When most people talk about Palm Springs, California, they mention mid-century modern architecture, arts and culture, or tennis and swimming. But honestly, the hiking here was one of my favorite things!
Hiking in Palm Springs is great because it’s a year-round activity here. From popular hiking trails to some off the beaten path — you’re sure to find a hike here to suit you and your crew.
Here are 17 of the best trails for hiking in Southern California‘s Palm Springs and why we love them.
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN PALM SPRINGS
- Best Near Downtown. Located within 1 mi of downtown Palm Springs, California and within walking distance of Moorten Botanical Gardens, Vagabond Motor Hotel – Palm Springs features an outdoor pool and free on-site parking.
- Best Pet Friendly Location. Nestled between Little Tuscany, the Uptown Design District, and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the Inn at Palm Springs is a favorite spot for local and global travelers. Fantastic Location + Dog Friendly! Breakfast included.
- Best for Adults. A Place in the Sun Hotel is an adults only hotel that offers large unites, gardens, a heated pool, and more. This Midcentury Modern Boutique Hotel has accommodations with a garden and free WiFi throughout the property. Each room offers mountain views.
MOUNT SAN JACINTO STATE PARK
DISCOVERY NATURE TRAIL
Distance: 1.3 miles
Elevation Change: 255 feet
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I have to say it. San Jacinto State Park is the best state park in the country. Well, at least of the hundreds and hundreds we have visited. If you don’t have a lot of time or physical limitations prevent you from exploring the entire park, then this is the trail for you.
You’ll get to the trailhead for this one by taking the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It’s a wonderful 10 minute ride to the top on a revolving tram car to Mountain Station at elevation 8,516 feet. You’ll find the park visitors center on the lower level – be sure to stop in! From here, access to this and the other trails are out the large glass doors. (Fee Area)
Book It: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
SUICIDE ROCK VIA DEER SPRINGS TRAIL
Distance: 6.7 miles
Elevation Change: 1,866 feet
If beautiful views are your hiking delight, then this is your trail. Suicide Rock? Legend has it that a Native American princess and her lover jumped from here when they were not permitted to be together. No clue if it’s true, but the scene here is gorgeous with views of Strawberry Valley at Lily Rock and Tahquitz Peak. Be careful here, and stay on the viewing platforms to be safe.
With the elevation gain and lack of shade, be sure to pack plenty of water. A wilderness permit is required to hike — pick yours up, for free, at the ranger station before hitting the trail. (Fee Area)
Lookin for more outdoor adventures in Palm Springs? Try one of these fun activities!
- Enjoy amazing views on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Ride from the desert floor to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Enjoy great views on your way up to restaurants, a natural exhibit area, and more.
- Explore the Indian Canyons on a Hiking Tour by Jeep. Climb aboard a 4WD and discover the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. Gaze at stunning rock formations and magnificent fan palms as well as more than 150 species of plants in these lush palm oases.
- Head out to Joshua Tree National Park on a Jeep Tour. Explore the incredible Joshua Tree National Park in this exhilarating jeep or SUV tour. Departing from the Palm Springs area, take rugged roads along mountainsides and the Coachella Valley, and head into the protected wilderness of the Mojave Desert.
HIKING IN PALM SPRINGS: COACHELLA VALLEY PRESERVE
WILLIS PALM LOOP
Distance: 4.1 miles
Elevation Change: 531 feet
This hike takes you through Willis Palm Oasis, and we recommend going clockwise to get the best views of them. There is a large section of trail that is sandy, so wearing closed-toed hiking shoes is recommended. (No Tevas or water Keens, for example.)
If you want to see the palm oasis, but look forward to doing multiple hikes in the Coachella Valley on the same day, then consider cutting this one a little shorter. The oasis is near the beginning of the hike.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
RYAN MOUNTAIN TRAIL
Distance: 3.0 miles
Elevation Change: 1,069 feet
We started this hike at 8:30am during summer, and that was probably too late in the day. I highly recommend this 3 mile hike, but it’s a climb and you’ll want to start early. The views from the top are 360-degrees of amazing! You can see the Coachella Valley and the entire surrounding Palm Springs area.
Bring a mid-morning snack and enjoy yourself once you reach the summit. And remember, it takes about half the time to come down as it did to climb to the top! (Fee Area)
BARKER DAM NATURE TRAIL
Distance: 1.3 miles
Elevation Change: 62 feet
Barker Dam Nature Trail is an easy 1.3 mile loop that offers great views of the rocks and Joshua trees…plus lots of tiny critters (maybe you’ll even see a desert tortoise!) We visited in Summer, so the water was dried up, but the boys still enjoyed seeing the dam.
A fun point on the trail, for us, was seeing the petroglyphs. This was the first time we’d seen them with color – reds and blues, so pretty against the white sandstone. (Fee Area)
WHITEWATER CANYON VIEW LOOP TRAIL
Distance: 3.7 miles
Elevation Change: 659 feet
Even on a hot summer day you’ll get a little shade on this trail. You’ll find fantastic views along the ridge and the creek. In early Spring you’ll find wildflowers blooming in the foreground, with snow still on the peaks in the background.
Another fun tip…after hiking this you can mark the PCT off your bucket list (even if it’s only a few miles).
SANTA ROSA & SAN JACINTO MOUNTAINS NTL MNMT
Distance: 1.0 miles
Elevation Change: 173 feet
Want to pack in the greatest amount of scenery in the smallest time? This is your trail! Palm tree shade keeps you cool on half the hike; expect sunshine on the other half. Rock formations, fan palm trees and babbling brooks…it’s a great hiking option that’s quick and easy. (Fee Area)
Distance: 4.1 miles
Elevation Change: 1,404 feet
It might seem like you’re in the wrong location when you first start because you hike through a residential area at the beginning…don’t worry. Keep going. Views from the top are a fun way to see the city.
