| | | |

11+ MUST-DO Hikes in Palm Springs (and Surrounding Region)

Palm Springs is a must-visit destination as an oasis in the surrounding desert region. We love visiting Palm Springs to ride our bikes around Old Las Palmas, grab a bite to eat at Native Foods Cafe, and hike of course!

Most visitors don’t think of hiking when planning a visit to Palm Springs, especially if they are headed to a resort. But the area holds so much beauty, you must add at least 1 or 2 to your itinerary! If you’re lucky, you can even take a day trip and drive a bit away from Palm Springs to hike an extinct volcano or climb ladders in the desert canyons! Read on to find out how.

Pictured: Palm Springs Landscape

Planning to travel in 2022? Check out our Tips for Traveling this year + some helpful resources!


Table of Contents

    Is Palm Springs Good for Hiking?

    Surrounded by mountains and open desert, Palm Springs is a great destination for hiking. The city is a great place to base yourself for hiking in the desert and surrounding region.

    There are many different hikes in Palm Springs and the surrounding area at all levels of difficulty from easy to hard.

    Whether you are looking for a short hike during your trip or basing yourself here to tackle a nearby peak, Palm Springs is a great destination for everyone looking for adventure.

    We lived nearby for a few years and spent a lot of time on the trails around the city. Hiking in the desert is a unique experience and the mountain views are amazing!


    When is the Best Time of Year to Hike in Palm Springs?

    One of the great things about Palm Springs is that the weather is perfect for hiking MOST of the year. When other states are covered with snow, Palm Springs is sunny and 70 degrees.

    However, not all year round is great for hiking. One thing to remember about Palm Springs is that the desert views come with extreme temperatures depending on the season.

    In the summer, temperatures reach 120 degrees. Hiking in the summer can be very dangerous for everyone, especially those not used to the higher temperatures.

    Pictured: Cactus bloom in spring on hike in palm springs

    Overall Best Time: Spring

    The best time of year to go hiking in Palm Springs is in the spring as the wildflowers begin to bloom.

    There is nothing like seeing the desert come to life again and the colorful flowers dressing the landscape.

    If you can’t make it in the spring, don’t worry. Once the summer heat cools down, the rest of the year (and beginning of next) is wonderful to spend time on the trail.


    6 Tips for Hiking in the Desert


    1. BRING WATER

    We can’t stress this enough, bringing water on the hike is SO important to be safe on the trail. Not only do you need to hydrate during the physical exercise of the hike, but Palm Springs is located in a desert. This means there is little moisture in the air and can speed up your dehydration.

    2. WEAR GOOD SHOES

    If you’re in Palm Springs for a resort holiday, make sure to bring along a pair of sturdy tennis shoes or hiking boots. The hiking trails in Palm Springs are no place for flip flops or other flimsy sandals. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear for the rocky and sandy trails you are heading to.

    3. SUNSCREEN

    Okay, even Sam hates this one but it is important. In the desert, there is very little coverage from the sun. The trails around Palm Springs can be wide open to the rays and most days the sky is clear. Enjoy the sunny weather but make sure to lather up with sunscreen to protect your skin!

    4. WATCH YOUR STEP

    Hiking in the desert means lots of rocks, but also wildlife. Make sure when you are on the trail that you watch where you are going. Do this so you are taking care of yourself and don’t trip, but also so you are mindful of the unique wildlife at home in the desert. While hiking around Palm Springs you may encounter snakes, bunnies, and cacti on the trails.

    5. STAY ON TRAIL

    When hiking in and around Palm Springs, it is so important that you stay on the trail. This is for your own safety and the environment. So often, people step off the trail and easily end up lost in the desert. This can be very dangerous so it is so important that you do not wander off the marked trail.

    It’s also important for the delicate ecosystem. Please do your best to disturb as little of the wildlife around you as you can!

    6. FOLLOW “LEAVE NO TRACE” PRINCIPLES

    Although the two tips above can fall under this one as well, it is important to follow all of the Leave No Trace Principles when hiking in and around Palm Springs. Remember that while on the trail you are in a unique habitat full of different plants and animals. Do your part and take care of the environment around you.

    Want more information on the “Leave No Trace” Principles? Click Here


    The 5 Best Hiking Trails in Palm Springs


    TAHQUITZ CANYON LOOP TRAIL

    In the heat of summer, you can cool off at a resort pool OR you can visit a 60 ft waterfall (located at the edge of Palm Springs) and take a swim in the pool it spills into.

    The Tahquitz Canyon Loop Trail is located on the edge of Palm Springs, just past North Indian Canyon Drive.

    The canyon is located on the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation.

    Pictured: Tahquitz Canyon loop hike in Palm Springs

    To hike Tahquitz Canyon, you must stop at the visitor center and pay the fee to enter.

    • Distance: 1.8 miles
    • Difficulty: Moderate-Strenuous
    • Cost: $15 per adult (free for military)
    • When to Go: Early in the day, during late spring and early summer

    INDIAN CANYONS HIKING TRAILS

    At this location, you can find over 60 miles of trails. The 2 most popular trails include Andreas and Murray Canyon. Each of these trails leads you through a part of the Indian Canyon region and a desert oasis.

    • Distance: 1.2 miles, 4.7 miles
    • Difficulty: Easy, Moderate
    • Cost: $12 per adult
    • When to Go: Spring, Fall, Winter

    ARABY TRAIL

    This trail is on the easier side and able to be done with kids! It is easy to get to with parking right near the trailhead. In the end, you’ll have views of the entire valley below.

