Hike in the footsteps of the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians on ancient walking trails through cool, palm-dotted canyons and timeless rock formations.
First settled by Native Americans centuries ago, Indian Canyons was transformed into a natural recreation park in the late 19th century. Its beauty and historic sites have been lovingly preserved and it’s now a popular hiking network.
Indian Canyons consists of three separate canyons: Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon and Murray Canyon. You won’t be able to do all three in one day, so choose either Palm on its own, or a combination of Andreas and Murray. All canyons offer trails to suit your mood and hiking ability; these are marked as easy, moderate or strenuous.
Stop by the Trading Post where you’ll find maps, snacks and supplies. Look out for the delightful hummingbirds drinking from the feeder out front. At 15 miles (24 kilometers) long, Palm Canyon is the largest of the three canyons. Follow the trail past clear streams and plummeting waterfalls, and through the biggest Californian palm oasis in the world.
If your time is limited, head to popular Andreas Canyon, a leisurely one-mile (1.6-kilometer) loop that passes by towering rock formations, a traditional Cahuilla Native American dwelling, as well as bedrock mortars and metates once used to grind beans and corn. The views of the San Jacinto Mountains and the desert valley below are spectacular.
Hit the trail to Murray Canyon. Watch for endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep, mule deer and mountain lions. Birdwatchers should keep an eye out for the rare least bells vireo. Make sure you pack plenty of water for the trails and remember the golden rule of hiking: “turn back once half your water is gone.” And, watch out for rattlesnakes!
For those who would prefer to ride on horseback, head to Smoke Tree Stables, which offers guided trail rides. Golf enthusiasts should book a round at the Indian Canyons Golf Resort. Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope once frequented these immaculate, wind-free, palm-studded greens. The resort was so popular with U.S. presidents that the club featured a “red phone,” a direct emergency line to the White House.
Indian Canyons is located just a few minutes by car from downtown Palm Springs. The canyons are open daily from October through to June, and from July through September on weekends only. There are designated areas for parking, no roadside parking is allowed.