On the way up you’ll wind your way by Bob Hope’s house, which is fun.
PALM SPRINGS MUSEUM AND NORTH LYKKEN TRAIL
Distance: 3.7 miles
Elevation Change: 1,735 feet
This is a pretty popular trail, but it’s also a little ill-defined. Do it, for sure…just bring your AllTrails map. I highly recommend hiking it in the evening so you can watch the sun heading below the horizon while all the city lights begin to glow.
You’re going to work for that view though. Expect to climb and do a little bouldering. You can do just the Museum Trail if you want, but if you’re combining it like we suggest here, start at the Ramon Rd trailhead and end at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
Pro Tip: If you’re willing to hike a little longer (8-9 miles) on a relatively difficult mountain hike, then replace this one with the South Lykken Trail. It’s one of the best in the area. We just didn’t include it in our list because it’s a doozy. Pack extra water and start early.
MURRAY CANYON TRAIL TO SEVEN FALLS
Distance: 3.7 miles
Elevation Change: 600 feet
The trail starts in sun but leads you into the canyon with plenty of shade (but no breeze) in the canyon. There are several cascades near the end, the largest at about 20ft. (But don’t expect any falls in the summer.) (Fee Area)
TAHQUITZ CANYON LOOP TRAIL
Distance: 1.9 miles
Elevation Change: 328 feet
A pretty (easy) hike for all ages, just be sure to go early to escape the heat. The Visitor Center opens at 7am, so be there then if you can.
We heard from some locals that in early summer it’s a great place to swim; that was hard to see during our visit. The waterfall is generally dried up in the late summer months, but even without it this hike is beautiful. (Fee Area)
AGUA CALIENTE BAND OF CAHUILLA INDIANS RESERVATION
INDIAN CANYON WEST FORK TRAIL
Distance: 5.4 miles
Elevation Change: 1,581 feet
This is the hardest trail on the list, with a mega incline…but worth every foot step. A spring hike will showcase wildflowers and cactus, decorating the rocks like a wedding cake. Big horn sheep are regular visitors here, so keep your eyes open.
This hike is part of the 60 miles of hiking trails you’ll find as part of the Indian Canyons area. (Fee Area)
PALM CANYON TRAIL
Distance: 2.0 miles
Elevation Change: 295 feet
A palm tree oasis with an easy hike makes this a lovely way to experience Indian Canyons hiking. If you’re looking to do longer, this hike can take you up to 15 miles into the canyon, or take this short version from AllTrails. (Fee Area)
Book It: Indian Canyons Hiking Tour by Jeep
HIKING IN PALM SPRINGS: SAN BERNADINO NATIONAL FOREST
COUGAR CREST TRAIL
Distance: 5.3 miles
Elevation Change: 898 feet
Big Bear Lake is a dream, and this is a fantastic way to catch views of it. Huge, dreamy trees follow the trail making the entire hike amazing. Watch for the Boy Scout benches…they’re a good place for a rest, a snack and a view. (Fee Area)
CASTLE ROCK TRAIL
Distance: 2.7 miles
Elevation Change: 820 feet
The Castle Rock Trail is one of the most popular trails in the San Bernardino National Forest. It’s short and steep, and close to Bear Lake Village (ideal for lunch after the hike)! With huge pines and cedars and views of the lake, it’s a great alternative to the hike above if you need a shorter option. (Fee Area)
MECCA HILLS WILDERNESS
LADDER CANYON AND PAINTED CANYON TRAIL
Distance: 4.4 miles
Elevation Change: 820 feet
This hike in Southern California is a unique experience, featuring rock formations, slot canyons, ladders to climb, and art on the canyon walls. If you hike it clockwise then you can climb UP the ladder instead of down. Just keep in mind that the sun will be burning when you come out of the slot, so bring plenty of water.
A 4WD doesn’t hurt on the road up to the parking lot, and check the weather before heading out (as you would anytime you hike a slot canyon).
MONTEZUMA VALLEY ROAD TO EAGLE ROCK
Distance: 9.7 miles
Elevation Change: 1,079 feet
This hike is literally a stroll thorough the rolling hills. It’s was a farming community at one time, and if you’re lucky you might even see a cow or two on your hike. The gem, though, is the rock formation at the end of the hike. It really does look just like the trail’s namesake!
HIKING IN PALM SPRINGS FAQ
What is the toughest hike in Palm Springs?
The toughest hike in Palm Springs has got to be the Cactus to Clouds hike. This 21-mile hike starts in downtown Palm Springs and climbs over 10,000 feet to the summit of Mt. San Jacinto. It’s so tough, Backpacker Magazine rated it one of the hardest day hikes in the world.
Can you hike in Palm Springs?
Of course you can hike in Palm Springs! You’ll find most of the trails within the city limits, at the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation and inside Mt San Jacinto State Park. There are also lots of great trails in and around Palm Springs that you can check out.
Is Joshua Tree close to Palm Springs?
Joshua Tree National Park is only about an hour outside of Palm Springs, making it a great place to experience hiking nearby. (Check the weather first and BRING WATER!)
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO CALIFORNIA:
- YOUR CALIFORNIA VACATION
- REDWOOD NATIONAL FOREST: 12 Best Hikes in Redwood National Forest
- MORRO BAY: Kayaking to a Desert & Other Amazing Things to do in Morro Bay, CA
- JOSHUA TREE: 15 Things To Do In Joshua Tree (In & Out Of The National Park)
- MORE PALM SPRINGS HIKES: Palm Springs canyon hikes and wildlife not to miss
WHERE TO OVERNIGHT IN PALM SPRINGS
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