    • Distance: 4.1 miles
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Cost: FREE
    • When to Go: Spring, Fall, Winter


    NORTH LYKKEN TRAIL

    This trail can be strenuous because of the steep and rocky path. There are very few flat sections as most of it is at a steep incline heading up. However, the views make the trek worth it for sure!

    Pictured: Wildflowers in Spring in Palm Springs
    • Distance: 3.7 miles
    • Difficulty: Moderate/Hard
    • Cost: FREE
    • When to Go: Spring, Fall, Winter

    CACTUS TO CLOUDS TRAIL

    This hiking trail is not for beginners! The Cactus to Clouds hiking trail climbs from the desert to San Jacinto Peak gaining 10,300 feet in elevation.

    This hike is on our bucket list! Sadly, by the time we had learned about it the season and our timing didn’t work out before we moved. However, we will definitely be back to make this trek!!

    • Distance: 21 miles
    • Difficulty: STRENUOUS
    • Cost: FREE
    • When to Go: Spring or Fall (after the snow melt or before it snows!)

    3 Stunning Hikes Just Outside Palm Springs


    WHITEWATER PRESERVE

    Whitewater Preserve is a stunning landscape surrounding the rushing waters of the Whitewater River. The preserve is located about 20 minutes from downtown Palm Springs and is great for getting out in nature and hiking! Make sure to stop by the visitor center to get information about the wildlife in the area!

    • Distance: Various trail lengths from 2-6 miles
    • Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
    • Cost: FREE
    • When to Go: All year round, check facebook page for closures due to flooding or wildfires
    Pictured: Whitewater Preserve hiking from Palm Springs

    LADDER CANYON

    You may have heard of this unique hike and wondered “how can I do this?”. Ladder Canyon is located about an hour’s drive from Palm Springs. The last bit of road is gravel so it is best to have 4WD, be careful driving!

    At first look at the ladders, we were unsure how safe they were to climb. Then, we saw a 4-year-old climb the first one, basically by himself, and we got a little braver. Ladders in the canyon are decently sturdy and can hold weight, but please be mindful that there is some risk involved and watch your step.

    The canyons can be very narrow, if you get claustrophobic in small spaces, we recommend choosing another hike from this list or following the bigger Painted Canyon hike.

    • Distance: 4.4 miles (including full loop with Paint Canyon, can be shortened)
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Cost: FREE
    • When to go: Spring, Fall, or Winter. Be careful of high temperatures and strong sun during summer

    BIG MORONGO CANYON PRESERVE

    Ever heard of this place? We hope so but would be surprised if you did! Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is a lesser-known nature preserve in between Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park.

    Because of its super-popular neighbors, it is a wonderfully kept secret (shh, we are sharing it with you!). Big Morongo Canyon is an oasis in the desert with activity for everyone. It offers an easy short boardwalk for the kids or longer hikes into the desert if you’re more adventurous.

    • Distance from Palm Springs: 17.5 miles
    • Difficulty: There’s something for all levels
    • Cost: FREE, although donations are welcomed!
    • When to go: All year round, best in spring/fall or EARLY mornings during the summer

    Read more about visiting Big Morongo Canyon here


    3 Great Day Trips From Palm Springs for Hiking


    BIG BEAR

    Big Bear is located in the San Bernardino National Forest. The total drive is roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes. Around Big Bear, there are a ton of different hikes at various difficulties. Our favorite was the Cougar Crest Trail, here’s the information on it:

    • Distance: 5.3 miles
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Cost: FREE
    • When to Go: Spring, Summer, or Fall (take caution hiking during winter with deep snow and ice)

    JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

    If you’re heading to Palm Springs, you most likely have Joshua Tree National Park on your list to see. Although it is about an hour or so from the city, this park is totally worth the trip!

    Pictured: Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park on a day trip from Palm Springs

    We lived right outside the park for 2 years and LOVED the trails, the views, and the unique desert life.

    Since this is a whole national park, there is obviously a ton of different hikes you can check out here.

    Our favorite hikes in Joshua Tree include:

    • 49 Palms Oasis Trail
    • Queen Mine Trail
    • Barker Dam
    • Indian Cove Campground
    • Distance from Palm Springs: 50 miles
    • Difficulty: There’s something for all levels
    • Cost: $30, free to enter for military + veterans with ID
    • When to go: High Season is fall-spring with less visitors during the heat of the summer. We recommend visiting in mid-fall or spring to get the best temperatures and during the week to avoid the most crowds.

    AMBOY CRATER

    This hike is a bit out of the way but worth the drive. The surrounding landscape of dried lava fields makes you feel like you’re on another planet! AND, if you’re continuing your trip to Vegas, you will actually pass right by it so don’t miss this stop!

    Hike up the extinct cinder cone located in the Mojave Desert for an otherworldly experience!

    • Distance: 3+ miles (depending on how much of the crater you walk around)
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Cost: FREE
    • When to Go: Spring, Fall, Winter. Take caution of heat during summer
    Pictured: Amboy Crater Hike from Palm Springs


    HAPPY HIKING!


    Pictured: Cactus on hike in Palm Springs

    Hiking in the desert is such an amazing experience. There’s something special about the openness and the views that go on for miles.

    Writing this post has us itching to get back on the trail and we hope it has inspired you to get out there too!

    We hope you enjoy your trip to Palm Springs, stay safe out on the trail. Don’t forget to pin and save this post for later!

    Until next time,

    Sam and Ty

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.