When my wife and I drove to Bob Hope’s old stomping grounds in Palm Springs, I arranged to meet my friend Evan for a hike. I knew it would be a far cry from anything in the Northwest due to the combination of precipitation that needs to be measured over years, and the abundance of palm trees.
When we arrived at the parking lot which serves as trailhead for Murray Canyon and Andreas Canyon, it felt like I was on the set of The Flintstones. The palm trees just seemed like something out of another era in botanical history when trees had beards.
The hike started out casually across the sandy desert, skirting low hills. In all directions we had views of rugged, barren mountains and hills in varying shades of brown. Not the sort of place to be in August. Indeed, if it were hotter, the trail would not have been too pleasant, but 80 degrees in the sun felt fantastic to me. Plenty of people were walking, mostly coming back. Many seemed around retirement age and sported hats and wore sensible light hiking shoes.
After a mile or so, the trail dropped into a canyon entrance that looked like a green daub from a paintbrush splashed across the landscape. With tall palms lining a pleasant stream, it was a veritable oasis. Silt piled up on the banks suggested flooding in recent years. We followed the path upstream, crossing the stream a dozen or more times in the canyon’s winding course, hopping rocks, checking out the amazing cliffs and ridges that loomed above us.
At one point, the trail rose fairly sharply over rock, then descended almost as steeply in an area that was quite exposed, meaning a slip on the ball-bearing-like dusty gravel would send one plummeting to injury or worse.
The reward was the tighter upper canyon. As it got narrower, there were a few spots where the trail went multiple ways, but it all funneled toward a series of small waterfalls, beyond which the way was impassable without technical gear. In the shade of the steep walls, the temperature was very pleasant. We poked around, sipped some water, snapped some photos, and enjoyed the setting.
This is a great hike, and I felt bad for a couple women who stopped short where the trail got steep. In some places a handrail of sorts might be installed, but that generally detracts from the experience for me. A little scrambling in a couple spots lets you see more of the waterfalls. I would endorse this hike with a big fat thumbs up.
If you go, know that Murray Canyon is part of the Indian Canyons complex just outside Palm Springs. There is a $9 entrance fee per person.