Day hikers can head to a waterfall in the San Jacinto Mountains just outside of Palm Springs on the Murray Canyon Trail.
The secluded walk to Seven Sister Falls is a 4.1-mile out-and-back. One of four canyons in the Agua Caliente Indian Canyons, this trail goes deeper and higher into the San Jacintos than the neighboring Andreas Canyon Trail. A great winter hike, it sports a 450-foot elevation gain.
To reach the trailhead, from downtown Palm Springs, take South Palm Canyon Drive south to Indian Canyons. Once past the entrance station, when the road splits go right/southwest. The road dead ends at the Andreas Canyon Trailhead parking lot. From the lot, walk south into the oasis and veer left/east. The Murray Canyon Trail leaves from the oasis’
The first mile is a footpath in open desert across a sandy wash. Small cacti, scrub brush, and lizards highlight this stretch. Along the way, at 0.4 miles, you’ll reach a trail junction; go right-straight/south.
The trail at 0.8 miles arrives at a thick grove of palms hugging Murray Creek. You’ve reached Murray Canyon proper. Head down a few switchbacks to the creek into the oasis. Shortly after that point, about a mile in, is a junction for the Coffman Trail, a side trail; go right/west to stay on the main route.
This verdant canyon boasts California fan palms, cottonwoods and desert willows, and this shaded canopy and the stream helps cool the desert temperatures. Grasses and flowers – California fuchsia, desert sunflowers, and desert lavender – fill the understory and open spots. Fascinating rock outcroppings rise along the stream and the canyon’s sides. With the sound of running water and chirping songbirds, you’ll think you’re on a tropical island rather than in a desert.
The trail does cross Murray Creek several times, requiring you to balance yourself on rocks. The crossings increase with frequency as the canyon narrows. If the creek is high during the snowmelt, expect to get your feet a little wet.
At 1.6 miles in, the trail comes to another junction; this is the other end of the Coffman Trail. Go right-straight/south. A brief portion of the next stretch of the trail is steep.
Endangered Peninsular Big Horn Sheep as well as mule deer and other wildlife sometimes can be spotted on the cliffs above the canyons, so be sure to look up. This also is an equestrian trail, so hikers should yield to passing horses.
The trail’s destination – Seven Sisters Falls and its pool – arrives at 2.1 miles. Sometimes referred to as Murray Canyon Falls, the waterfall is a stair step cascade. One step falls about 15-20 feet then a pair of falls each plunges about 10-15 feet. The waterfall is seasonal.
After taking in the waterfall, retrace your steps back through the canyon to the parking lot. For some additional scenery, you can take the Coffman Trail, which you gives a slightly elevated view of the canyon below. It adds 0.6 miles to the hike.
With a significant portion of the trail open to the sun, always don sunscreen and sunhat as well as bring plenty of water. Also, be forewarned that rattlesnakes have been spotted on the trail during hot weather.
As part of Indian Canyons, there is an entry fee to hike the trail. It is a popular route in winter, especially during the snowmelt when the waterfall enjoys its heaviest flow, so during that time of the year, get there early in the morning to avoid crowds.