Looking for an incredible hike near Palm Springs? The Tahquitz Canyon hike offers incredible scenery and leads you to a 60-foot waterfall in the middle of a desert canyon.
Palm Springs is a desert city known for its abundant sunshine, sophisticated art and design, and excellent golfing.
Palm Springs is also a great destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The area is full of spectacular hiking trails and fun outdoor adventures.
One of the best hikes in the Palm Springs area is the Tahquitz Canyon Falls hike. With its rich history and unique geological features, this hike is a must-do if you are visiting Palm Springs
A 60-foot waterfall in the middle of the desert? Who can say no to that?!
Tahquitz Canyon Hike Information
Things to Know Before You Go
- Adults – $15
- Children (6-12) – $7
- Military – free
Day hike tickets can be purchased at the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center (at the trailhead) or at the Palm Springs Visitor Center.
- Open daily from 7:30 a.m to 5 p.m. (must be on the trail by 3:30 p.m.)
- Only open Friday-Sunday from July 5-September 30
- Ranger-led hikes are also available daily
- Location & Parking
- 500 W Mesquite Ave, Palm Springs, CA 92264
- The parking lot is small & fills up quickly during busy times
- Trail Length & Difficulty
- 1.8-mile round trip figure-eight loop trail
- 350-foot elevation gain
- Many steep, rocky sections & little shade
- Not an easy trail, but doable for most people.
- What to Bring (Essentials)
- Water – they made us verify that we had water before starting the hike
- Sun protection
- Sturdy shoes with good traction
- Hiking poles (optional, but helpful)
Tahquitz Canyon History
Tahquitz Canyon is part of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indian Reservation. Long ago, the Agua Caliente Indians built complex communities in the area. They grew crops, gathered plants and seeds, and thrived thanks to the abundant water supply.
The canyon was a beautiful place full of wildlife and historic remnants of the early Agua Caliente society.
In 1969, a group of rowdies leaving a concert in Palm Springs decided to continue their party in Tahquitz Canyon and did not leave. Over the next 25+ years, the canyon became a residence for hippies, hermits, and the homeless.
Ancient Indian pictographs and artifacts were destroyed and the beautiful canyon was littered with trash.
After many years, the Agua Caliente Indians closed the canyon to the public and attempted to evict the squatters. It took over 3 years to clean up the litter, destruction, and vandalism.
By 2001, the canyon was opened for tribal ranger-led group hikes. It was opened for self-guided hikes later that year.
Tahquitz Canyon Trail Description
The trail begins at the Visitor Center. You will pay your admission fee, get your proof of payment wristband, and walk through a gift shop area to get to the trailhead. There are also some artifacts on display, a theater room with a “Legend of Tahquitz” video, and restrooms available.
You can take a ranger-led interpretive hike (free with paid admission) or do the hike on your own, which is what we did. If you want to do a ranger-led hike, you can see the available times here.
They will offer you a map after you pay your admission fee. The map features 8 different locations of interest that are clearly marked along the trail.
After leaving the Visitor Center, the trail will take you up a gradual incline into the canyon.
You will have a couple of water crossings throughout the hike, but don’t worry, there are nice sturdy bridges for you to use for crossing.
After the first bridge crossing, you will come to a junction (the second of the 2 figure-eight loops) around 0.4 miles into the hike.
You can go either way, but we chose to go right around the loop (counterclockwise).
After 0.6 miles, you will see a mini man-made waterfall and a metal catwalk – built by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1947 and still used today to monitor creek flow.
The trail gets steeper after this with sections of rock steps. Some of the steps are 12-15″ high. For most people, this is not too difficult, providing just a little bit of a workout.
My in-laws are in their 60s and have very little hiking experience and they were able to complete the hike without too much difficulty.
Next up is the main attraction. You will see the beautiful 60-foot Tahquiz Falls spilling over the cliffside into a deep pool of water below.
There are strategically placed rocks that you can walk across to get a better view of the falls and continue on with the rest of the loop hike.
The water was very cold when we hiked the trail at the end of January, but many people do wade out to the falls and some even climb on the large rock beneath the falls. The water gets deeper the closer you get to the falls. However, there are some years that the pool hardly has any water in it at all.
After admiring the falls, you will continue on around the loop. The rest of the trail is not as rocky and will be flat or downhill most of the way.
We saw a few bighorn sheep hanging out high on a cliff during this section of the trail. We also saw dozens of hummingbirds along the trail. The rangers told us that they were attracted to the red plants that lined the trail.
As you continue along the trail, you will have one more bridge crossing and some epic aerial views of Palm Springs before making it back to the visitor center.
There are picnic tables and benches outside of the visitor center if you want to have a snack or sit and enjoy the views a bit more after your hike.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Tahquitz Canyon hike worth the money?
$15 is a lot to pay for a 2-mile hike, but it’s worth it, in my opinion. I have done dozens of hikes in the Palm Springs/Joshua Tree area, and the Tahquitz Canyon hike is definitely among my top 3 best hikes in the area.
The entire hike was beautiful, and there were many fun and different features along the way. The hike offers just enough of a challenge to be rewarding without being hard.
The waterfall was incredible, the river crossings (via bridges) were fun, and I loved the views of Palm Springs at the end of the loop as well. We also saw bighorn sheep.
The trail is very well-maintained and the fee helps to keep Tahquitz Canyon protected and pristine. Personally, I have no problem paying to hike or enter a protected area when I know the money is going to a good cause.
However, if the waterfall was not flowing, I don’t think the hike would be worth the $15 fee. I recommend calling the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center to verify whether or not the falls are flowing before paying the admission fee and heading out on the hike.
Is Tahquitz Canyon dog-friendly?
Dogs and other animals are not allowed on Tahquitz Canyon Trail.
What is the best time of year to do the Tahquitz Canyon hike?
The best time to hike in Tahquitz Canyon is October-May. If you want the best chance to see the waterfall flowing, hike this trail between February-April.
Waterfall flow varies greatly from year to year. We hiked the trail in January 2023 and the waterfall was raging. It really just depends on the year and precipitation conditions.
Summer in Palm Springs gets extremely hot and is not an ideal time to go hiking on a trail with limited shade. Tahquitz Canyon hours are also limited in the hot summer months. If you are prepared and have plenty of water, hiking the trail in the summer is still doable.
Is Tahquitz Canyon the same as Indian Canyon?
No, Tahquitz Canyon and Indian Canyons are both located in Palm Springs and are both part of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation, but they are separate canyons.
Tahquitz Canyon is best known for its 60-foot waterfall. Indian Canyons is made up of 3 separate canyons to explore: Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, and Murray Canyon.
As I said before, it seems wild to pay $15 for a 2-mile hike, but I don’t think you will be disappointed with your decision. The hike is fun and unique, and the waterfall is stunning. Happy travels!