A trip to Palm Springs for most people means sitting by the pool soaking up the sun, doing some shopping and maybe visiting a few kid friendly attractions (if you have kids). For us, it means driving back and forth to Joshua Tree (or Joshman Tree as my preschooler says) to explore. My son is not the type who will just chill out by the pool, even though that was the plan for our final day in town. Instead he begged to go for a another hike (after the previous 2 days of hiking all day!). I was not interested in driving all the way back out to Joshua Tree before driving all the way back to LA, so I found an alternative right in Palm Springs.
Indian Canyons was our destination. It is about 6 miles from the center of Palm Springs, so it’s easy to get to for even half a day. It is tribal land and does not operate like the national parks. Namely, it is open only from 8-5 and you have to pay a per person fee (a hefty $9 for adults, kids 5 and under are free). But to avoid the 40 mile drive each way to Joshua Tree, we were willing to pay the entrance fee to check it out.
I have to say I was pretty skeptical at first. As I looked over the land I could see groves of palm trees, which meant there must be water. But this is the middle of the desert in the middle of drought ridden California. I quickly began moaning how I wasn’t interested in hiking in a manicured lot. Ha. How wrong I was.
One of our family mottos is you gotta try new things knowing that sometimes it will be a bust. But a bust it was not. We decided to start our visit at the end of Palm Canyon to check out the ranger talk that was about to start. This is always a hit for my son – his chance to chat with a real park ranger and improve his knowledge on all things park ranger!
Ranger Mike was super friendly and spent a great deal of time giving an overview of the hikes available, even giving out his personal tips on how to make the most of a day at the canyons. Seeing our son in his full park ranger regalia, Ranger Mike pulled out his special box full of animal scat, real/replica Indian weapons, fire starters and the big horned sheep skull with horns.
- There are many hikes at Indian Canyons, but since the day was already heating up, we decided to check out the two most popular (and shaded) hikes recommended by Ranger Mike. The first ‘hike’ wasn’t so much a hike as a walk through the palm canyon grove surrounded by beautiful California Palms along an almost dried up stream. If you wanted to make this more of a hike, you could continue on to the crossroads and loop around on the Victor Trail (see map here). Be warned the Victor Trail is completely exposed (although you can get a nice breeze) and is on the ridge of the mountain, so there is some elevation gain.
It was too hot during our visit to do this trail, instead, our son had fun tracking coyote prints and investigating piles of palm date poo fresh from the resident coyotes. After exploring and climbing a few fallen palms, we headed out for our next adventure.
One of the easiest and probably most scenic hikes in the canyons is the Andreas Canyon Trail. This is an easy 1 mile loop that is strikingly beautiful and so unexpected in the desert. Follow the trail from the right side parking lot and you will walk along a bubbling always present stream while shaded by beautiful California Palms. At the beginning of the trail there are several picnic tables set right on the streams edge which makes for a great picnic spot for the family. Kids will love playing in the glittering sand and cold stream. Moving the kids on from this area turned out to be the toughest part of the hike!
As you approach the fence at the top, you are more than half way finished, contrary to what one of the signs say. It is an easy 15 minutes back to the car. From here you have great views into the mountains and overlooking the rocky cliff with the California Palms below. Spectacular scenery. If you have limited time or mobility issues, this is the hike I would recommend. Besides a few small rock scrambles, the path is pretty clear. (but not stroller friendly). You can also always just stay on the path near the water as well without worrying about completing the entire loop, although it is nice throughout.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of Indian Canyons. The ranger was so helpful and friendly, the facilities are clean and the trails are well marked. It is well worth your entry fee. We will definitely be making a return visit to explore other areas of Indian Canyons.