Cactus bloom between March and October on the East Fork-Vandeventer Loop Trail.
Day hikers can vicariously experience the adventure of a desert explorer coming upon a much-welcomed oasis in Palm Springs’ Indian Canyons.
The 7.2-miles East Fork-Vandeventer Loop Trail consists of segments of five different trails that head through the desert foothills and North America’s largest palm oasis. The hike is best done October through April.
To reach the trailhead, from Calif. Hwy. 111 in Palm Springs, take S. Palm Canyon Drive south into Indian Canyons. The road ends at the Trading Post; use the “additional parking” overflow lot. From there, go to the kiosk in the lot then follow the signs to Fern Canyon; the trailhead is on the lot’s north side.
The trail begins in dry, dusty desert as heading up a narrow canyon. The usually dry creek – a tributary to the Palm Canyon Wash – flows out of the foothills to create the canyon.
In spring, the canyon can be quite colorful as meltwater fosters several blooms. Cactus usually flower there in late March through October.
At 0.3 miles, the trail reaches the Victor Trail. Go right/south onto it.
The trail ascends about 300 feet above the Palm Canyon oasis. You’ll soon be treated to great views of the oasis below, and then The Desert Divide’s mountains in the distance. There’s also plenty of desert flora, especially cactus.
At 1.6 miles, the dirt path arrives at Vandeventer Trail just above the Palm Canyon Oasis. Go left/northeast onto the Vandeventer.
The trail crosses a ridge with some drops into small washes and canyons. The farther you climb into the foothills, the more urban world of the Coachella Valley feels a world away, though it’s just a couple of miles as the crow flies.
At 3.1 miles, you’ll reach a three-way junction; go right/southeast onto the trail. This leg of the hike usually is marked on maps as the East Fork Loop.
The route crosses more desert in the open sun. While the desert is full of life and possesses a beauty all its own, compared to the landscaped urban areas below, it appears desolate. A few darting lizards and the ubiquitous cactus are your only companions.
At 4.4 miles, the dusty path reaches another four-way junction. Go right/northwest onto the East Fork Trail.
This leg of the trail offers great views of the San Jacinto Mountain Range ahead of you. The trail steadily loses elevation as heading into a sandy bottom canyon. There are some rocky falls that you easily can climb down.
The trail soon enters the Palm Canyon Oasis. About 150 plant species thrive in the half-square-mile oasis.
At 6.3 miles, while in the oasis, you’ll arrive at a four-way junction; take Palm Canyon Trail straight/west. The rest of the trail is through the shaded, cooler oasis centered on Palm Canyon Creek.
The largest of the oasis’ fan palms towers 10 stories high with its trunk stretching 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 can catch sunlight.
Leaving the oasis, the trail ends at your parking lot.
As all but the oasis is open to the sun, be sure to don sunscreen, sunglasses and sunhat. Carry your own water; do not drink from the creek.
- The loop’s last leg runs through Palm Canyon Oasis, the largest palm oasis in North America.: Rob Bignell