Just a short drive south of the bustling boutiques and busy restaurants of downtown Palm Springs California, the Indian Canyons of the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians quietly wait, palm fronds rustling gently in the occasional breeze with the waters of the perennial streams swirling gently around their feet.
Walking in the footsteps of the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians
It is a place where the lines of past and present blur just enough to allow a glimpse of life as it used to be when the life and death struggle revolved around the flow of water tumbling from the canyons above. Still visible are signs of the Cahuilla’s daily life and while exploring the area, you will be able to spot food preparation sites like bedrock mortars and metates used to grind the beans and corn the tribes cultivated and you will have the opportunity to step inside a traditional Cahuilla dwelling as you wander along paths that the tribal people have used for hundreds of years.
Serenity and shade under a forest of palms
Beyond the historical significance of these canyons, it’s the serenity that will surely draw you in. The coolness of the shadows under the forest of towering native California Fan Palms (Washingtonian filifera) will beckon you in from the blazing desert sun. The sparkling water and darting, dancing and happy trilling of the many birds that inhabit the oases will lull you into idling much longer than you had anticipated. But, if you can drag yourself away from the shade and the show, you won’t be disappointed in the many options of trails and sights begging to be explored.
Said to be the world’s largest California Fan Palm oasis and the largest of the 3 main Indian Canyons, this 15 mile canyon is a site to behold. At the mouth, sits the parking lot and Trading Post and from there the trail descends quickly to the canyon floor below where you’ll find picnic tables and plenty of spots to sit and enjoy the scenery. If you continue walking, you’ll wander in and out among the palms on an easy trail that follows the stream and leads you higher up the canyon providing access to more strenuous hiking options and views of the waterfalls. Fair warning, the lower portion of the trail can be quite congested with visitors, especially on weekends, but, if you have the energy, you can quickly climb beyond the masses and find some peace and quiet on the higher trails.
Much smaller than Palm Canyon, this is the first oasis you’ll come to as you drive through the entrance gate. With the easy access and compact location, you won’t be wandering these trails alone. But, the stunning views, impressive rock formations and lovely setting make it worth a stop. There is an easy one mile loop that leads you past bedrock mortars, barrel cactus clinging to the towering rocks above, and a traditional Cahuilla dwelling plus it provides glorious views of both the San Jacinto Mountains and the desert valley below. The Murray Canyon trail, Maynard Mine Trail and the moderate Andreas Canyon North trail can all be accessed from the Andreas Canyon parking area.
Murray Canyon is the least visited of the three main canyons so if you’re looking for a bit more solitude, check out this beautiful oasis. For the birdwatchers, keep your eyes peeled for the endangered Least Bells Vireo which makes its home here. For those more enamored with the four-footed wildlife, keep your eyes peeled for the endangered Peninsular Big Horn Sheep, mule deer and mountain lions that roam the area.
A visit to the Indian Canyons is decidedly worth the effort. As the Indian Canyons website states, it is a place of “beauty and mystery” and your time here will linger in your memories long after you’ve left the desert behind.
An important note for those traveling with their furry friends, you might want to drop them off at a pet resort because dogs are not allowed, no exceptions.
For information on hours and entrance fees, please check out the Indian Canyons website or call 760-323-6018.
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