Palm Springs Hiking Trails Offer Visitors an Outdoor Sanctuary

The Palm Springs area may be known for high-end shopping and golf, but the area offers one of the best outdoorsy destinations in California. The city is located in the Sonoran Desert and offers proximity to San Bernardino National Forest, Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Park, Coachella Valley and Joshua Tree National Park. That’s a lot of ground to cover. So to help, we rounded up the top Palm Springs hiking trails.

Top Palm Springs Hiking Trails for Outdoor Lovers

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Tahquitz Canyon

Tahquitz Canyon, one of the most popular areas for Palm Springs hiking, houses a 60-foot waterfall, rock art, historic irrigation systems, and native plants and animals. Before hiking, stop by the visitor center and see artifacts, an observation tower, and theater room.

Tahquitz gets its name from a legend. According to the story, Tahquitz was the first shaman created by Mukat, the creator of all things. Over time, Tahquitz became power-hungry and was banished to a secret cave below Tahquitz Peak. Legend says he still resides there and can be seen as a large green fireball across the sky.

The trail itself measures only 1.8 miles but offers strenuous conditions. Hikers will gain 350 feet in elevation, and do not have access to shade, restrooms or water fountains. In addition, hikers can expect to climb rock as high as 12 to 15 inches, depending on the area.

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Indian Canyons Hiking Trails

Indian Canyons offers over 60 miles of trails for hiking and walking. Nine trails make up the canyons, each ranging in distance and difficulty. For example, Andres offers a 1.2-mile easy hike where visitors see rock formations, willows and California Fan Palms.

Moderate hikes range from 4 miles to 8 miles, with a selection of elevation gains. The longest of the moderate hikes is West Fork, which takes hikers up 2,600 feet to the entire Indian Canyons area. The longest trail in Indian Canyons is Hahn Buena Vista, a strenuous 12.3-mile loop with 1,915 elevation gain.

In addition to Palm Springs hiking trails, Indian Canyons also houses three different canyons. Palm Canyon has 15 miles of desert beauty for meditation, picnics and exploring. Visit the trading post for refreshments, Native American artifacts, jewelry and stories. Andreas has a scenic path with over 150 species of plants and a creek for nature photography and bird-watching. Murray Cannon offers secluded beauty with its palm trees and big horn sheep. Of note, Indian Canyons charges an admission price ranging from $5 to $11 based on activities.

North Lykken Trail

Accessible from the west end of Ramon Road, North Lykken Trail measures 4 to 5 miles and offers a moderate hike to see Coachella Valley. About 1.5 miles in, visitors find picnic tables providing a spot for break or quick lunch. Elevation can change as much as 800 feet, and some areas have loose dirt, so bring a hiking stick and wear sturdy boots.

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Palm Springs Museum Trail

Another popular hike is Palm Springs Museum Trail. Visitors can access this trail from either North Lykken Trail or from Palm Springs Art Museum. However, guests should not park at the museum to reach this trail due to tickets. Park in a designated area and get ready for a 2-mile round trip. While hiking the museum trail, find picnic tables at the top. Enjoy lunch and views of Palm Springs, San Jacinto Mountains, and San Gorgonio Mountains.

Ernie Maxwell Trail

Located in the San Jacinto Mountains, Ernie Maxwell Trail offers an easy 5-mile hike. The area provides views of wildflowers, Tahquitz Rock and Strawberry Valley located near streams. Ernie Maxwell is downhill most of the way, and leashed dogs are welcome to join owners. To find the trail, drive Fern Valley Road and look for Humber Park.

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Joshua Tree National Park

Hikers can also tour Joshua Tree National Park – which is located about an hour’s drive from Palm Springs. The park has hiking trails for all skill levels and time restraints. For example, the Bajada loop takes about 20 minutes. Or try nearly a dozen short trails, including Cholla Cactus Gargen, Hidden Valley and Skull Rock.

Moderate hikes range from 1.5 to 4 hours, depending on the trail. Most of these options range from 2 to 4 miles with elevations changes and picturesque views. Experts also have several challenging trails, however they should not be attempted during summer or hot weather. These trails measure a strenuous 3 miles to 35 miles, with most taking at least 3 hours to complete. View the full list of Joshua Tree National Park hiking trails.

After picking a couple Palm Springs hiking trails, check out these sightseeing tours.

Need a place stay? Check out Palm Desert vacation rentals and La Quinta vacation homes, both located near Palm Springs.