If you’re getting out onto local trails, you’re seeing spectacular beauty everywhere you turn. There are so many amazing wildflowers thanks to all the rain this year. We may see the beauty of blooms well into May!
All of the precipitation has brought more than just wildflowers: Thanks to the huge mountain snowpack surrounding us that has started to melt, Palm Springs-area canyons are thriving with amazing waterfalls.
There are a couple of close-to-town waterfall hikes that are good for all ages. First: Tahquitz Canyon is a short, easy hike, less than an hour and 1 mile (2 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of 350 feet) that ends at a 60-foot waterfall, Tahquitz Falls, that is absolutely gushing as of this writing.
I was recently on the Tahquitz Canyon Trail, and I haven’t seen so much water flowing there in more than a decade. It’s definitely worth the $15 (or $7 for children; free for military with ID), and that’s not all: Along the way, you will see several mini waterfalls before reaching the big one. Be careful not to get into the rushing water, as it can be very dangerous; much like wildlife, view it from a distance.
The wildflowers and the views from the trail are beyond breathtaking. This is certainly a must-do hike (before it gets too hot, usually by the end of May)—and it’s right in our backyard, just off of downtown Palm Springs. To get to the Tahquitz Canyon Trail from downtown Palm Springs, drive south on Highway 111/South Palm Canyon Drive, and turn right (toward the mountain) onto Mesquite Avenue. Drive to the end, and park in the Tahquitz Canyon Visitors’ Center parking lot. The Visitors’ Center features educational and cultural exhibits, as well as a display of artifacts. Ranger-led interpretive 2.5-hour hikes are offered daily and are free with paid admission, departing this time of year (October through June) at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.
Whether you take a guided tour or go on your own, you may want to first check out the theater room and view the video about the Legend of Tahquitz; it’s interesting and well worth the time. For more information, visit www.tahquitzcanyon.com/canyon.
Murray Canyon, one of the Indian Canyons, is located five miles south of the Tahquitz Canyon Visitors’ Center and is another must-do hiking trip this time of year, for those of you who love the water and wildflowers. It’s an easy-to-moderate hike, less than 5 miles out and back, that meanders along a flowing stream. The water is high and fast as of this writing, so be careful, and be prepared to get wet in the numerous water crossings as you navigate your way along the stream, underneath the cool tree canopy, to the base of the Seven Sisters Waterfall—a three-tiered waterfall named after seven streams of water that flow one into the other.
Murray Canyon is less-traveled and known for its isolated beauty. The base of the falls is a perfect place for a picnic before heading back to civilization. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the endangered peninsular bighorn sheep or other wild animals that roam the high ground above the canyon. The endangered least Bell’s vireo bird is known to nest here.
To reach Indian Canyons, drive south on Highway 111/South Palm Canyon Drive and keep heading south (to the right) at the split with East Palm Canyon Drive. The address is 38520 S. Palm Canyon Drive. The area is open for day visits from Oct. 1 to July 4 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last vehicle in at 4 p.m. Ranger-led interpretive hikes are offered from October through June, which are free with paid admission: $12; $7 for seniors (62-plus) and students; $6 for children (6-12); and free for military with ID). Learn more at www.indian-canyons.com/indian_canyons.
I was also lucky enough to catch several waterfalls at Whitewater Preserve, a hidden gem of the desert, after a recent rainstorm came through. I counted at least seven or eight waterfalls along the canyon walls along the drive back to the preserve. Those waterfalls lasted for two to three days. It was breathtaking and majestic to see while they lasted.
Please keep your eyes open for snakes and other wildlife on the trails—especially rattlesnakes; they are out and about during the extreme heat and at dusk. Snakes like to hang out underneath creosote bushes and other plants that often grow alongside the trail. They also hang out in the crevices of big rocks and boulders, so be cautious, and don’t get too close. Always stay in the middle of the trail when you can, and check the area before taking a rest on a boulder. Check again before getting up, as most snakebites occur on the hands, feet and ankles.
As more people get out on the trails, please remember to be cautious and courteous. Watch out for each other, and be mindful not to trample the beautiful plants and wildflowers if you need to step aside to let others pass. When you meet people along the trail, know that uphill hikers have the right of way. As a general rule, bicyclists yield to all trail users, while hikers yield to horseback riders. The National Park Service has an excellent article on hiking etiquette at www.nps.gov/articles/hikingetiquette.htm.
Saturday, that April 22, is Earth Day. Get out there and do something suitable for you to celebrate our beautiful Mother Earth!