak Glen Road, (909) 797-1005, to see their orchards and vineyards.
Close by is the Parrish Pioneer Apple Ranch, 38561 Oak Glen, (909) 797-1753, dating to 1867, with a picnic area and animal park. In the heart of Oak Glen is Oak Tree Village, (909) 797-5737, a family fun center with shops, restaurants, art gallery, trout fishing ponds, gold panning, train rides and more. Continue south on Oak Glen Road through Cherry Valley to Beaumont and take I-10 east to Palm Springs and Indio area.
Day 3 & 4: PALM SPRINGS / INDIO
Explore the Joshua Tree National Park, an 850-square-mile park with both a high (Mojave) and a low (Colorado) desert environment. From the Indio Best Western property, go about 23 miles east on I-10 to Cottonwood Springs Road and turn north for the visitor center and south entrance to the park. Admission is per car and you get current information on traveling the area. Interesting sights, great views and nature hikes are throughout the park.
The Cholla Cactus Garden and Ocotillo Patch are beside the El Dorado Mine Road. Take the Loop Road to explore the Jumbo Rocks and experience the Keys View from the top of Little San Bernardino Mountains, that looks over the Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, and all the way to the Salton Sea. You exit in Joshua Tree at Twentynine Palms Highway (62). Follow 62 west through Yucca Valley and Morongo Valley. At East Drive is Big Morongo Canyon Preserve & Covington Park, (760) 363-7190, open Wednesday to Sunday, 7:30 am to sunset, a narrow canyon oasis supporting 300 or more species of plants and animals, with hiking trails and picnic areas.
Continue on 62 to Desert Hot Springs and Cabot’s Old Indian Pueblo, 67616 East Desert View Avenue, (760) 329-7610, filled with pioneer relics and Native American artifacts gathered by desert scavenger Cabot Yerxa. He built the 35-room structure in Hopi pueblo-style, with walls two feet thick and 150 windows. It’s a trading post, museum and art gallery; admission is charged. Take 62 to I-10 and back to Palm Springs area. Moorten Botanical Garden, 1701 South Palm Canyon Drive, (760) 327-6555, two miles south of town, next to the Best Western Inn at Palm Springs, is open daily, year-round. It exhibits over 3,000 species of desert plants in only two acres.
In Cathedral City, the Camelot Park Family Entertainment Center, 67-700 E. Palm Canyon Drive, (760) 321-9893, fee, has everything for a fun experience. From miniature golf to bumper boats, from go karts to laser tag, they have it all. For water fun, visit the Oasis Waterpark, (760) 327-0499, fee, in Palm Springs off I-10 and Gene Autry Trail, between Ramon Road and E. Palm Canyon Drive. Take I-10 east to Blythe.
Day 5: BLYTHE
In Blythe you can fish, golf, explore the desert or ride the Colorado River. Depart on US 95 north that follows the river to 62.
Take it east across Parker Dam, the dam that creates Lake Havasu, and follow AZ 95 north to Lake Havasu City, Arizona and the London Bridge. Continue north on AZ 95 for 23 miles to I-40, taking it west to Needles.
Day 6: NEEDLES
Needles is a historic Santa Fe Railroad town founded in 1883. It was also a stop on Route 66. Much of Broadway Street still has recognizable symbols from that era. The El Graces Hotel, next to Amtrak station, is now a historical museum. During the heyday of railroads, it was a Harvey House.
The East Mojave National Scenic Area (EMNSA), 1.5 million acres of BLM managed land with scenic views and lots of history is best explored in a 4-wheel drive vehicle. The Chamber, 100 G Street, (760) 326-2050, has area maps. Back on I-40, turn off to Essex and follow a 75 mile loop of Route 66 to Ludlow. Amboy has a gas station and roadside relics from that era. Rejoin I-40 at Ludlow and head west to Barstow.
Day 7: BARSTOW
Barstow is the first sizable town on Route 66 west of Needles and is historically connected to gold mining and railroading. A Harvey House (Casa del Desierto) was built here next to the railroad station at First Avenue and Riverside Drive. The original burned in 1908 and replaced in 1911 with the current one. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Check with Barstow Chamber at 222 East Main Street, Ste. 216, 92311, (760) 256-8617 for area information. The California Desert Information Center, 831 Barstow Road, 92311, (760) 256-8313, has information on EMNSA and off-highway areas. Visit Calico Ghost Town, 11 miles northeast off I-15, (760) 254-2122, open daily year-round, admission fee, a former silver and borax boom town. Go seven miles further east on I-15 to Minneola Road, then east 2.4 miles to the Calico Early Man Site, (760) 256-8313, open year-round, Wednesday to Sunday. Items discovered here indicated a human species older than homo sapiens.
Take I-15 south to Barstow and on to Victorville. Past Barstow is a large Factory Outlet complex. In Victorville visit the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Museum, (760) 243-4547, to see a lot of personal items belonging to America’s favorite cowboy and cowgirl. Take the Roy Rogers Drive exit off I-15, and follow signs, admission fee. The California Route 66 Museum, 16849 D Street, (760) 261-US66, has an old road signs collection and other mementos of the route. Follow I-15 to San Bernardino.