The Pines to Palm Highway is technically California State Route 74, a street that's been in place since the US first started the "State Route" thing. As you can probably guess, it's called the "Pines to Palms" because the scenery, going from west to east, gradually changes from pine forests to the desert, to the lush oasis and palm trees of the Coachella Valley. Only at the very beginning and very end will you drive flat, straight roads; the bulk of the journey is winding and switchbacked, steep climbs and descents through numerous mountain peaks and valleys. To put it plainly, it's a dynamic drive.
I chose to bid adieu to a long weekend in Palm Springs with a dramatic departuredriving the opposite way (Palms to Pines) so that I could wave goodbye to the city below me from the Coachella Valley Vista Point. If you're a safe and confident driver, I absolutely recommend it for at least a day-ride. Bored in Palm Springs? First, you're doing something wrong, but you should use the time to at least drive up to the outlook and then back down.
The wind up there...incredible. The temperature drop from only an hour ago back down in the valley...huge. There's a reason drivers stop only briefly for a snapshot and continue on. I got a bit of the shakes, while my teeth chattered and the brisk gusts tangled my loose hair over my face. Invigorating.
From Palm Springs I drove to Temecula, and on down to San Diego. The total time was around three hours, and I used my Google Map Directions on my iPhone for the entire thing. Next time I'm doing the road properlyfrom Pines to Palmsso that I can experience the moment everyone raves aboutthe moment when you're just driving along and you turn a corner and BOOM there's the entire valley down the hood of the car. And the descent begins.
[Photos: Cynthia Drescher for Jaunted]