Palm Springs is blessed with lots of California blue sky and surrounded by mountains in all directions. Within this desert paradise, you’ll find some really good kid-friendly Palm Springs hiking trails.
There’s plenty of variety in the family-friendly Palm Springs trails we list below. There’s a hike to a cross perched atop a hill overlooking town, an easy walk through a palm oasis, a very scenic hike on the zoo property and a slot canyon filled with ladders to climb.
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We loved our time hiking in Palm Springs! Here are the four best kid-friendly Palm Springs hiking trails:
1. Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail
The Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail was the best hike in Palm Springs we did on our family trip. It’s a 50-minute drive away from Palm Springs in the Mecca Hills Wilderness, but it’s worth the effort.
The hike begins as you walk into the mouth of a wide canyon with towering walls on both sides. The easy, flat hiking trail is good for kids who want to burn some energy running ahead – they can’t go anywhere, so let ‘em run wild for a while.
Shortly, a big arrow made of rocks will point towards the canyon wall; this is where Ladder Canyon trail begins. A short scramble up some rocks takes you to an alcove where you meet up with your first of several ladders.
The first leg of the Ladder Canyon hike is through a very tight slot canyon with lots of twists and turns. It’s a ton of fun to walk through, but the fun gets even better when you come across one of the many metal ladders you need to climb to keep going. Don’t worry, most of the ladders are pretty short, with the tallest being about 15 rungs or so.
Eventually you emerge from Ladder Canyon and you’ll be atop a ridge with incredible views in all directions. The Painted Canyon is on your right, the Salton Sea is behind you, with other canyons and mountains everywhere else you look. You’ll hike along this ridge for a couple more miles before heading back down through the Painted Canyon.
The Painted Canyon gets its name from the colorful rocks you’ll find within. There’s plenty of pink quartz, green rocks, purple rocks and tons of a black and white combination which looks like it was splattered on the canyon walls. The hike down Painted Canyon is pretty easy going with only a couple of ladders to contend with.
This is a super-fun family-friendly option for hiking near Palm Springs. It may not be for really small kids, but ours (aged 4 & 6) did it with our assistance on the ladders.
For more detailed information, please read our blog post on hiking the Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail.
Planning a Palm Springs family vacation? Check out our Palm Springs with Kids post.
2. The Wilderness Loop
When we were researching easy hikes in Palm Springs, we kept seeing the Wilderness Loop pop up. What’s unique about this Palm Springs hike is that the Wilderness Loop is on the property of the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert.
We don’t typically visit zoos when we travel with our kids, but we took notice that Living Desert was named one of the Top 10 zoos in the United States. A Top 10 zoo in the United States which also has top-rated hiking trails? Yes please!
The kid-friendly Wilderness Loop hike begins in the flatlands at the base of Eisenhower mountain, but soon enters a beautiful mountain valley. You’ll encounter a sign warning about a ‘boulder field’, but don’t let it alarm you; it’s true, there are boulders along the sides of the path, but the only rocks you’ll find on the trail are small enough to step over.
Next, you start climbing up a trail on the side of one of the valley walls. At this stage the mountains in the distance become much taller and the scenery keeps getting better. All around the trail are the most interesting rock formations, some of which are small enough to the trail for kids to climb on.
As you turn back towards the Living Desert Zoo, the trail follows a ridgeline, offering amazing views in all directions. The lush green of Palm Springs really stands out against the dry mountain landscapes all around.
We hiked the Wilderness Loop counterclockwise and we recommend you do as well as the views of the city coming down on the ridge were excellent.
We all had a great time on this very enjoyable Palm Springs hiking trail. For more information, read our Living Desert Zoo – The Wilderness Loop Hike post.
Looking for more kid-friendly hiking near Palm Springs? Learn more about Joshua Tree National Park with Kids.
3. The Palm Canyon Trail to the Victor Loop
If you are looking for a shady activity in Palm Springs to escape the heat, look no further than the Palm Canyon Trail. Located on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation just south of the airport, the Palm Canyon Trail is truly an oasis.
The Palm Canyon trail follows a small creek which flows through a canyon. The banks of the creek are lined with massive palm trees for quite a distance making this one of the largest palm oasis’ in the entire world.
The Palm Canyon hike is quite easy and has no noticeable incline for the first 2.5km. We hiked this trail around 11am and the palm trees provided wonderful protection from the midday sun.
We gave up this relaxing blanket of shade in exchange for some views. At the 2.5km mark, we said goodbye to the palm trees and turned onto the Victor Trail, which climbs up one of the canyon walls lining the Palm Canyon trail. The views of the palms and the surrounding mountains get very good, very fast.
You will be very exposed to the sun on the Victor Trail with no shade to be found anywhere, which explains the thousands of cacti lining the rock covered terrain. If you are prepared for the sun, you’ll love the views from up here.
If you are looking for easy hikes in Palm Springs, simply stay on the Palm Canyon trail and forgo the views from the Victor Trail.
For full details about this fun Palm Springs oasis hike, visit our Palm Canyon Trail to Victor Loop Trail blog post.
Have a blast singing these hiking songs with your kids.
4. Palm Desert Cross Trail
The Palm Desert Cross hiking trail proves there’s some good hikes in Palm Desert too.
The Desert Palm Cross sits high atop a reddish-brown hill, overlooking the city below. All around the world, we find that people can never resist a good hike up to a monument on a hill, and Palm Desert is no exception. The Palm Desert Cross Loop Trail is a very popular hike with both locals and visitors.
We hiked the Palm Desert Cross hiking trail with our kids on a Sunday morning and it was quite busy; there were lots of people out for their morning walk with friends, spouses and/or dogs. It was a very friendly atmosphere with almost everyone saying hello and talking to the kids.
The Palm Desert Cross Loop Trail winds its way up the side of the mountain, offering increasingly nice views of Palm Springs and its surrounding mountains. There is a nice flat sitting area around the Desert Palm Cross, allowing you to sit for a while and admire the amazing views you’ve earned.
For more information read our Palm Desert Cross Trail blog post.
What to Wear Hiking in Palm Springs
If you are wondering what to wear while hiking in Palm Springs, there are a couple of items which the majority of hikers wear:
Outside of that, most people hiking in Palm Springs wear comfortable athletic wear (shorts, t-shirts, etc).
The trail surface on Palm Springs hikes is often a dirt & gravel combination which can get quite slippery at times, especially when going downhill. The poles will help with this, but we also recommend a good pair of hiking shoes with decent grips as we found sneakers were a little too slippery on the gravel.
We hope you enjoy these kid-friendly Palm Springs hiking trails as much as we did!
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Dan Brewer is an intrepid family travel blogger with a passion for exploring the world's most captivating destinations. With 58 countries under his belt and a sense of wanderlust that knows no bounds, he has made it his life's mission to share his travel experiences and insights with fellow families who love to travel.
When Dan isn't traveling with his wife and kids, he's either out enjoying the Canadian Rockies he calls home or working on one of his three travel sites (Family Can Travel, Travel Banff Canada and Ultimate Sports Road Trip).