Many people head to Palm Springs for the sunshine and the shopping, but Palm Springs also holds a wealth of hiking trails. Hiking is a great way to see the landscape of a destination, spend time with your travelling companions, and being out in nature can be as relaxing as sunbathing by the poolside. These are our favourite 5 locations for hiking in Palm Springs and the surrounding area.
1. Lost Palms Oasis, Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most well-known National Parks in California, and it is home to beautiful hiking trails with its diverse flora and fauna. There are many trails to choose from, but one of the most scenic is Lost Palms Oasis. As the name suggests, the hike takes you to an isolated canyon oasis holding a large grove of fan palms.
For the most part, the trail follows level plateaus and travels across open deserts. You can see mountains in every direction, including the San Jacinto Mountains in the distance, and there is the Salton Sea Basin to the south. You can descend into the oasis and take a relaxing walk beneath the shade of the towering fan palms, and take some time to explore the canyon.
Overall, the Lost Palms Oasis trail is not a challenging hike, but it does require some physical dexterity as you’re entering or exiting the canyon. One direction is steep and rocky, and be sure to look out for the trail markers which are little stone structures. Lost Palms Oasis is on the south side of the park, close to the Cottonwood Visitor Center, and is an 8-mile round-trip. For more information on Joshua Tree’s trails, visit joshuatree.guide.
2. Andreas Canyon, Indian Canyons
Indian Canyons holds the second largest California Fan Palm oasis in the world, and you can hike through it on the Andreas Canyon Trail. This hike surrounds you with beautiful and lush vegetation as you travel alongside a stream and wander among the fan palms. You can almost forget that you are hiking through a desert, except for the rocky canyon walls rising on either side of you.
Andreas Canyon Trail is an easy hike, and family friendly. It is 2-miles round trip, and you can either return the way you came, or cross the stream and hike back on the other side of the canyon, which will offer new perspectives of the landscape.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla peoples have lived for thousands of years within the Indian Canyons, making this land sacred and historical. When hiking through these canyons, be respectful of the natural landscape and any cultural objects you may come across. Indian Canyons also has a trading post where you can pick up souvenirs, maps and some hiking supplies. For trail maps, visit www.indian-canyons.com/trail_maps
3. Round Valley, Mount San Jacinto State Park
The Mount San Jacinto State Park offers many miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy to difficult, and provides you with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. One of the most popular hikes in San Jacinto that isn’t too challenging is the Round Valley Loop.
Round Valley is a 4.5-mile loop where you will be able to see Coachella Valley and travel through flowering alpine meadows. For the most part, the trail is fairly level, with some rocky patches and steep hills. There is also the option to reach the actual Round Valley on a short detour at a fork in the trail, which is the perfect place for a quiet moment to relax.
To enter the San Jacinto State Park, you require a permit; the day hiker permit is free and available in any ranger station. These permits serve as a safety precaution for hikers, so rangers know who is out on the trails. For more information about the park, visit www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=636
The most convenient way to enter Mount San Jacinto from Palm Springs is to take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It is the world’s largest rotating tram car, travelling more than two and a half miles over canyons and desert landscapes. The tram drops you at the Mountain Station where you can decide which trail to travel. Tickets are $26.95 for adults; to book, visit pstramway.com/.
4. Boo Hoff, La Quinta
La Quinta is a resort city near Palm Springs and holds a few Cove Trails that are definitely worth driving out to. Boo Hoff is one of the best trails in the area, a little more challenging than the others due to its length, but peaceful in its desert solitude.
As you ascend some mountains, breathing heavily, you will gain panoramic views of distant mountains, the Salton Basin, and the city in the distance. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch sight of mountain goats before they blend into the side of the mountains.
This trail is nearly 13-miles round trip. It follows another trail, Cove to Lake, as it loops back to your starting point. If you want to do a shorter hike, Cove to Lake still offers up beautiful mountain landscapes. For more information on the trails in La Quinta, visit www.playinlaquinta.com/see-do/hiking/.
5. Canyon View, Whitewater Preserve
The five hikes in Whitewater Preserve are all moderate, and the most popular day hike is Canyon View Loop. Part of the trail follows the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches all the way to Mexico and Canada! There is a slight climb that will take you above Whitewater Canyon, where you will be able to look down into the canyon and see the San Jacinto Mountains in the distance.
After travelling along this ridge for a while, you will start making your way back down into the canyon, and onto the last stretch of the 3.5-mile hike. Aside from these climbs, the Canyon View Loop is mostly level. There is one point during the hike that you will need to cross the Whitewater River, and there is a wooden footbridge for you to use.
Whitewater Preserve is part of the Wildlands Conservancy, which is California’s largest non-profit nature preserve system, and means that Whitewater is full of protected wildlife. While on your hikes, you will come across many different species of animals and birds. The Whitewater River itself is a lifeline for the Coachella Valley, providing much needed vitality within the desert. For more information, visit wildlandsconservancy.org/preserve_whitewater.html.
Before setting out on any of these hikes, look up the trails to see the difficulty level and familiarize yourself with the map. On all hikes that you do, be sure to bring water, some snacks and sunscreen. Wear sturdy shoes and bring a light jacket in case it gets chilly in the canyons that you venture into or the mountains that you summit. As Palm Springs is in the desert it gets very hot in the summer. If you plan to go to Palm Springs for the hiking, try planning your trip in the fall or spring seasons to fully take advantage of the great outdoors.