You may have come for the golf, swimming, shopping, or any other of the many activities that can be enjoyed in the city of Palm Springs year-round. Don’t forget, however, that the city is smack in the middle of the Coachella Valley region, surrounded by beautiful mountain and desert. To the northwest is the San Bernardino National Forest, to the southwest is the Mt. San Jacinto State Wilderness, and to the north and east is Joshua Tree National park. Strap on your hiking (or riding!) shoes and get ready to explore.
The quickest way to get from the desert to the mountains is to take the aerial tramway. It goes straight from the valley floor up to the peak of San Jacinto, rotating for full panoramic views on the way up and down. At the top is a restaurant, pub, and cafe, as well as dozens of miles of hiking trails around the mountain summit. Even in the summer when the valley floor is sweltering, the air is cool and crisp on the mountain top. You may even encounter a snow drift or two! Make sure to bring a jacket if you are planning on going on a hike once you reach the summit – it’s colder than you’d think.
There are also several canyon areas around the valley that are worth a visit. Known collectively as the Indian Canyons, these small oases in the desert were home to the ancestors of the Cahuilla Indians. The communities are gone but traces of their existence remain, as does the canyons’ natural beauty.
Palm Canyon may be the best known, and is the perfect spot for a day hike. A hike brings you down from the dry desert into a fan palm-filled oasis, complete with a cool and clean stream to splash around in and cool off. Stop at the trading post for a hiking map before making your way into the canyon, and bring along a picnic to make a whole day of it.
Nearby, Tahquitz canyon has a spectacular 60-foot waterfall and more remnants of Indian communities. You can just hike around the area on your own, or take a ranger-led hike to get some more historical information while on your walk. Another option is a hike or horseback ride through Murray Canyon. With plenty of horse trails, this is a good place for a trail ride, and a variety of animal species (including endangered birds and bighorn sheep) provide some exciting scenery.
[photo courtesy of Alan Vernon]