Favorite Desert Oasis Hikes

Forests of towering palm trees, shady streams surrounded by greenery, even an icy waterfall. Yes, you’re still in the desert. And no, it’s not a mirage. You’re exploring a tropical desert oasis, just minutes away from the lounge chairs at Santiago. Here are a few of our favorite nearby oasis hikes.

Just 10 minutes down the road on the Agua Caliente Reservation, the sacred Indian Canyons area features many springs and streams that nourish some of the largest groves of California fan palms in the world. There are over 60 miles of walking and hiking trails here but for an easy 1-mile loop head to Andreas Canyon. This scenic path hugs a creek bed as it makes its way past unusual rock formations and through stately groves of skirted fan palms and cottonwoods. Other popular hikes here include the Palm Canyon and Murray Canyon trails. Admission to Indian Canyons is $12.00, hikers are required to carry drinking water, and open days and hours vary by season. More details can be found here.

Just up the road from Indian Canyons, Tahquitz Canyon features a steep and rocky 2-mile loop that follows along a trickling stream, climbing more than 350 feet in elevation. In addition to some great views of the valley, lucky hikers often spy a few Big Horn Sheep along the way. At the top, you can cool off under a seasonal 60-foot waterfall known as Tahquitz Falls. These icy spring-fed waters usually flow from November to June. Admission to the trail is $15.00 per person, hikers are required to carry drinking water (available for purchase), and open days and hours vary by season. More details can be found here or by calling 760-416-7044.

Still, only about 30 minutes away, the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve is more than worth the short drive. This protected 880-acre paradise of towering native fan palms is nourished by waters seeping from the San Andreas Fault Line. You’ll find 25+ miles of trails here of varying difficulty and length, but for maximum reward with very little effort, you can’t beat the McCallum Trail. Starting near the closed Visitor’s Center, this easy two-mile “hike” winds you through the skirts of hundreds of giant fan palms on a shady wooden boardwalk. When you reach the end of the boardwalk you have the option to return to the parking lot or continue another 15 minutes up a sandy desert trail to a second oasis, the McCallum Grove and its Simone Pond (sorry, no swimming here). For a slightly longer hike, follow the signs to Vista Point to take in sweeping views of Thousand Palms Oasis, McCallum Grove, the San Andreas Fault, and Mount San Gorgonio. Admission to the preserve is free, but leave a donation in the box for good karma. Open days and hours vary by season, some trails can be accessed when the preserve is closed, and don’t forget drinking water. All the details can be found here.