Hike Fargo Canyon Trail Road on Presidents’ Day Weekend

Day hikers can spot bighorn sheep in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains.

The Fargo Canyon Road Trail runs 5.6 miles round trip but easily can be extended if you explore side canyons.

To reach the trailhead, from Interstate 10 exit onto Dillon Road in Indio. Head north then turn left/east onto Fargo Canyon Road. Park when the blacktop ends.

You’re in the middle of a wide wash. Make sure you’ve got hiking boots with good tread as you’ll spend a while slogging through sand. You’re at about 560-580 feet above sea level, depending on where you park.

At about 0.3 miles, the trail curves northeast toward the Fargo Canyon opening in the foothills. The sand here was washed off the foothills, which in turn were raised by tectonic action. As the Pacific and North American plates grind against one another, land on either of the fault rises.

You’ll pass Aqueduct Road, an old jeep trail, at about 0.4 miles. Speaking of Jeeps, because the canyon is wide this is a popular off-roading trail. While a multi-use trail, if you’re seeking quiet and solitude, you may want to save this hike for another day if you see a Jeep trail club traversing the route.

At 1.6 miles, you’ll enter the canyon. You’ve gained about 500 feet in elevation, so turn around and take a look back. The entire Coachella Valley sits below you. The trail points toward Indio with Palm Desert to its right. You might catch a glimmer of the Salton Sea to the far left.

The canyon walls look much those at the Mecca Hills and rise the deeper you go into the canyon. Be sure to carry an aerial photo or topo map of the canyon so you don’t let get lost should you explore a side canyon. As long as you stick to the main canyon, however, you’ll be fine.

Most of the tan, buff and gray layers of sandstone in Fargo Canyon’s walls was set down between 2.6 million years to 11,700 years ago. Water flowing out of higher ground to the east and north deposited sediment here.

The Little San Bernardino Mountains stretch about 40 miles long. They’re part of the Transverse Ranges, which are oriented more east-west than the typical California coastal range, which runs northwest–southeast paralleling the Pacific Ocean shoreline.

This range also marks a transition zone between two of the United States’ four great deserts, the Sonoran at the mountain base and the Mojave of the High Desert. The Coachella Valley sits in the Colorado Desert, a subunit of the Sonoran.

Bighorn sheep often can be seen on the canyon walls the farther you walk. They blend in quite well with the tawny landscape, but their size gives them away. Adult rams can weigh between 150-200 pounds – as much as a full-grown man – and ewes usually are 100-125 pounds. The adult ram’s horns sometimes reach 30 inches each in length and at the base are 15 inches in circumference. They feed on acacia, encelia, krameria and sweetbush.

About 2.8 miles in, you’ll actually enter Joshua Tree National Park. There’s no sign to mark the boundary though. You’re at about 1830 feet elevation, almost to the High Desert.

If you have the energy, walk a little further to Rockhouse Canyon on the left/north. At spots, it’s narrower than Fargo Canyon, and heads all the way to the High Desert a few miles southwest of the famous Keys View.

For a day hike, though, retrace your steps back to your vehicle.

Be sure to don sunscreen, sunglasses and sunhat, as well as bring plenty of water. The canyon walls sometimes provide shadow early and late in the day, but Fargo Canyon and its wash mostly are open to the sun.

Never hike the trail if rain has fallen during the past 48 hours or if it’s forecast. Water can easily sweep down the canyons, and there are precious few spots to climb up the canyon walls out of danger.



Image Sources

  • Fargo Canyon runs through the Little San Bernardino Mountains’ foothills.: Rob Bignell