We visited Palm Springs at the end of June and it was HOT! It was hard to convince my kids to do anything outside (other than lounge in the pool). So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are actually hikes in Palm Springs that lead to amazing waterfalls and I was determined to find them in order to lure my kids outside. I was mindful of the heat and the dangers that come along with it so we started our days extremely early and planned to complete outdoor activities by mid-morning.
Tahquitz Canyon Loop Trail
I chose Tahquitz Canyon Loop Trail which leads to Tahquitz Canyon Falls because it’s an easy 1.7 mile roundtrip kid friendly waterfall hike with minimal elevation gain. The big payoff is the 60-foot waterfall with a large swimming hole! This Palm Springs hike is one of our favorite hikes ever!
Getting to Tahquitz Canyon Loop Trailhead
Tahquitz Canyon trail is in the Agua Caliente Indian Preserve – the trailhead is accessible from the Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center which is located just a mile from downtown Palm Springs.
Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center Hours & Admission
Summer Hours (July 5 – September 30):
- Friday, Saturday & Sunday ONLY
- 7:30am – 5pm (last hiker on the trail at 3:30pm)
- Ranger led interpretive hike (2.5 hours) leaves visitor center at 8am only. Free with paid admission.
Fall/Winter/Spring Hours (October 1 – July 4):
- 7:30am – 5pm (last hiker on the trail at 3:30pm)
- Ranger led interpretive hike (2.5 hours) leaves visitor center at 8am, 10am, 2pm. Free with paid admission.
Admission (as of 10/2022):
- Adults $15
- Children (6-12) $7
- Purchase day-hike passes at the Visitor’s Center
Tahquitz Canyon Hike Details
We began our hike to Tahquitz Canyon waterfall at 8 am and it was already 90 degrees! When we checked in at the Visitor’s Center, a ranger was enforcing a requirement that every hiker carry a minimum of 32oz of water. Tahquitz Canyon Loop Trail starts off in full sun. The trail is mostly sandy & flat, but there were some rocky parts too.
About 10 minutes into the hike we noticed a group of people staring off into the distance at a big horn sheep! It blended in so well – we likely would have walked right past it had it not been for the onlookers!
About a third of the way to Tahquitz Canyon Falls, we began hiking along a stream and the dry landscape transitioned to lush & green with some interspersed and much welcome shade.
We came across this small waterfall (about 5 feet tall) and my kids were disappointed because they thought I had really oversold the waterfall! I panicked for a few seconds and then assured them (and myself) that we weren’t there yet!
When we finally made it to the end it was obvious! We arrived before 8:30 and there were already about 15 other people there. We left our shoes & socks on the rocks and jumped into the frigid water in our clothes! Usually, I’m a wimp when it comes to cold water, but I got all the way in and even swam out to the base of the waterfall!
We stayed at the falls for about 30 minutes to swim and relax in the shade. The temperature near the water was significantly cooler than in the sun! I was glad we started the hike so early because I imagine the trail & falls become much more crowded as the day goes on.
The hike back seemed far shorter since it was slightly downhill and we were thoroughly soaked which helped us stay cool.
It was the waterfall and swimming hole that made this hike so fun for us. The only thing that was strenuous about this desert hike was the heat. So while the hike to Tahquitz Canyon Falls would be much cooler in the fall or winter, the highlight for us was being able to swim at the waterfall. Of course, the waterfall is seasonal so it’s a good idea to check the website or call the visitor’s center to see if the waterfall is flowing to avoid disappointment.
Roundtrip, the Tahquitz Canyon hike took us less than 90 minutes, including the 30-minute stop at the waterfall. We were back at the Visitor’s Center by 9:30 am and still had the entire day ahead of us!
Tips for Hiking in the Heat
- Start as early as possible and plan to be back before the hottest part of the day. In the desert, it’s advised to avoid hiking between 11am – 6pm. Starting at sunrise is ideal when possible.
- It’s generally recommended that a hiker should carry 1L of water for every 2 hours of hiking. However, when hiking in extreme heat, that amount should be doubled – 1L per HOUR of hiking.
- We made a rule that if any of us depletes half of our water before our planned turnaround point (or before we are halfway through our hike) we turn around and head back. No exceptions. Not making it to that vista might be a bummer, but running out of water would be significantly worse.
- Carry snacks – including salty snacks. As a body sweats it loses salts (have you ever looked at your hat or run your hand across your forehead after a long run or hike? Both are caked in salt from sweating!) If those salts aren’t replenished there may be an electrolyte imbalance (from drinking too much water and not replacing salt). Trail mix, crackers, pretzels etc are great salty snacks.
- Wear lots of sunscreen, a hat & sunglasses.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back! Tell a family member, friend, neighbor, or even the person at the front desk of your hotel.
Tahquitz Canyon Falls Summary
Yes, there are hikes in Palm Springs with waterfalls and swimming holes! Not only does Tahquitz Canyon trail lead to a waterfall, but it’s simply one of the best hikes in Palm Springs, especially in the summer. The cold water was such a treat in the 100+ degree weather. It even made our family’s list of 10 Amazing California Hikes in 2020.
Truthfully, I wasn’t thrilled about having to pay almost $60 for our family of 5 to hike 2 miles, however, I appreciate that there are rangers monitoring how many hikers are on the trail and making sure visitors stay safe. This was a memorable hike and the trail was well-maintained so I’d say the price was worth it! Although if I lived closer I’d buy an annual pass ($125) which would pay for itself in 2 visits.