I know that I just recently said that my hike at the Grand Canyon was my new favorite hike of all time, but it’s lost its title already. Yesterday, for the second half of the day I spent in Coachella Valley, I went to the Indian Canyons.
Admission usually costs US$12 per adult, but they ran a Christmas Day special of only US$10 per vehicle, so, needless to say, the line was extremely long to get in. Once I did finally make it in, the parking area was completely packed and it took me a little while to find a place to park. Even better, a vast majority of the people visiting were just regular people who were touring Palm Springs (as opposed to hikers).
I’m often cold at the beginning of hikes so I like to bundle up, but I warm up quickly and end up having a sweater to hold onto throughout my hike. For this hike, I decided to do a small loop off to the side to warm up before the “main event.” The small loop off to the side was the Andreas Canyon Trail, a one-mile trail that has regular dirt paths mixed in with some rocky areas. And thus, the hilarity ensued.
Remember how I said that most people were there as tourists instead of hikers? There were people literally in skirts, fancy shoes, and other non-hiking attire trying to walk this trail. The beginning was deceptively easy, but it soon became much more involved, and this is the trail where I’ve seen the most people turn back around and retreat after making it less than a quarter mile into the hike.
After the warm-up, I stopped by my truck at the parking lot again to drop off my sweater, then walked over to the main reason I came to Indian Canyons, which was to hike the Murray Canyon Trail. This area was a lot less busy, which I assume is because there were warning signs about maintaining health and safety throughout the hike, and because the first small segment of the hike wasn’t really that scenically appealing.
However, it quickly got a lot more interesting once I arrived in the actual canyon portion of the hike. I was originally greeted by a long parade of horses being ridden by a group of people, but once they passed by, I went down into the wetter part of the hike.
At first, it seemed like I could stay dry by hopping on protruding rocks, but I quickly realized that I’m eventually going to get pretty wet, so I stopped caring and just waded through the water. It seemed like the other hikers didn’t take that approach, though; this became a lot more apparent when there was a backup at one of the stream crossings when people had trouble making it across the stepping stones.
I eventually made it to what I thought was the top of the waterfall, and the spot where most people assumed was the end of the trail. There was a nice waterfall with a nice view down to where we just climbed.
However, I looked up the trail before hiking, and something felt off—I remembered that it was supposed to be a bit longer. Having been regularly fooled by false summits in the past, I looked around and saw an extremely steep and rocky area along the side of the waterfall that looked scalable. I wondered if there was anything beyond that, so I took a chance and started climbing up the rocks.
I’m glad I did, because this is where the best part of the hike started. The constant nice views that I had experienced throughout the hike so far got even better, and the stream of water got bigger, faster, and deeper. At this point, my shoes and socks were completely soaked, and at one point, I had stepped into water that reached up to my knees, so the bottom half of my pants were wet as well.
Eventually, I made it to the final stretch, which involved walking alongside the stream on top of slanted rocks.
Just around the corner from this final stretch was the end of the trail, and the final waterfall. This photograph absolutely does not do it justice—the satisfaction of making it to the end of the trail where you witnessed so many people give up and turn around, and having done so by scaling rocks and basically half-swimming through a creek, is pretty nice. That, along with the sound of crashing water accented by the chirping birds, and if it wasn’t so tricky to get here, this would be a great place to bring a lawn chair and read a book.
A lot of hikes have stunning, breathtaking summits with sweeping views, but are fairly boring until you get there. Murray Canyon isn’t like that—the journey is just as impressive as the end. When you do get to the end, the dynamic and technical difficulty of the hike makes you appreciate it more because it feels like it’s something that you’ve truly earned. For these reasons, as well as due to my biased adoration of desert oases, this has become my new favorite hike of all time.
Immediately after completing this hike yesterday, I drove back to Los Angeles County to attend a Christmas gathering (which is also why I didn’t have time to post this until today). It’s unfortunate that I only got to spend one day in Coachella Valley, but I also didn’t expect to enjoy it this much.
Seeing as I’m going to be spending a few months or so in Southern California recharging from my six-month road trip, I plan on making a few more trips to Palm Springs, considering it’s a relatively nearby place to get away and go exploring for a bit.