Essential Hiking Tips for Indian Canyons

When people think of Indian Canyons ~ I think a lot of people think that it’s one hike.  But the truth is, this area is filled with several hiking & horseback trails, many of which showcase the incredibly photogenic California palm trees.  A number of hikes also lead to water & waterfalls, making the Canyons a popular spot to cool off on hot days…in addition to the area’s countless hotel pools.  Because this area is so popular & can be so busy, there are some things to know before you head out.  Here are some “Essential Hiking Tips for Indian Canyons in Palm Springs!”

Essential Hiking Tips for Indian Canyons in Palm Springs, Girl Who Travels the World

Some of the trails in Indian Canyons are slightly shaded from the strong sun, while others offer cool swimming pools! Photo by Visit Palm Springs.

Overview & Map of Indian Canyons 

Located in Palm Springs, California ~ Indian Canyons are the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente tribe of Cahuilla Indians (& yes, Agua Caliente is also a popular casino & resort hotel in the area).  The Cahuilla are believed to have lived here for thousands of years.  Today, it’s a historically important location not only for the tribe, but for outdoor lovers, naturalists, & scientists as well.

Indian Canyons

Tahquitz Canyon

Essential Hiking Tips For Indian Canyons

Arrive at Opening Time if Hiking in Summer

 Hiking in Indian Canyons or any place in Palm Springs during the summer is quite a task, due to temperatures topping 100 degrees.  With temps reaching their height around noon, the best thing to do is arrive as early as possible ~ which at Indian Canyons is 8AM (opening time).  Even in months like March & April, when the desert is extremely busy: I’d plan on reaching the Canyons early, as there is often a line of cars waiting to enter.  Have your $12 Entry Fee ready to go, also.

 The hottest months in Palm Springs are from May to September ~ but as a former local, mid-June is when you see temps really sky-rocket, remaining in the 100’s virtually all through July & August.  Exercise EXTREME caution if you plan to hike during these months; only go out in early morning hours.  April & October are still very warm, but not as intense as summertime, & better for hiking.  November to March is the coolest period, & my favorite time to hike in the desert, with temperatures near-perfect in the 60’s & 70’s.

Top Five Day Hikes by Palm Springs, Girl Who Travels the World

Winter is my favorite time to hike in Palm Springs….

Bring Extra Water

You must bring a lot of water when hiking in Indian Canyons, even in the winter ~ but especially in late spring & summer.  Even when temps aren’t 100 degrees, the air is very dry, & if you’re not used to hiking in the desert: this could affect you negatively.  Compensate by bringing plenty of water, especially if you’re hiking with children. 

Also keep extra water in the car, as there are no pumps to refill empty bottles in the park.

Refer to the Visitor Center for Accurate Answers to Questions

 The Visitor Center often has more accurate answers for FAQ about hiking in the Canyons.  Attendants at the front gate may not have the best answers to your questions, & as the line of cars to enter is often long: they also may not have time to give detailed responses. They will provide you with a trail map & answer basic questions ~ but the Visitor Center can offer more detailed information about trails, the area’s history, & anything else you may want to know.

Keep an Eye Out for Rattlesnakes

 It’s common to encounter rattlesnakes while hiking in Indian Canyons, so be aware of the trail ahead, & where you may put your hands (if you’re doing any rock-scrambling).  Consider bringing a flashlight, to keep an eye out for hidden creatures.  Read this flashlight review to learn which ones are best for hiking & outdoor adventures.

Leave the Dogs Behind

All trails in Indian Canyons are NOT dog-friendly, which is a bummer for us dog-lovers.  It’s why I personally don’t use these trails very much, as I’m almost always hiking with my dog + friends.  For more dog-friendly trails in the desert, head to the Badlands in Indio, or many of the hikes in the La Quinta Cove. 

