According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 27.0 square miles (70 km2), of which, 26.8 square miles (69 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (0.76%) is water.
The elevation (City hall) is 224 feet (68 m) above sea level. Elevations vary from the lower northern half once covered in sand dunes to the upper slope southern cove (300–900 feet or 91–274 metres) all the way to the ridgeline at 1,000 feet (300 m). Palm Desert is located in the Coachella Valley, the north-western extension of the Sonoran Desert.
Sun City Palm Desert, California lies on the northern side of Interstate 10 from Palm Desert itself, but is unincorporated and not part of the City of Palm Desert (the original name was Sun City Palm Springs from 1991 to 1996).