Visit: Big Morongo Canyon Preserve 11055 East Dr, Morongo Valley, CA 92256
There is a large sign pointing the way to the preserve from the main highway. Take it slow as you leave the paved road and head into the dirt parking lot. There are bathrooms and trash cans here. As you enter the preserve, you’ll walk through an exhibit that talks about the flora and fauna of the preserve and more information about the Sand to Snow National Monument.
This is a good spot to pick up a map of the preserve and leave a donation.
I believe we took the trails that went around the edge of the preserve, which is just over 2 miles total of trails. There is elevation gain in parts and it is very exposed, so be prepared for that. You can find a map here.
We saw signs for native tacos at Cactus Mart on our way to the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve. Paulina and I got pretty excited and it was great that Shawnté and Oshie (in the car in front of us) were equally excited about the idea of some native tacos for lunch. We vowed to visit Cactus Mart after checking out the preserve.
Cactus Mart is located in Morongo Valley, and is part nursery part hardware store part gallery. I have driven by many times on the way to Joshua Tree and was always interested in stopping but the sign for food was really what got me to stop this time!
First, let’s talk about these native tacos. They are also known as “Indian tacos” and are made using fry bread. You can get tacos with the fry bread or you can sweet fry bread, is which also awesome. I had a beef native taco and pineapple spinach drink, abd shared a dessert fry bread. I wish I ordered a second taco to take home with me…or to eat right then and there.
Seriously, how good does this taco look? I could eat a million of them. It was very satisfying after hiking in the warm weather! My drink is in the background and the pineapple spinach combo made the juice not overly sweet, which was perfect for me.
Second, there are no dogs allowed at Cactus Mart because there are two furry mascots: Butch (above) and Sundance! They are both very friendly and used to visitors. Paulina found Butch hanging out in the part of the nursery where the cuttings are set aside to take root before they’re sold. It was a perfect spot for him.
Plan to spend at least 30-1 hour here depending on if you plan on eating. There are a few places to explore, lots of plants to check out, and a great gallery/boutique area to browse. I picked up a small back of coffee beans from the Joshua Tree Coffee Company and an amazing yucca bloom candle from the Joshua Tree Candle Company, two of the local brands carried at Cactus Mart.
Hadley’s Date Shakes and Dinosaurs
Before saying goodbye, we took Paulina over to the iconic Cabazon dinosaurs that were featured in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure even though she isn’t familiar with the movie. We made a stop at Hadley’s market for date shakes and to get some samples before parting ways. I got a giant date shake, which comes with this reusable cup! It’s the little things in life.
If you find yourself with extra time on your way to Joshua Tree or in need of a break from the #poollife of Palm Springs, head to Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, Cactus Mart, the Cabazon Dinosaurs, and Hadley’s for a quick day trip.