Water in Oswit Canyon. Credit: Theresa Sama

Are you ready for hiking in the extreme desert heat? Make sure you have what it takes to survive and enjoy the trails during this time of the year—because the heat is on!

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, summer temperatures will be hotter than normal, with the hottest periods from mid-June to late August … which is not a surprise.

First and foremost, don’t hit the trails without the 10 essentials for desert hiking. The Friends of the Desert Mountains website offers a comprehensive list of those 10 essentials (www.desertmountains.org/10-essentials), and pay particularly close attention to the No. 1 item on the list—water! Remember to take more water than you think you should need. I suggest carrying at least one liter of water per hour during heat above 90 degrees, and drink about one liter of water before you get started. During the hike, take frequent sips of water rather than drinking a lot of water at once.

While we’re on the topic of water, there are some desert trails in and around Palm Springs that have a refreshing amount of both running water and shade—but you may need to hike a bit to find this water, and you probably should only hike during certain times of the day. (I highly suggest starting as early as possible, and try to be off the trail by mid-morning during summer months.)

Two of these most famous areas are Oswit Canyon, and Palm Hills/Goat Trails. Both are in south Palm Springs and offer some of the most precious and pristine hiking in the Coachella Valley—but both offer so much more than trails. Most people will agree that these are majestically healing places, too.

If you hike into Oswit Canyon far enough, it will end at a waterfall. It is an amazing hiking experience, with a bit of rock-scrambling needed to achieve this cool and most rewarding break before starting the hot journey back. It’s a moderate 4 miles out and back, with an elevation gain of around 900 gradual feet, if you continue past the Palm Oasis and choose to do a little bouldering. Then, continue to the waterfall, with cool running water trickling down the green canyon walls. Simply breathtaking!

I used to spend a lot of time wandering through this canyon at a time when the trail was not always obvious. But there is a notable difference since the 2020 acquisition by the Oswit Land Trust (formerly known as Save Oswit Canyon): The trails today are immaculately maintained and perfectly marked with signage. A big thank you goes to the volunteers of OLT for their tireless efforts and abundance of trail work and love brought into the canyon.

There is parking along south Palm Canyon Drive, near the bridge at Bogert Trail. Dogs are not allowed on these trails or in Oswit Canyon, as it is home to the endangered peninsular bighorn sheep, among other wildlife.

Water in Oswit Canyon. Credit: Theresa Sama

The 114-acre purchase to preserve Oswit Canyon and keep it open to the public was merely the first success story of founding president Jane Garrison and the OLT team (oswitlandtrust.org/oswitcanyon), as nearly 4,000 acres of land—which includes Palm Hills and the Goat Trails—was recently preserved by three of our desert’s conservation groups, thanks to facilitation by the Oswit Land Trust, and funding provided by the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, and the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission. Palm Hills and the Goat Trails are located in south Palm Springs, just above the Rimrock shopping center, along Highway 111, near the end of Gene Autry Trail. Dogs on leash are currently allowed in the Palm Hills area.

Garrison stated that OLT will have signs at Palm Hills in the coming months, as well as a comprehensive plan to make the trails and trailhead beautiful and welcoming. You can read details of the land acquisition at oswitlandtrust.org/palm-hills.

“This is the largest single land-conservation acquisition in the history of the Coachella Valley,” Garrison said. “And it will now be enjoyed by generations and generations of humans and wildlife!”

Thanks to Garrison and her team at OLT, as well as the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy and the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission, we can all safely enjoy these trails while taking in the majestic beauty of the surrounding flora and the spectacular views of the Palm Springs area—while also being mindful of wildlife. I have seen many snakes, especially rattlesnakes, on the trails in these areas. They are definitely out and about during the extreme heat and at dusk. Please be mindful of the snakes, the bighorn sheep, and all wildlife. Remember: They share their trails with us. Please be considerate to them.

Paisley Ramstead, OLT’s executive assistant and staff biologist, shared this important piece information: “The best piece of advice is to always give wildlife adequate space. Admiring from a distance keeps both hikers and wildlife safe—and the more we do to show wildlife that we aren’t a threat to them on the trail, the more opportunities we will have to view wildlife on the trail.”

(Corrected May 23 to clarify the purchasers of the land that includes Palm Hills and the Goat Trails.)

Theresa Sama is an outdoor enthusiast who writes the Independent’s hiking/outdoors column. She has been running and hiking the Coachella Valley desert trails for more than 10 years and enjoys sharing...

3 replies on “Hiking With T: Thanks to the Oswit Land Trust, We Can Enjoy the Preserved Oswit Canyon and Palm Hills Areas”

  1. Nice article on this very important conservation acquisition of Oswit Canyon.

    I also learned, while reading T’s recent hiking article, about the Palm Hills trail, which I look forward to exploring when I return to the desert.

    1. Thank you, Susan. It will be the perfect time to explore Palm Hills and the goat trails after you return in October.

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