Our Visit to Palm Canyon Trail in Palm Springs
We have visited the Palm Springs area several times now and heard about a beautiful canyon loaded with Palm trees, an oasis in the dry rocky surrounding desert. We usually stay at Palm Springs Thousand Trails RV park located at the eastern end of the Coachella Valley so it is actually a 40 minute drive or so to get to the Palm Canyon Trail. For this reason we had put it off and visited several sites closer to us. This year though we went for it and headed out on a near perfect sunny and warm December day.
Our trip took us over to Hwy 111, the main drag into Palm Springs. Most people refer to the whole area as Palm Springs but there are many little towns making up the Coachella Valley region. Along Hwy 111 you drive through several separate little towns every 5-10 miles or so. We started at La Quinta, Palm Desert,then Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City and finally Palm Springs. Just before the city center we took a left on South Palm Canyon Drive and headed into the canyon area. The road narrows and you drive around 5 miles to the entrance gate. Here you pay your trail use fee of 9 bucks. From the gate it is another few miles to the main parking area located up on a ridge above the Palm Canyon. Attention! If you drive a wide or tall vehicle you have to park it in a special area before the main parking lot. There is a portion of the road where you squeeze through a big rock outcropping. Our dually F350 makes it but anything wider or tall would have problems. (See my video below for footage of the road)
History of Palm Canyon
Fifteen miles long, Palm Canyon is one of the areas of great beauty in Western North America. Its indigenous flora and fauna, which the Cahuilla people so expertly used and its abundant Washingtonia filifera (California Fan Palm) are breathtaking contrasts to the stark rocky gorges and barren desert lands beyond. A moderately graded, foot path winds down into the canyon for picnicking near the stream, meditating, exploring, hiking or horseback riding. While in Palm Canyon visit the Trading Post for hiking maps, refreshments, Indian art and artifacts, books, jewelry, pottery, baskets, weaving, and conversational cultural lore – http://www.indian-canyons.com/Palm.html
Hitting the Trail
At the trail head they have a little touristy trinket store and some food, we had packed a picnic lunch so bypassed this and headed down the trail. The canyon is a few hundred feet below the entrance but easily reach via a few switch back pathways. Once down there you suddenly realize at how huge and densely packed the palms are. Flowing through the canyon is a small spring or creek. This was a very dry time and unfortunately it wasn’t too impressive but I can image it must look great after some rains. As we moved along the trail we were met with more and more gorgeous palms. The rocky hill sides were dotted with barrel and cholla cactus as well. We also became aware we had picked a dumb time to come for a peaceful hike as it was just after Christmas and the canyon was alive with not the yips and yaps of coyote but the shrieks and screams of babies and toddlers, hehe. But we persevered and after about the one mile point the roar dissipated as there little legs wore out. Soon the only sound was the light warm desert breeze rustling the palms. Ahhhhh!
Awesome Spot for a Picnic Lunch
We located the perfect spot for our lunch and sat around eating sandwiches and drinking in the view. I scampered up the hill side a bit and could see the different arms of the canyon splitting off in several directions. What a large oasis.
More Hiking and Exploration of the Palm Canyon
We explored a few more areas on the way back down the canyon noticing that many of the palms were scorched by a recent fire. Unlike in the city this oasis was not a garden but left in a natural state. The palms weren’t all neatly trimmed and sported large brown skirts and the ground was loaded with fallen fan leaves and debris. As we headed back down the canyon the sun began to sink and the light really got pretty casing long shadows of the palms along the rocky canyon walls.
My Video Highlights from Palm Canyon Trail
This really is a photographer’s paradise as everywhere you turn is a great shot. If you’re not that crazy for palm trees than this is not the place for you, but if like us you love the palms then this is well worth the small entrance fee. Having spent our lives in the west coast rain forest so we find the desert and its flora and fauna super interesting.
Palm Canyon Trails Photos
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