Did you know that Palm Springs is home to one of the largest palm oasis’ in the entire world? Who knew?? Ok, ok… apparently the United States Topographical Engineers did when they named this place Palm Springs in 1853, but I sure didn’t!
Nearly 170 years later, families looking for things to do with kids in Palm Springs on a hot day will really enjoy exploring the beautiful palm oasis via the Palm Canyon Trail.
Located in the Indian Canyons on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, the Palm Canyon hike follows the meandering Palm Canyon Creek, which provides life-giving water to the massive palm trees which line its shores.
The Palm Canyon Trail is a fun and easy kid-friendly hike in Palm Springs. Palm Canyon is a little piece of shady paradise and is a must-do activity in Palm Springs with kids.
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The Palm Canyon Hike Highlights
The Palm Canyon hike is a popular kid-friendly Palm Springs hike for good reason. Here are the highlights of the Palm Canyon Trail hike:
- Hiking along the Palm Canyon Creek through the surprisingly large palm oasis is a lot of fun. The palm trees are massive, yet beautiful; many of them have large clusters of dates hanging down from the top branches.
- If you’d like to make the Palm Canyon hike a loop (instead of a there-and-back hike), we recommend taking the Victor Trail back to the parking lot. The aerial views of the palm oasis from this hiking trail are excellent.
- The desert landscape on the Victor Trail is in stark contrast to the lush Palm Canyon. Victor Trail is home to thousands of cacti, including some really cool species!
Palm Canyon Trail Overview
Palm Canyon Trail
The Palm Canyon hike leads you through the heart of this huge, amazing palm oasis. The Palm Canyon Trail follows the path of the lazy little Palm Canyon Creek flowing gently through the oasis. The cool water from this gentle creek provides life for the hundreds of palm trees which line its shores.
Your kids will love exploring the shaded areas under the canopy of the palm trees and the along the cooling shores of Palm Canyon Creek. This easy, yet beautiful walk is a great thing to do with kids in Palm Springs on a hot day. No wonder it is one of the most popular easy hikes in Palm Springs.
The huge palm oasis effectively ends after about 1.4 miles (2.3km) of walking through the canyon. At this stage, most people simply turn back and follow the Palm Canyon trail go back to the Agua Caliente Visitor Center (Trading Post).
Victor Trail (optional)
We prefer a little variety when we hike with our kids, so we made the Palm Canyon Trail a loop by combining it with the Victor Trail, which begins at the end of the palm oasis. The Victor Trail ascends a little way up the eastern canyon wall providing incredible aerial views of the huge palm oasis and the surrounding mountains.
If you decide to take the Victor Trail back, there are some minor trade-offs to be aware of. On the plus side, you’ll gain a wonderful new perspective of the size and beauty of the beautiful Palm Springs oasis. You’ll also enjoy hiking through a dense cactus forest, with literally thousands of beautiful & interesting cacti growing all over the canyon wall.
Hiking the Palm Canyon Trail with Kids
The Palm Canyon hike is fun, short and easy, making it an excellent choice for a kid-friendly hike in Palm Springs.
Here are a few other considerations for hiking the Victor Trail – Palm Canyon hike with kids:
- There are porta-potties in the main Agua Caliente parking lot at the very end. If you continue walking straight past them, there is a short trail to a nice little waterfall.
- There are no water stations though, so fill up your water bladders before leaving home. Bring more water than you think you’ll need, especially if you take the Victor Trail back to the Agua Caliente Trading Post. See below for the recommended water intake on this hike.
- The Palm Canyon trail is nice and shady, but on the Victor Trail your biggest risk is sun exposure. Be sure your kids wear hiking hats, have ample sunscreen on and drink tons of water.
- The Palm Canyon hike is not stroller accessible, but it’s common in Palm Springs for parents to carry their little ones on their backs in a carrier. Ospry was the most popular brand of hiking child carrier we saw while hiking Palm Springs.
- You can hear frogs croaking in the Palm Canyon Creek – it might be fun for kids to try and find one. Don’t let them pick up any frogs though as this is dangerous for both your kids and the frogs.
- There are little stone bridges over Palm Canyon Creek. Without fail, kids always love crossing little bridges over streams while hiking.
The Palm Canyon Trail Hike Stats
During our visit to the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, we visited the waterfall just past the porta-potties, we hiked the Palm Canyon trail to the end and then hiked the Victor Trail back. This combination is often referred to as the Victor Loop Trail.
