The Palm Canyon Trail to the Stone Pools heads through North America’s largest palm oasis.
Day hikers can explore the San Jacinto Mountains backcountry on their way to exotic stone pools in Palm Springs.
The segment of the Palm Canyon Trail hike runs 6 miles round trip and gains 880 feet elevation. The trail starts in Indian Canyons, heads through North America’s largest oasis, and continues into the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument to the Stone Pools.
To reach the trailhead, in Palm Springs from Calif. Hwy. 111 go south onto South Palm Canyon Drive. In two miles, you’ll reach the Indian Canyons tollgate; there is a fee per adult and a lower rate per child. Shortly after the toll, the road splits; go right to the parking area next to the Trading Post. The trailhead is on the lot’s southeast side.
An exhibit of native dwellings sits near the oasis’ entry. Tawny, mostly barren, foothills rise above the canyon.
Stepping into the oasis, you’ll feel like you’re on the set of a Tarzan or Jurassic Park movie. Hundreds of California fan palms nestle around Palm Creek (sometimes referred to as Palm Canyon Creek on maps and in articles), where water runs in winter and spring.
The largest of the fan palms towers 10 stories high and stretches three-feet wide. Some of the palms grow in fun, unique shapes, including one whose trunk has curled like an elephant trunk so its fronds co tan catch sunlight.
In about a mile, the trail crosses Palm Creek and climbs up the canyon’s south side the ridge.
Once atop the ridge, you’ve entered the San Jacinto backcountry. Great views looking into nearby canyons and plenty of barrel and cholla cacti await.
At two miles in, the route reaches a jeep trail that follows a wide wash. Go straight-right rather than follow the wash.
The trail fizzles to a faint path at about three miles in. It continues climbing above the canyon on the right, but rather than follow it, stop and look into that canyon. You’ll see a narrow trail that descends about 30 feet into it. Take that spur trail.
The spur ends at the Stone Pools. Boulders and a narrowing gorge trap water flowing downhill and form beautiful pools. The greater the winter snows at the top of the San Jacinto Mountains, the higher the amount of water in the pools.
There’s plenty of space to picnic at the pools, so if hiking in the morning, bring a basket. Be sure to carry out what you carry in. Do not drink from the creek.
After taking in the sights, retrace your steps back though the oasis to your vehicle.
Except in the oasis, there’s no shade on the trail, so be sure to don sunscreen, sunglasses and sunhat.
Hiking boots and a trekking pole are recommended to keep your balance when ascending the canyon wall.
Indian Canyons opens at 8 a.m. and closes at night, so this is no spot for a dawn hike. A popular trail, it can be crowded on weekends.
- Palm Creek flows through the oasis out of the San Jacinto Mountains.: Rob Bignell
- The Palm Canyon Trail to the Stone Pools heads through North America’s largest palm oasis.: Rob Bignell