The varied habitats along the Byway attract a variety of birds. Birds of prey including prairie falcons, bald eagles, and white-tailed kites hunt from the skies or perch in trees in various areas. The Santa Rosa Mountains host golden eagles and red-tailed hawks, among others. Lake Hemet on Highway 74 provides a home for great blue herons and Caspian terns. During the winter, it is home to migrant waterfowl including Canada geese and American white pelicans. California quail live in the surrounding area.
The Santa Rosa Mountains provides habitat for the threatened Peninsular bighorn sheep that can sometimes be spotted on rocky ledges, and for the desert slender salamander. More common wildlife inhabitants include mule deer, bobcats, great plains toads and western rattlesnakes. Deer might be seen at almost any of the stops along the Byway. Coyotes, gray foxes, California ground squirrels and western gray squirrels may also be seen along the route.
The Bureau of Land Management's Visitor Center along Highway 74 offers information on the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway and on the Santa Rosa Mountains National Scenic Area. Along the sometimes steep and winding road, watch for pulloffs or scenic overlooks where you can take some time to watch for wildlife. For instance, the national forest's Cahuilla Tewanet vista point is wheelchair accessible, and offers a deck viewpoint with picnic tables and a quarter-mile paved interpretive trail. The arid surroundings are home to many lizards, and birds including golden eagles and pinyon jays. At Indian Vista overlook on State Highway 243, wildlife amid the oak trees and brush includes mule deer, acorn woodpeckers, towhees and many lizards, including alligator lizards, western skinks, and coast-horned lizards. Lake Hemet, a municipal reservoir and popular boating and fishing site on Highway 74, attracts resident and wintering waterfowl.
Distance: 125 Miles
Directions: From Palm Springs, CA, Take Highway 111 east to Palm Desert, then Highway 74 west climbing into the Santa Rosa Mountain. At Mountain Center, take Highway 243 north to Banning and Interstate 10.
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