The term "High Desert" is commonly used by local news media, especially in weather forecasts, because of the high desert's unique and moderate weather patterns compared to its low desert neighbors. The term "High Desert" serves to differentiate it from southern California's Low Desert, which is defined by the differences in elevation, climate, animal life, and vegetation native to these regions. Comparison example: Palm Springs is considered "Low Desert", at 500 feet (150 m) above sea level. In contrast, Landers is considered "High Desert", at 3,100 feet (940 m) above sea level.
Old Woman Springs Ridge in the high desert, Johnson Valley, California
Depending on how the boundaries of the Mojave and the Colorado Desert region are defined, the High Desert either includes the entire California portion of the Mojave Desert (using a smaller geographic designation than its ecoregion) or the northern portion of the California desert (using a larger geographic designation including the ecotope area of the lower and adjacent Sonoran Desert).
The name of the region comes from its higher elevations and more northern latitude with associated climate and plant communities distinct from the Low Desert, which includes the Colorado Desert and the below sea level Salton Sea. The High Desert is typically windier than the Low Desert, and averages between 12 degrees to 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler in both the winter and summer seasons.
The High Desert is often divided into the following regions:
The Los Angeles County portion, containing the Antelope Valley, part of the Palmdale-Lancaster Urbanized Area, and in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. This is the most populous area of the High Desert region, with close to 320,000 residents in the incorporated places alone.
Other parts of the San Bernardino County portion include the northeastern reaches of the High Desert, where the Fort Irwin National Training Center and the Searles Valley are located, and the far eastern edge of the state where places like Needles and Earp are located along the Colorado River.
San Bernardino County's portion of the High Desert region contains the most land mass of the four involved counties, making up approximately 70% of the total county's area.
The Kern County portion, containing part of two valleys, with the southeastern part in the Antelope Valley, including Rosamond, California City, Boron, Edwards Air Force Base, and Mojave, which are all a part of the Palmdale-Lancaster Urbanized area, and the northeastern part being in the Indian Wells Valley, including the communities of Inyokern and Ridgecrest.
The Inyo County portion, north of Kern County and containing the northern end of the Indian Wells Valley, Panamint Valley, and Saline Valley. This is the most sparsely populated area of the High Desert, with a single major community, Lone Pine in the southern Owens Valley.
Cities and communities
Sunset over the Mojave
The major metropolitan centers in the region are primarily centered on the cities of Lancaster and Victorville. Lancaster, the largest city in the High Desert, is located in the Antelope Valley next to Palmdale and anchors the area's largest and most populous region with a metro area of just over 500,000. The Victor Valley area, which includes cities and communities such as Victorville, Hesperia, Adelanto, Apple Valley, and Lucerne Valley, boasts a population around 335,000. The Barstow area, to the north of Victor Valley, and the Morongo Basin near Joshua Tree National Park both have populations of around 60,000.
List of cities, towns, and census-designated places
Incorporated places are listed in bold. This list includes all places in the broadest definition of "High Desert." Population figures are most recent information available from the US Census Bureau.
The Right Stuff (1983), based on the 1979 non-fiction book by Tom Wolfe about the pilots engaged in U.S. postwar research with experimental rocket-powered, high-speed aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base as well as documenting the stories of the first Project Mercury astronauts selected for the NASA space program.
Space Cowboys (2000), one of many examples that feature Edwards Air Force Base in the 1940s used in experimental test flights and for shuttle landings with the NASA Space Program.