Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
337.00 ft (102.72 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
3.00 mi (4.83 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Indian Canyons is home to a remarkable oasis on the Agua Caliente Reservation just south of Palm Springs. Palm Canyon Creek and West Palm Canyon Creek wind through the arid and rocky terrain and nourish all kinds of unlikely plants and animals amidst an otherwise hot and unforgiving desert zone. A little over 8 miles of Palm Canyon Creek are recognized as Wild and Scenic, and along this waterway thrives America’s largest grouping of California fan palms, a towering and Seussian species of palm tree with a bushy tufted neck topped with a wild crop of palm fronds. Between the trees, the enormous granite boulders, and the proud cacti, it’s not hard to imagine this landscape as magically animate. The water has shaped this canyon into a unique and unforgettable zone that is exceptional in the Coachella Valley.

The Indian Canyons (there are three: Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon) and Tahquitz Canyon have long been the home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who thrived here well ahead of any white settler. In an area that receives less than 6 inches of rain annually, the Agua Caliente Indians managed their water with small reservoirs and irrigation canals and were able to grow melons, squash, corn, and other crops, and they harvested plants for structures, medicines, and baskets. The Agua Caliente Reservation was officially established in 1896; it totals 31,500 acres, but much of this is distributed in chunks across the desert, a result of land allocation that also had to account for the Southern California Railroad. Along with amazing hiking and biking opportunities, visitors to Indian Canyon also have the chance to learn more about the culture that has lived here for centuries.

A number of trails wind throughout Indian Canyons, but the Palm Canyon Trail leads through the heart of the oasis. For those looking for a short, family-friendly hike, look no further than the route leading up the Palm Canyon Trail and returning on the Victor Trail. It’s a moderate walk with plenty of exposure, so you’ll want to take it seriously; bring sun protection and plenty of water. That said, at 3 miles and with 340 feet of elevation gain, this route is doable for many hikers young and old, and the first portion stays close to the cool shade of the palms. The meandering creek and granite boulders are worth a slower pace, and the peace of this canyon is palpable. Take your time to explore it, because once you start climbing out of the canyon and join the exposed Victor Trail, you’ll want to pick up your pace. This loop is a tale of two ecosystems, and this second half is all desert; it is equally beautiful in its own way, but the potential for heat and sun exposure is real. The Victor Trail winds back northward on the ridge above the creek, offering big views down the canyon and the occasional glimpse into the Coachella Valley. You’ll feel like the Victor Trail turns away from your objective near the end, but don’t fret; the trail turns back and returns you to the Trading Post near where the South Palm Canyon Road comes in.

If you have the time and energy once you’ve finished the hike, be sure to take the short walk to check out West Fork Falls. The trail leaves just to the right of the Trading Post.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

General Day Use Fee

Pros

Oasis. California palms. Desert flora and fauna.

Cons

Sun and heat exposure.

Trailhead Elevation

850.00 ft (259.08 m)

Highest point

1,000.00 ft (304.80 m)

Net Elevation Gain

337.00 ft (102.72 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Family friendly
Historically significant
Geologically significant
Native artifacts

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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