Visiting the San Andreas Fault

It’s one of the best-known, and most menacing geological features in North America.  The San Andreas Fault is the oft-blamed continental rift responsible for plenty of earthquakes in California.  While the science of this tear in the earth’s crust is fascinating, did you know you can actually get up close with this amazing force of nature, just a few miles away from Palm Springs?

Visiting the San Andreas Fault line

Visiting the San Andreas Fault is easy. All it takes is a decent car. 4WD is not necessary unless you want to get to a few difficult places, and most of those are just a short hike from a public road. In some places like the Morongo Indian Reservation or the San Bernardino Mountains, you are not permitted entry or there simply are no public roads (but you can backpack in or day hike). Otherwise, access is a breeze. Many sections of the fault are in National Parks, National Forests, or on BLM land. With hundreds of miles of mostly quiet, scenic roads, you'll see dramatic landforms, horribly twisted rocks, and lots of wildlife and flowers.

Finding the fault is relatively easy. Seeing the fault is another matter. The SAF has not had a major ground-rupturing earthquake since 1906. Learn more from the USGS here. Much of the "giant crack in the ground" people imagine has been erased. The surface trace of the fault is subtle. What one has to look for are the landforms the plate motion has created. This is why we recommend taking a guided tour.  Guides familiar with the fault know the best areas to view it from.  Most tours are 2-4 hours and many include lunch.  Pricing varies from $139-$169 per person.

Below are a few of the more popular tours available:

Big Wheel Tours


Come see where earthquakes are born! You will see firsthand what geologists have called “the most tortured landscape on earth” as you visit the backcountry trails of a Bureau of Land Management Wilderness zone.
Clients will also get an up-close look at the Coachella Valley’s $500 million+ agriculture industry on the drive to and from the backcountry. Sheer canyon walls, fascinating geology, and abundant native desert plant and animal life are highlights of this tour. This is the most colorful portion of the San Andreas Fault in all of California. The spectrum of layers and colors will dazzle you. We try to cater the hiking and nature walking to each group. If clients want to hike more, we will. If clients want to keep it a strictly driving tour we will.

Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours


Extraordinary scenery abounds as your Big Red Jeep winds its way through the labyrinth of geological cuts and canyons of the San Andreas Fault Zone as your naturalist guide entertains you with stories about the plants, animals, geology, and history of the California desert. On this exciting 4WD adventure to our private Metate Ranch preserve on the San Andreas Fault you will: Experience the twisted and tortured landscape of an active earthquake fault system as your guide describes the geology of the area and you explore the skeleton of the earth. Walk between the steep walls of deep canyons created by the powerful forces of plate tectonics, water, wind, and time. Explore a natural palm oasis where crystal-clear water bubbles up from the underground aquifer. Learn about the culture and lifestyle of the Cahuilla Indians and how they used the desert’s plants for food, medicine, tools, weapons, shelter, and more. Learn about the plants and animals of the California desert. Discover the fascinating history of the Coachella Valley. Enjoy spectacular views as your guide describes the geologic forces and local history that shaped the Coachella Valley.

Private Tours - Private tours are sold by the vehicle. Each Jeep holds up to 7 guests.

Adventure Hummer Tours


Start your 3-hour tour by making your way to the meeting point in Palm Desert, or request hotel pickup in Palm Springs. Jump in the open-air Hummer and enjoy the dry desert wind in your face.
After arriving at the San Andreas Fault, walk right over it on a bridge that spans the ravine. Your expert guide will regale you with amazing geological facts about the fault and speak of its interesting history. Some of the oldest canyons in the planet are here. Gawk at the strange rock formations and keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, particularly when the tour moves on to Berdoo Canyon, also known as the Big Game Corridor.
Visit Thousand Palms Oasis, the third-largest oasis in the world. Expect to be dazzled by the sight, as you take a 30-minute eco walk here. Learn the fascinating history of the local Cahuilla Indians and visit the cabin of the first settler who resided in the area.
For more information, check out these sites: