Exploring the Indian Canyons in Palm Springs

Palm Springs might be known for its golf courses and hot springs, but there are some not-to-be-missed natural landmarks that require a little more effort than just hopping in your car. I’m talking about hiking. Hiking is exercise, but depending where you hike, the amount of incline or decline of the terrain, and how fast you go will all determine how much exercise you get. But when the destination is as awesome as the Indian Canyons of Palm Springs, you’re not worried about the workout. You just want to experience nature’s best in the southern California desert.

And you won’t be disappointed.

There are two main canyons which are under the supervision of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Tahquitz Canyon is located just north of the Indian Canyons Golf Resort on the western side of Palm Springs. Indian Canyons includes Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon. The entrance for all three canyons is south of Indian Canyons Golf Resort.

“As early as the 1890’s, Palm Springs and the surrounding area have been described as a recreation oasis. Tahquitz Canyon and three southern canyons are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Palm Canyon is considered the world’s largest California Fan Palm Oasis.” indian-canyons.com

Tahquitz Canyon

The Tahquitz Canyon Trail follows the Tahquitz Creek, forming a two-mile loop trail to Tahquitz Falls and back. Along the trail you can find Sacred Rock, marked by rock art and bedrock mortars dating back over 1,000 years. About halfway down the trail you will encounter the mouth of Tahquitz Canyon, or Lookout Rock of Kak wa wit. The Tahquitz Falls were originally called Pal hani kalet by the Indian leader of the Fox Tribe. It is believed by many that this is a sacred place of power, and will rejuvenate your body. Beavertail Cactus, with a beautiful pink bloom, thrives in this area. Also found here are Desert Mistletoe, Trixis (a lovely yellow flower), and Desert Apricot.

Photo by: KateEditor

Photo by: KateEditor

Indian Canyons

The Indian Canyons offer multiple trails in three different canyons. After passing through the toll booth, if you turn right you will come to the parking area for Andreas Canyon and Murray Canyon. There are at least 5 trails that begin from this spot. The Andreas Canyon has fan palms, unusual rock formations, and the Andreas Creek to keep the palm trees green. Less visited is Murray Canyon. Among the many palm trees, some of the wildlife you may see are the Peninsula Big Horned Sheep and mule deer.

The third canyon, Palm Canyon, can be accessed by driving 2.3 miles straight from the toll booth. Just follow the road. Palm trees line Palm Canyon Creek and West Fork Palm Canyon Creek. There are some warm springs just a short distance from the Trading Post. The California Fan Palm can be found wherever you find a source of water.

Take advantage of the trail maps, which mark the difficulty levels and give you a good idea of distances. There are lots of hiking tips on the Indian Canyons website that will help you stay hydrated and safe. My favorite tip: When half of your water is gone, turn around and head back.

Photo by: Larry Ehl

Hiking vs. Horseback Riding

Did you ever consider how beautiful the desert is? When you hike on these canyon trails, you travel at a pace that affords you the time to stop and actually look at nature. You’re not in a motorized vehicle just getting a quick glance as you fly by. You’re more connected with the places you visit when you’re on foot. You might take pictures or a video. You sit down and rest in the shade. You might encounter some wildlife to liven up your day! Hiking gives you freedom to explore what interests you. Sure, it takes a little more work, but nature will reward you with its beautiful waterfalls, vistas, and flowers.

Listen to one hiker’s experience:

“The hike was easy to moderate through the section I explored.  There were picnic tables scattered about under the shade of the palm trees. Along the trail there were interesting rock formations and native plants.  Cottonwoods, reeds, brittle bush, lavender, globe mallow and sage were also present in or near the oasis.” Desertusa.com

Hiking is just one way to see the diversity of plants and landscape in the desert canyons. Horseback riding is also available on many of the trails. Smoke Tree Stables offers guided horseback rides on the Indian Canyons Trails. They are closed for the hottest part of the year (July and August), but will reopen on September 3, 2016. Smoke Tree Stables has two rides available: a 1-hour trail ride along the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains or the Murray Canyon Haul Ride from Andreas Canyon to Murray Canyon and back.

Or you can bring your own horse.

Either way, come to Palm Springs and inspect the stark beauty of Indian Canyons for yourself. Give yourself a chance to walk in the footsteps of Indian tribes of long ago.

Where to Stay

Cimarron Golf Resort offers two championship golf courses, the Boulder Course and the Pebble Course, both spectacular fairways under the skyline of the San Jacinto Mountains.


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