Herp Queries: Where Can I Go Herping In Southern California?

Question: I don’t drive yet, so my parents take me into the wild when I can go at all. The places they take me are always parks full of people, and I never see many reptiles in them. I always move slowly, walking through the areas to try to sneak up on any reptiles I might be able to find, but other park visitors make a lot of noise and end up scaring everything away.

Alligator lizard

Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock

Alligator lizard.

I would prefer to avoid such busy places, but can’t do much until I can drive myself. Until then, do you have any advice about any places here in Southern California where I can get close to lots of reptiles, just for taking pictures?
Justin Lane, Escondido, Calif.

Answer: I have the perfect place for you, Justin, and it’s based on personal experience. Go to Palm Springs east of Los Angeles, and seek out one of several canyon walks into the San Jacinto Mountains north of the city. Palm trees line the waterways through scenically bouldered paths, much to the delight of a half-dozen desert lizard species that find them to be ideal basking places. 

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What’s great is that the normally shy lizards see people walking by constantly, and as a result they have lost some of their intrinsic fear. They’ll still flee if you approach too closely, but they are much more tolerant of human presence than anywhere else I’ve been herping.

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