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Follow Calamity Jane's Footsteps

On the Palm Canyon Trail
By Cathy Philipp - August 2nd, 2000

More than a hundred miles of hiking and equestrian trails crisscross the canyons and mountains surrounding Palm Springs, California.

Many of these trails originate in the picturesque Indian Canyons just south of the city. Located on the reservation of the Agua Caliente Band of the Cahuilla Indians, this system of pathways offers nature lovers spectacular views as well as an up close and personal look at the area's unique desert environment.

The Palm Canyon Trail, with its towering palm oasis against a backdrop of rugged, desert mountains, is perhaps the most scenic as well as the most easily accessible of all of the canyons' trails.

Once the home of "Calamity Jane" Wiefels, renowned frontier markswoman and original proprietor of the Palm Canyon Trading Post, today the canyon sees thousands of visitors every year.

Operated and maintained by the Agua Caliente Indians the canyons are open to visitors daily between October and May.

Trip Planner

Directions: In Palm Springs, take Palm Canyon Drive South to the entry gate for the Toll Road into the Indian Canyons area. Pay the toll ($5 for adults and $1 for children) to enter the reservation and follow the Toll Road for three miles to the Palm Canyon Trading Post. The parking lot is open for day-use only. For more information call the Tribal Council Office: (619) 325-5673.

What you'll need: Be sure to wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots. Wear a hat or sun visor and bring at least one quart of water per hiker. Dogs on leashes are welcome along this trail. There are restrooms and drinking water available at the Trading Post.

Distance and level of difficulty: The Palm Canyon Tail is about 13 miles long and traverses the Santa Rosa Mountains from Palm Canyon all the way to the famed Palms-to-Pines Highway. This hike is a 5-mile round trip starting in the streamside oasis near the Trading Post and then climbing through desert terrain to a vista point farther upcanyon. This is a moderate family outing with a 500-foot gain/loss in elevation.

Step by step:
1. Hikers can enter Palm Canyon via the roadway from the parking lot or by taking the stairway down from the Trading Post. From the canyon bottom the well-marked Palm Canyon Trail follows the year-round stream upcanyon, passed the picnic area, and though the oasis for about a mile. Through the lower canyon the trail crisscrosses the creek and occasionally pops out from under the palm canopy to reveal the desert-scape. This part of the trail is very easy going, and quite popular with the tourist crowd. Once the trail leaves the palm-lined creek to head out through the open desert you will soon leave the majority of sight seers well behind.
2. At the back of the canyon the trail crosses the creek one last time before it climbs steadily up an open hillside. At the top of the grade there is a vista overlooking the canyon and Palm Springs. From here the pathway levels out for a while as it traverses the desert-scape for about a mile. Before long you will come to an unsigned trails' junction at the top of a small grade.
3. The main Palm Canyon Trail continues straight ahead, while the Dry Wash Trail heads due east. West, or to the right, a spur trail heads down to the creek a little more than 1/2 mile away. This spur trail crosses the stream on its way through Indian Potrero before looping back to rejoin the main trail. From the trails' junction, take the spur trail about 100 yards to the rim of the canyon where there is a vista that is the turn around point for today's hike. After enjoying the view, retrace your steps back through the canyon to the Trading Post.

What you'll see: The Indian Canyon area is one of the most spectacular desert environments found anywhere. Towering 200 year-old fan palms line the canyon bottoms creating a unique habitat necessary to survive the extreme desert climate. The area's vast biodiversity provided the Cahuilla Indians with an abundance of natural resources. Be sure to check the at the Trading Post for more information about the Agua Caliente Tribe as well as the desert's flora and fauna.


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