The hike from the Indian Canyons trading post to the stone pools via the Palm Canyon Trail is one of the most popular in Palm Springs. On land owned by the Agua Caliente tribe, there is an entrance fee of $9 per adult, but the fee is well worth it for the bright splashes of green that pop out from the otherwise brown desert.
The Palm Canyon trail starts at the trading post and immediately drops about 70 feet into a huge palm oasis. Follow the stream toward the back to find the trail, which is the left fork at the split. The trail snakes through the palm oasis until it ends after about a mile and then climbs a ridge so hikers get an bird’s eye view of the oasis below. This ridge is the steepest part of the trail. After this, the trail runs mostly straight and flat through open desert with expansive views of Mount San Jacinto to the north and the Santa Rosa chain to the south and west for about two miles before hitting the stone pools. When I went in mid-February, the pools were dry, but in the spring, they can fill up, especially after winters with heavy rain (a relative term in the desert).
The trail soldiers on to the south for many more miles, but a lot of hikers turn back at the stone pools. If you want an alternate route, take the high road once you arrive back at the south tip of the palm oasis. That trail will climb a ridge to the east of the oasis and adds an extra mile to your trip, which ends again back at the trading post.
Directions: From downtown Palm Springs, go south down Palm Canyon Drive and continue straight toward the south (not east at the curve). Stay on South Palm Canyon toward Indian Canyons and after a couple miles you’ll reach the tollgate (click for admission prices). Follow the signs toward the trading post and Palm Canyon, which you’ll reach in about two miles.