Bring a Picnic Lunch & Swimsuit for Your Hike

 If you’re going on a hike that involves water, such as Palm Canyon or Murray Canyon: wear your suit under your hiking clothes, so you can take a quick dip.  As for food, pack light snacks for the hike itself ~ but if you want to enjoy a nice lunch: pack a picnic basket with sandwiches & beverages.  Leave it in your car & retrieve it after hiking, then wander over to a picnic table shaded by palm trees for lunch al fresco.

Great Swimming Pools in Indian Canyons, Girl Who Travels the World

Tahquitz Falls is just one of several swimming pools in the Indian Canyons area.

Picnic Basket

Waterproof Cam


Best Indian Canyons Trails to Hike

 Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular Indian Canyons trails.  And in case you’re wondering if any of these hikes offer swimming, the answer is: YES.  Murray Canyon, Palm Canyon, & several other trails have swimming pools where you can take a dip. 

Andreas Canyon Trail (1.2 miles, Easy)

Andreas Canyon Loop is ideal only if you have time for one Palm Springs hike. It’s the scenic trail you see in many images of Indian Canyons, & is virtually flat, with only a 200-foot gain in elevation.  This easy 1.2-mile round trip trail leads alongside Andreas Creek, & the main pay-off here is being surrounded by gorgeous California Fan Palm trees, as well as some incredible rock formations.  It’s a great trail for beginners & those who are looking to take photos of these iconic California trees.

Andreas is Ideal: If you’re short on time, or prefer a flatter walk ~ but still want great photos!

Essential Hiking Tips for Indian Canyons in Palm Springs, Girl Who Travels the World

You can get great photos right on Indian Canyons’ easiest trail: the 1.2-mile Andreas Canyon, which features towering palm trees.

Palm Canyon Trail (2 miles, Easy)

 As the name says, you’d find a lot of palm trees on this trail.  Trees twist & curve low enough so that you can sit atop them, making for great photos.  Palm Canyon is similar to the Andreas Canyon trail ~ just a bit longer, & with only 295 feet in elevation gain: so again, mainly flat. You’ll need to cross through areas that don’t have much shade, so be prepared for that.  This is a horse-friendly trail with lots of swimming pools at the end to jump to, & streams along the way to enjoy.

Palm Canyon Trail is Ideal: If you like a mainly flat walk with some water & swimming pools!

Palm Canyon Trail, Essential Hiking Tips for Indian Canyons in Palm Springs, Girl Who Travels the World

On the 2-mile Palm Canyon Trail…Photo by Visit Palm Springs.

Tips for Hiking Palm Canyon Trail in Indian Canyons, Girl Who Travels the World

Streams abound on the Palm Canyon Trail: bring your swimsuit & shoes you don’t mind getting wet!

Murray Canyon Trail (4.7 miles, Moderate)

 Murray Canyon Trail is a 4.7 miles round-trip loop (you can also make it an out-and-back by not taking the Coffman Trail turn-off) that features many formations leading up to Seven Falls Waterfall, a good spot to cool off.  You need to cross several streams on this trail, so bring waterproof shoes, or ones you don’t mind getting wet.  It’s one of the most popular Indian Canyon trails because of the opportunity for swimming.  This hike takes over two hours, depending how long you stay at the swimming area.

Murray Canyon is Ideal: If you’re looking for more of a challenge & a waterfall…

Essential Hiking Tips for Indian Canyons in Palm Springs, Girl Who Travels the World

A double waterfall is part of the pay-off on the Murray Canyon Trail.

Other Fun Things To Do in Palm Springs

  • Moorten Botanical Garden: A famous family-owned garden center that sells cactus & many other desert plants.
  • Palm Springs Aerial Tram: Get beautiful views of the valley from the top of the San Jacinto Mountains.
  • Desert X: A Palm Springs Art Show that happens annually around the same time as Coachella.

xoxo Noelia 

Read Next: Dining & Nightlife Guide for Palm Springs

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Best Hikes in Indian Canyons in Palm Springs, Girl Who Travels the World

Top Tips for Hiking in Indian Canyons, Girl Who Travels the World