Palm Springs Hiking Destinations: Palm Canyon & The Trading Post
Palm Canyon is the largest native California fan palm oasis in the world. Once the home of the Cahuilla Indians, the canyon is filled with native plants, wildlife and a year round water source. Rock mortars can be seen on some of the rocks near the stream. They were once used by native families to grind seeds, nuts and fruits.
From above, the view of the canyon is a contrast of rocky mountain slopes and desert landscape that descends into a thick, vibrant green oasis of palm trees that winds through the canyon. From the Palm Canyon trailhead at the Trading Post, a dirt path leads hikers into the depths of the canyon.
As you enter the oasis, the towering California fan palms create a shady and cool environment to explore. The large palms reach a height of 60 feet, and some are as broad as 3 feet. The trail meanders through the palm trees and along the stream up into the canyon where it diverges into several other paths along the hills.
It was cool and overcast the day I hiked Palm Canyon. The Coachella Valley had received rain earlier in the day and it sprinkled during my hike. It was April 11th and the cool temperature was unusual for that time of the year. I arrived at the Palm Canyon trailhead around 3:30 pm, which gave me enough time to explore the first part of the 15 mile trail. The trail and park closes promptly at 5 pm, so be sure to keep an eye on the time if you hike later in the day.
The trail was busy, with many hikers and their families. Most people seemed to explore the first mile of the trail which is where the palm oasis is located. Beyond the one mile point, the trail moves up beyond the oasis onto the slopes and hills that flank Palm Canyon.
Once in the canyon you will see a sign showing a map with the various trail markers. The trail markers include the Palm Canyon Trail, Victor Trail, Vandeventer Trail, East Fork Trail, West Fork Trail South, Jo Pond Trail, and West Fork Trail North/ Pelton Trail.
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.
The oasis is a great location to have a family picnic near the stream and to view the wildlife in the area. Birds are abundant in the canyon. I saw a few ground squirrels and lizards. What I didn’t see were wildflowers. A few brittlebush were blooming, but most were already past their peak for the season. Last year around the same time the Indian Canyons were filled with blooming bushes and cacti. This year, there wasn’t much in bloom.
If you go to Indian Canyons …
The Palm Canyon trailhead is located at the Trading Post located off of South Palm Canyon Dr. in Palm Springs, CA. When you arrive at the main parking lot of Palm Canyon, take a couple minutes to look north towards Palm Springs. There is a nice view of the valley below.
West Fork Falls is a short trail at the west end of the main parking near the restrooms. The trail 340 foot trail takes you to a small waterfall that comes over the rocks and feeds a small stream. It only takes a couple of minutes to hike to the waterfall and back to the parking lot.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians own and manage the land at Indian Canyons. There is an admission fee to enter the Indian Canyons. Visit their website for current admission fees, hours and other details about the trail www.indian-canyons.com.
Activities: Hiking, horsebackriding, picnicking and wildlife viewing.