The Best Hikes in Palm Springs
Our guide to the best trails for exploring this desert oasis.
Famous for its desert beauty, large numbers of palm trees and incredibly striking architecture, Palm Springs is the ideal destination for those who love the outdoors. In a place with such abundant natural beauty, it’s only appropriate that you should spend as much of your trip as possible outside enjoying the landscape – when you’re not relaxing in your fabulous Plum Guide home, of course. Here’s our pick of the best hikes in Palm Springs.
Andreas Canyon trail at Indian Canyons
While this hike is only two miles long (and thus very achievable in the often searing temperatures of Palm Springs - don’t forget that you’re in the desert here, after all), it’s one of the most unique in the region thanks to its path through the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians tribal grounds. While there are 60 miles of trails explorable in the Indian Canyons, this one has an adjacent stream which makes the hiking path lush with vegetation, in striking contrast to the rocky, bare landscape surrounding it.
The feeling that you’ve discovered a desert oasis makes the Andreas Canyon trail at Indian Canyons one of the best hikes in Palm Springs. And because it’s only two miles long, you’ll have plenty of time afterwards to go shopping, hit the pool or - let’s face it - sneak back to your exceptionally comfortable Plum Guide property for a long, much-deserved afternoon nap.
Palm Springs aerial tramway
Just because you’re in a desert doesn’t mean you have to take in the sights solely from the ground. Plus, we know that you’re secretly a huge nerd about trains, trams and anything mechanical (and we support you in that). Indulge yourself by taking a ride on the Palm Springs tramway from the valley station, at 2,600 foot elevation, to the mountain station, at 8,500 foot elevation, and take in the view.
From the station make your way to Mount San Jacinto State Park, where 54 miles of trails await you, for your walking pleasure. Ranging from scenic strolls to extreme tests of endurance, there’s something for you here whether you like to spend your weekends rock climbing and bungee jumping or gently turning the pages of a newspaper while you sip tea in the garden. For a trail that hits the sweet spot of a happy medium, try the 2.5 mile Round Valley hike, which has great views and gorgeous surroundings.
Architecture lovers, your time has come and this is the best hike in Palm Springs for you. If you secretly get starstruck by celebrities, you’ll also be very happy that you walked this trail.
The Araby trail is around six miles up and back, and it can be accessed free of charge from the Rimcrest/Southridge development. While the nature around the trail itself is as lovely as the rest of Palm Springs, what really sets this route apart is its proximity to the legendary, John Lautner-designed Bob and Delores Hope estate. You know, the one that looks like an actual spaceship.
The estate has been up for sale for the past few years, so if you happen to have a cool $25 million to spare it can be yours. Otherwise, enjoy your up-close-and-personal look at the house before retiring to your equally stunning Plum Guide pad to catch some rays in the yard and plan which restaurant you’ll eat a delicious dinner at tonight.
Thousand Palms oasis preserve
This lush, verdant oasis is nestled into the north end of Indio Hills, and is possible thanks to the waters seeping from the San Andreas Fault – so it really is practically an oasis at the end of the world. There are more than 25 miles of hiking trails to explore here, so bring your most comfortable shoes (as well as painkillers for the inevitable knee/back/shoulder pain that comes with age), some sunscreen (because temperature here can reach 49 degrees in the summer) and most importantly, snacks to use for bribing your children to come hiking with you (trail mix is our personal recommendation).
For a hike that’s secluded enough that the crowds won’t follow you and also isn’t too tricky underfoot, the Willis Palms trail is a 4.5 mile loop which passes through some beautiful landscapes.
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
You might not think that a nature preserve located just off Highway 62 would be worth your time but in fact, the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve has some of the best hikes in Palm Springs. Nestled among the Little San Bernardino mountains, it straddles two deserts – the Mojave desert at the upstream end of the canyon and the Colorado desert at the downstream portion.
One of the big draws here is the abundant variety of plant life and animals. There are more than 240 species of birds alone, so if you’re a birdwatcher, this is your heaven. Hikes here range from so-easy-your-toddler-could-manage-it mile long paths, to 11 mile long round trips through serious terrain. There’s also a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk through the riparian and marsh habitats.