View of Horseshoe Palms in the Coachella Valley Preserve.
The Coachella Valley Preserve has a wealth of trails to follow, and this one takes you through a barren and unforgiving landscape to two different palm oases, which around formed due to their proximity atop the infamous San Andreas Fault.
First note: Do NOT attempt this hike during the summer. People have died on the trails once the mercury soars above 100 degrees F. And take plenty of water regardless of the time of year.
After parking in the preserve’s lot, head southeast on the short section of trail that leads across the road (and past an alternate parking area) and keep following the signs to the palm areas until you reach a set of stairs built into the ridge. Head up them and you’ll see a sign at the top pointing you in the right way.
From this junction, you can head to three different oases – Pushawalla, Horseshoe and Hidden palms. Follow the well-posted signs through a rocky, moon-like landscape with sparse vegetation (just a few creosote and brittlebush survive here) to choose the one you want. Hidden Palms to the south is thicker and offers more shade than Horseshoe, although the route I took and posted below takes you by both.
There is a steep downgrade before reaching Horseshoe Palms, then you’ll walk down a jeep road that connects you to Hidden Palms. After heading north from Hidden Palms, you’ll climb back to the moon landscape, where you’ll double-back on the trail you started on.
View of the palm oasis on the Palm Canyon Trail near Palm Springs.
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.
Palm oasis on the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail.
The Borrego Palm Canyon Trail is probably the most popular hiking trail in California’s Anza Borrego Desert State Park. And with good reason. The approximately three-mile round-trip journey is close to the park’s visitor center, very scenic and fairly easy.
Starting from the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, the trail enters the canyon with ample opportunities to see the park’s famed (and rare) bighorn sheep climbing the ridges to the north. In fact, I saw a female near the top on this hike (hint: stay quiet to hear their footsteps on rocks as they are tough to see).
The canyon walls eventually close a bit tighter on the trail as you get closer to the oasis at the end. You’ll see increased vegetation and a stream flowing from the oasis. You’ll be able to see the oasis about a half mile before you reach it, and the grove of California date palms is a relaxing place to rest before heading back.
There is an alternate route back which is well-marked (you’ll likely see it on your way to the oasis). I recommend taking it back as it is less traveled and is at a higher elevation, giving you a wider perspective of the canyon. It ends at the opposite end of the campground’s parking lot, just a couple hundred feet from where you started.