Ever seen snow on a cactus? The white stuff is falling on some of the West’s hottest and driest places

Joshua Tree
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The West’s desert dwellers are used to sights that make the rest of us do a double-take. Gila monsters in the backyard? Normal. Towering red-rock formations? Been there, Instagrammed it. Thermometer passing 110? Barely worth turning on the A/C for.

But something happened in the Southwest and Southern California this week that made these hardy people take notice and light up social media: snow. Mountains five miles from the beaches of Malibu got a dusting at elevations as low as 1,500 feet. (That’s about the elevation of the famous Hollywood sign.) Las Vegas got its first snow in a decade, and residents of the normally scorching Southern California desert were treated to the surreal sight of snow on the saguaros.

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Snow fell at 2,500 feet in Joshua Tree National Park—most of the park is at that elevation—and locals faced the nearly unprecedented task of driving in snow.

Anyone who owned snow boots was treated to the mind-bending sight of the park’s iconic namesake trees covered in snow—while the sun was blazing, no less.

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Everyone who goes to Las Vegas gets a shot of the city’s iconic welcome sign—but hardly anyone gets it while snow is falling. The Strip got a respectable inch of snow over two days, the first to fall in the city since 2008. An inch may not sound like much, but it was enough to cause multiple flight cancellations at Sin City’s McCarran Airport.

Almost unprecedented amounts of snow fell on Arizona this week. Flagstaff got a record-setting three feet on Thursday. But they’re used to it. More remarkable was the accumulation in Tucson—the dusting that fell in the area was a rarity (the first in six years, in fact).


The surrounding mountains got a lot more.

Of course, it’s not just people enjoying the rare treat of snow in the desert—pets enjoyed discovering the frozen stuff, too.

It didn’t snow in the normally scorching city of Palm Springs, but the snow level on the surrounding peaks dropped lower than it has since the disco era. Highway 74 was closed Thursday, and the famed Tramway was shut down indefinitely because of damage to the road and to the electrical system at the summit.


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