Palm Canyon Trail Distance
The full round-trip distance of the Victor Loop Trail hike is 3.2 miles / 5.2km. Divided into its parts, the approximate distances are:
- Round trip to the waterfall: 0.1 miles (0.2km)
- One-way on the Palm Canyon Trail to the Victor Trail junction: 1.4 miles (2.3km)
- One-way on the Victor Trail back to the Agua Caliente Trading Post: 1.7 miles (2.7km)
Palm Canyon Hike Elevation Gain
There is a very gradual incline which you won’t even notice during along the Palm Canyon hike. The Victor Trail gets steep for a short distance as you walk upwards above the palm oasis, but it’s doable for anyone in decent shape. The total elevation gain on the Victor Loop hike is only 410 feet / 125m.
How Hard is Palm Canyon Trail?
We’d rate the Palm Canyon Trail to Victor Trail Loop hike as ‘easy’. It’s short and mostly flat, with only one short uphill climb up out of the canyon floor. It’s really not that hard if you are in reasonable shape, making it a great hike for kids in Palm Springs.
How Long will the Palm Canyon Hike Take?
It took us 2.75 hours to complete the Victor Loop Trail (3.25 hours including breaks). This is a little slower than usual hiking pace for our kids, but this is to be expected when they are having so much fun.
People hiking the Palm Canyon trail without kids will likely complete the trail in under 2 hours.
The Palm Canyon Hike Location
The Palm Canyon hike is within the Indian Canyons on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, just south of the Palm Springs International Airport (PSP). It’s a short 20 minute drive from central Palm Springs, and it took us 35 minutes to drive from our Palm Desert hotel.
Note that there is an admission charge to the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation.
Palm Canyon Trail Map
If you don’t plan on taking the Victor Trail loop, then you won’t need a Palm Canyon Trail map. Simply enter the trail near the Agua Caliente Trading Post and follow the trail down into the canyon and into the palm oasis.
If you wish to take the Victor Trail back, then it’s a good idea to have a trail map on your phone as you’ll need to keep track of where to turn back to the parking lot.
When we need a hiking trail map, we always use the AllTrails hiking app when we go hiking with our kids. We downloaded the Victor Loop trail map onto our phones and followed along using the phone’s GPS.
Having the Victor Loop trail map on our phones allowed us to find the trailhead and the various trail junctions along the way. Search for “Victor Loop” within the AllTrails app.
You can also view the Victor Loop Trail map online. Look at the satellite view to see the stark difference between the lush green Palm Canyon Trail and the arid, desert Victor Trail.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
There are a few good spots along the Palm Canyon Trail to stop for lunch. The most comfortable will be the shady picnic tables located near the beginning of the Palm Canyon trail – you’ll see them once you descend into the valley.
Another fun idea for taking a break with your kids along the Palm Canyon trail is to sit on one of the fallen palm trees along the trail. Chances are you’ll find a very scenic spot with lots of nice shade to enjoy.
Palm Canyon Safety Cautions
The Palm Canyon hike is a very kid-friendly hike near Palm Springs. The vast majority of families hiking here will not have any safety incidents, but here are a few safety tips for hiking in Indian Canyon with kids:
- The Aqua Caliente recommends hikers bring one quart of water per hour of hiking. This means bringing 2-3 quarts per hiker. If each parent carries a full water bladder in their hiking daypack, this will go a long way towards meeting this requirement.
- There are a few sections along the Victor Trail where there are steep drop-offs. Hold hands with small kids during these sections.
- Watch out for the sharp needles on the thousands of cacti along the Victor Trail. Many are growing right next to hiking trail.
- There are some dangerous animals who live on the Aqua Caliente Indian Reservation including bobcats, coyotes and rattlesnakes. We didn’t see any of these animals and chances are very good you won’t either, but it’s best to keep your kids close by just in case.
- The Aqua Caliente Indian Reservation has additional safety rules for your review.
What to Bring when Hiking Palm Springs with Kids
We do a ton of hiking with our kids and know that bringing the right gear along is important. Equally important is not bringing too much unnecessary gear.
Normal shoes are ok if you just want to hike the Palm Canyon Trail. If you make the hike a loop via the Victor Trail, be aware the trail gets a bit steep going down some switchbacks toward the end. The gravel path makes it a bit slippery, making hiking shoes with good grips a smart idea.
As you can see, the Palm Canyon Trail in Indian Canyons is a shady, cool paradise, making it an excellent thing to do with kids on a hot day in Palm Springs. The Victor Trail gives up that soothing shade, but the amazing cacti forest and views of the Palm Springs oasis more than make up for it!
We hope you enjoy this kid-friendly hike as much as we did. We think it’s one of the best hikes in Palm Springs for kids!
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