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    Indian Canyons: Palm Springs Desert Adventure

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    Joel Fulleda

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    Hearing the word "canyon" you probably immediately imagine the meandering course of the Colorado River digging its bed among the steep rock walls of the Grand Canyon. If you've never been to California, perhaps associate it with the long ocean beaches adorned with Endless rows of towering palm trees (or at least that's how I imagined it before going there, thanks to cinema and TV). Well, try to combine the two images and you will have before you a bizarre place, but one that really exists.

    - Indian Canyons are gorges literally filled with palm trees, which grow luxuriantly around the streams that cross them, in stark contrast to the harsh and barren land that opens up all around. We are located near Palm Springs: 170km southeast of Los Angeles and 210km northeast of San Diego, in what is usually the perfect stop to visit nearby Joshua Tree National Park and ghost town Pioneertown.

    If you are planning an itinerary for discover every corner of California, consider staying here one more night to add a visit to these particular canyons to the more famous "Joshua". If you prefer naturalistic beauties to big cities and have enough time available, consider it as a possible stop even if you are organizing an on the road that includes several states: Palm Springs in fact is located right on the route between Los Angeles and Phoenix.


    • How to reach us
    • Timetables and tickets
    • The three canyons of the park
      • Palm canyon
      • Andreas Canyon
      • Murray Canyon
    • Excursions and itineraries in the park
      • Recommended trails
      • Guided tours by rangers
      • Bike or off-road tour
    • Park map
    • Where to sleep nearby

    How to reach us

    Palm Springs is the gateway to the Indian Hot Water River and its naturalistic beauties, among which these three interesting green canyons stand out. Before reaching the canyons, however, I recommend that you stop at the Palm Springs Visitor Center (see map below), where it is possible to find information and maps of the area. If the Trading Post (the visitor center dedicated to Indian Canyons) is closed, the only way to find information material is to contact the city tourist office. Once ready for the visit, getting to the canyons is not difficult and can be done either independently or by joining a guided tour.

    The Indian Canyons are accessible by car via S Palm Canyon Dr., the north-south boulevard running along the west side of the city, just a ten minute drive from downtown Palm Springs. If you start from the Visitor Center, the road is the same: just take it towards the south and follow it for 11 km. Once you have passed the entrance barrier, simply continue along the same road to reach the accesses to the various canyons and the Trading Post, which constitutes its terminus. Here is the location of the park entrance.

    Timetables and tickets

    The park is open all year round, but operates at different times depending on the season.

    • Winter (1st September - 4th July): open every day from 8am to 17pm. Last admission allowed at 16pm.
    • Summer (July 5th - August 31st): open only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 8am to 17pm. Last admission allowed at 16pm.

    This park is not part of the National Parks network, for which you can purchase the parks card. It will therefore be necessary to purchase an entrance ticket on the spot. Here are the ticket prices:

    • Full: $ 9
    • Reduced for students and over 62: $ 7
    • Reduced for children (6-12 years): $ 5

    The three canyons of the park

    The park area includes three large canyons, which have among their main characteristics that of host numerous palm trees inside. A landscape decidedly different from what we are used to seeing in the most famous canyons, such as the sinuous Antelope Canyon in Arizona or the large and arid rocky conformations of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. For this reason, although it is a minor park, it can be very interesting to visit it, especially for those who are not on their first trip to the American Southwest.

    Palm canyon

    The Palm Canyon is 24km long and is the main attraction of the park. The name is not accidental: its flora is distinguished by an abundance of Washingtonia filifera, the Californian palm. The contrast of the verdant palm trees with the rocky walls of the canyon, as well as with the arid earth that we find outside the gorge, gives the impression that someone has given a green brushstroke to the desert. All thanks to the stream that has carved out its bed and provides the right amount of water to give life to this elongated oasis.

    What was once a very busy area since native people of the Cahuilla, which found flora and fauna necessary for their subsistence, today gives the opportunity to make excursions and find a place of peace a stone's throw from the city. The canyon is walkable along its entire length and from the main path there are many others, which allow you to explore the length and breadth of the verdant gorge.

    Andreas Canyon

    Not just palm trees: beyond 150 different plant species they grow in this lush canyon, where Andreas Creek's water cools the air all year round. The stream has carved out the rocks giving them sometimes bizarre shapes, but plants and stones are not the only reason to explore this gorge. Here naturalistic beauties mix with history: it is still possible to see what remains of the mortars and stones used by the natives as millstones to prepare food.

    Although it is much smaller than the previous one, the Andreas Canyon is to be taken into consideration for an excursion, even a short one, in case you stop in Palm Springs during your trip. Of the three canyons, probably this one it is the best for photography and bird watchers, as many birds find refuge there.

