The official Tahquitz Canyon webpage offers the following recommendation:
“This is a place of contrasts; it is a place of ancient and new, a place of power. Come with the right purpose and a clear mind to enjoy its beauty and mystery.”
After walking through fertile land in a desert area, among giants stones, I understand the truth behind the suggestion.
When you walk around Palm Canyon Drive, the main artery in Palm Springs, there is no way to tell there is something behind what looks like a pile of solid slabs of stone. But, behind those seemingly plain and gray mountains, there are canyons, caves, and running water.
To access one of those canyons, only a small deviation from the main street is needed.
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Tahquitz Canyon is administered by the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians (like other canyons in the area). From the visitor’s center, you can do a self or guided two-mile roundtrip hike.
The name of the place comes from a legend. Tahquitz was the first shaman created. In the beginning, he used his strong powers for the good of the Cahuillas. Over time, he started to use his power to harm the people. Therefore, he was banished to the canyon that bears his name. Some say he still can be seen at night in the form of a green fireball.
The Cahuillas have inhabited the canyon for hundreds of years. Since abundant water runs through the walls of stone, the Indians were able to grow crops and collect food from the native vegetation. During a guided walk, a ranger can point you to the mortars they used to grind seeds and corn. In addition, there is an opportunity to learn about the plants used for medicine and weaving.
During the walk, there are multiple points to appreciate the canyon walls. The dark chocolate rocks are accented by red, yellow and orange tones. The vegetation contributes some green to the scenery. Big boulders that have detached from the walls have created a maze of rocks.
The hike ends at Tahquitz Falls. This serene spot is the cherry on top of the ice cream (it is hard to believe a waterfall exists here). The flow of the water helped me understand why this place is so special (for some, sacred) to the Cahuillas.
Tahquitz Canyon – The Hike
As mentioned, you have the option to tour the canyon independently or with a ranger.
I strongly recommend you hike with a ranger (a member of the tribe, there is no extra charge if you choose this option). The information provided makes the experience more educational and enjoyable. Plus, you can make as many questions as you want.
Guided hikes are offered 4 times per day from October to June. One hike is offered from July to September (8:00 a.m., to beat the heat).
Those hiking independently are offered a brochure explaining several points of interest along the trail.
The trail has a length of 2 miles round trip. The trail has been classified as strenuous because of the elevation gain and rocky steps. I have done the trail more than once and I didn’t find it that difficult. Now, I visited during winter (when the temperature was cool) and with a ranger (I had time to rest).
There is barely any shade in Tahquitz Canyon. Come prepared to be exposed to the sun.
Tahquitz Canyon – When to Visit
Temperatures in Palm Springs and other communities in the Coachella Valley can reach more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit during summer. Temperatures can be high even during May and October (over 90).
Therefore, it is better to plan a hiking trip or day from November to April. I recommend checking the weather forecast before leaving home.
If you want to hike during the hot months, arrive at the canyon at opening time (7:30 a.m.). The idea is to be there when the canyon is covered in shade and leave around 10:00 a.m. (before the sun gets too high).
Another important thing to take into consideration are the wind conditions. When driving to Palm Springs, along the US-10, you are going to notice an abundance of wind turbines. This is because the area (the San Gorgonio Pass, to be exact) is one of the windiest places in the United States.
Believe me, you do not want to go hiking during extremely windy conditions. April is the windiest month of the year (road closures can happen during this time).
Tahquitz Canyon – Practical Information
The entrance to the Tahquitz Canyon is $12.50 per adult. The canyon is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day.
There seems to be more than one place called Tahquitz Canyon in the Coachella Valley. Make sure you are heading to the one located about a mile away from Downtown Palm Springs (500 W Mesquite Avenue).
If visiting Tahquitz Canyon, I recommend setting apart some time to enjoy what the area has to offer. Do not rush the experience. Guided hikes last 2.5 hours. So, 3 to 3.5 hours should be allocated to the site. Hey, make out the most of your money!
Make sure to bring the appropriate clothes/shoes and sun protection. You may want to bring snacks to get an energy boost while hiking. Water is essential. Bring back trash for later disposal.
Stay away from snakes (if seen) and turn back if signs of a heat stroke are present.
There are eating facilities in the canyon. Do not show up to hike on an empty stomach. Downtown Palm Springs is located about a mile away. There are plenty of eating options along Palm Canyon Drive.
More of the Area
Agua Caliente Cultural Museum – This small museum, located in Downtown Palms Springs, has exhibits related to the Agua Caliente tribe of the Cahuilla Indians.
Indian Canyons – These canyons (Palm, Murray and Andreas) are owned by the Cahuilla Indians too (at a different location). The area has over 60 miles of trails. Many of those trails are easy to moderate. Observe native desert flora and fauna in an oasis setting.
Cabot’s Indian Pueblo – Interesting Pueblo-style structure located in Desert Hot Springs
Have you been to Tahquitz Canyon? What other areas of Palm Springs have you hiked?
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