Hiking Indian Canyons

Whenever we are in the Palm Springs area we are always looking out for new places to hike and explore. Our regular favourite destinations include as the Coachella Valley Preserve in 29 Palms, the Palms to Pines Highway, Morongo Valley, Joshua Tree National Park and the Living Desert.

On our last Palm Springs visit we discovered a new hiking location, the Indian Canyons. On our most recent trip, we landed at the Palm Springs airport around noon and had a few hours before we could check in so we decided to revisit the Indian Canyons as they were not too far from the airport.

In fact, the Indian Canyons are easily reached from downtown Palm Springs by travelling south on Palm Canyon Drive South, also known as Highway 111B. When Highway 111B eventually turns east, becoming Palm Canyon Drive East, you need to turn off of 111B to continue south on Palm Canyon Drive South (now a more residential road).

Confusing?  Just stay to the right and keep going South.

Eventually you will reach the entrance to the Indian Canyons which lies on tribal lands of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. An entrance fee is required to continue. It is not much further that the road comes to an end as a bunch of parking lots and a visitor centre called The Trading Post which has toilets, souvenirs, knowledgeable staff ready to answer questions and useful hiking stuff like sun-hats for those who (like me) left theirs at home.

For those who enjoy watching hummingbirds, there are several hummingbird feeders that always seem to have lots of activity. See my previous post: Hummingbirds at the Indian Canyons Trading Post.

For those coming to hike, some good trail maps can be found online at this Indian Canyons web site.

Fire and Flood

Flash flood warning P1080053

2013 saw some extremely heavy September rains in and around the Coachella Valley. The Indian Canyons was one of the areas that suffered damage from flash floods resulting from these storms. In this case the problem was worsened by a July fire that damaged some 6000 acres of the Agua Caliente tribal lands. After the flooding, access to the Indian Canyons was closed indefinitely. Lucky for us, access was restored in mid-November.

Palm Canyon Trail

The Trading Post sits protected from flash floods on a small ridge overlooking part of the oasis running along the Palm Canyon Creek. A switchback path providing access to the trail. After watching the hummingbirds for a while and buying a sun-hat we hiked down to the canyon floor and into the world’s largest native oasis of Desert Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera), also know as California Palms. We continued up the trail into the 15 mile long canyon. Here are a few pictures taken along the way.
Palm Canyon Trail P1080054

Part of Palm Canyon Trail P1080062

Palm trees and water in Palm Canyon Creek P1080063

In places we could see evidence of the July fire. You can see burn marks on some of the palms going all the way up to the base of the palm fronds.
California Fan Palms - some burnt by July 2013 fire P1080066

Finally, at around the 2 mile mark we reached the start of the Victor Trail that would take us back to the Trading Post through the open desert.
Crossroads and start of VIctor Trail P1080064

Victor Trail

View looking back towards the creek a short way up the Victor Trail.At start of Victor Trail looking back at California Fan Palms P1080067

Looking up the Victor Trail. The rocky landscape is scattered with creosote bushes, barrel cactuses and other vegetation.Victor Trail view of desert P1080071

A Teddy Bear Cholla cactus on the edge overlooking Palm Canyon.  Cute? Perhaps.  Cuddly?  Nope.  Some of the spines are pretty fine and definitely not for touching.Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus P1080074

A barrel cactus along the Victor Trail. The spines from some small ‘baby’ cactuses at the base of the larger cactus are catching the sunlight and appear to glow.Barrel Cactus P1080076

At several points along the trail you can see all the way back to the Trading Post. Here is one such view showing the extent of the oasis along the creek. The San Jacinto mountains are rising on the left.
Victor Trail view of Palm Canyon P1080077

At one of the high points we got a good view looking northward towards Palm Springs. You can clearly see some of the wind farms north of the city. In the distance is, I believe, the southern end of the San Bernardino Mountains.
Victor Trail view SE showing Palm Springs and windmill farm P1080078

Another view of the Trading Post as we get closer to the end of the trail.
Victor Trail view looking towards Trading Post P1080083

Here is a view of the rocks and vegetation along the trail. Some of the rocks suggest a lot of geological upheaval over time which is expected given the proximity of the San Andreas Fault.
Victor Trail P1080085

We saw several types of cactus along the trail. I’m not sure what kind is in the foreground.
Unknown cactus backlit by late afternoon sun P1080087

The Palm-Canyon/Victor trail was a short loop of only about 4 miles yet, because of the elevation gains on the Victor Trail portions is rated as moderately strenuous. We hiked it in January and took no special precautions other than carrying water (and I had my new sun-hat). Because of the time of year we were also not too concerned with potential animal threats such as rattlesnakes, scorpions or tarantulas. Anyone hiking these trails during warmer times of the year should take the appropriate precautions.

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