    Murray Canyon

    To the south of the Andreas Canyon lies Murray Canyon, less visited than the other two, but no less interesting. Here too the palms are the masters, around the stream that fills with water in winter and spring, also generating a beautiful waterfall. It is not uncommon run into wild animals such as deer-mules or bighorn sheep, but also in some rare birds that nest here.

    Excursions and itineraries in the park

    There are three ways to visit the canyons. The first is that of move independently, driving along the road that crosses it and choosing one or more paths for their excursions. If the times match, it can be useful to attend explanations of the rangers before venturing along the trails, or take part in one of their guided hikes at the weekend. The third option is to rely on a organized tour departing from Palm Springs, to make sure you see all the most suggestive points and not risk getting lost if you are not used to walking paths.

    Recommended trails

    Circa 100 km of trails they intersect in the park and therefore each canyon delivers numerous excursion possibilities, from the simplest to the longest and most demanding. During a trip to the USA, even if you are a keen walker, you certainly won't have whole weeks to dedicate to these hiking itineraries. Rather you will be interested in understanding how to see the most beautiful parts of the gorges along paths suited to your needs and abilities, perhaps having little time available. I therefore suggest three options to narrow down the field and get an idea of ​​what awaits you when visiting this park.

    Victor Trail

    For an overview of the huge Palm Canyon, especially if you don't have the whole day to spare, this trail is great. Start from the Trading Post taking the Palm Canyon Trail and after about a kilometer and a half turn onto the Victor Trail, which will take you back to the Trading Post, making a ring of about 4 kilometers and offering you the chance to admire some of the most interesting parts of the large green gorge. If for the first part of the path you will walk inside the canyon, in the second part you will skirt it being able to admire it from above and being able to have a broad view.

    Andreas Trail

    Andreas Canyon probably is the most fascinating of the three, because the palms are more concentrated and mix with numerous other plant species, such as plane trees, black poplars and willows. All inserted in a context of large and sometimes bizarre rock formations. With a loop itinerary of only 2 kilometers, along a path that does not present difficulties, it is possible to have a beautiful view of the canyon both from the inside and from the outside. Starting from the Andreas car park, walk along the stream following the sandy path in the shade of the large palm trees until you cross the stream. Passed on the other bank, you exit the canyon to skirt it from above in the opposite direction and thus returning to the starting point.

    Murray Canyon Trail

    As I mentioned earlier, Murray Canyon it is smaller and less visited than the other two, but no less beautiful. With a relatively easy hike, you can reach Seven Sisters Falls, which flows from large boulders at the bottom of the gorge. You start from the Andreas car park and following the signs you will reach the waterfall in 7,5 km, walking among the palm trees near the stream. In order not to take exactly the same route, on the way back it is also possible to deviate in part from the track, along the Coffman Trail. This path is a variant for the central section of the path, which allows you to exit the Canyon and walk outside it for a few kilometers before returning to it.

    Guided tours by rangers

    During the winter period, from October to June, the park rangers carry out guided tours and offer explanations to visitors, all free of charge upon payment of the ordinary entrance ticket to the park. These are the types of visits proposed:

    • Guided hike to the Palm Canyon: an hour and a half excursion, which departs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at 10 am, from the Trading Post.
    • Guided hike to the Andreas Canyon: an hour and a half excursion, which departs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at 13 pm, from the Andreas car park.
    • Explanation on the Palm Canyon: an illustrative moment of 30 minutes, which takes place at the Trading Post from Monday to Thursday, at 10 am.
    • Explanation about the Andreas Canyon: an illustrative moment of 30 minutes, which takes place at the Andreas car park from Monday to Thursday, at 13pm.

    Bike or off-road tour

    There are two types of tours organized to visit these canyons accompanied by local guides and at the same time experiencing a beautiful outdoor experience. Lying just a few miles from the city center, the canyons are easy reachable by bicycle, thanks to a tour that combines a nice ride with an excursion on foot. A type of visit to be taken into consideration, especially for the more sporty.

    Tour in bici verso Indian Canyons

    In some periods, however, such as the very hot summer days, cycling in the sun is not the best. Don't worry: the off-road tour. On board a 4 × 4 you will be taken through the canyons to discover all their hidden beauties.

    Tour in 4×4 verso Indian Canyons

    Park map

    Where to sleep nearby

    If you intend to visit the Indian Canyons in the morning, or if you are looking for a place to stay overnight after the visit, the solution is simple: look for a hotel in Palm Springs. This city is not only a stone's throw from the park, but is also a great stopover for road trips through California, located between Los Angeles and San Diego, not far from Joshua Tree National Park, but also on the road. for those who are heading from the Californian coast to Arizona.

    Tips for lodging in Palm Springs

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