If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway close to home than Tahquitz Canyon should be on your list. It is truly one of the crown jewels of southern California’s early history.
Situated just west of Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, Tahquitz Canyon is home to an idyllic desert environment just on the edge of modern civilization.
Owned and revitalized by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, this desert wilderness reveals incredible rock formations, pools, flowers, and wildlife, with the centerpiece being a spectacular 60-foot seasonal waterfall.
Upon arrival, visitors will find that while parking is free, they will be asked to shell out a moderate entrance fee. The best part is that the wristband they give you to wear also entitles visitors to receive a $1 off discount to nearby Indian Canyon.
The Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center has a few cultural and educational exhibits mixed in with some interesting rock art, and ancient Native American artifacts.
There is also an observation deck and a theater room for viewing a video that narrates the legend of Tahquitz Canyon. The 15-minute video tells the legend of Utah-with, an Indian shaman or medicine man, who after abusing his special powers, was banished into the canyon.
After watching the movie, make sure you get a hiking brochure that points out all the different stops along the trail to the falls, explaining some of the canyon’s history and the natural vegetation.
The hike itself leads in a southwest direction mostly along the western side of the canyon, and as you traverse the footpath you will discover many plants that the early native residents of the area used for food, tea, and medicinal purposes.
At one spot, there is a large slab of granite that is known as “Spirit Rock,” where according to legend, is a spot that the Cahuilla Indians will not cross for fear of getting their soul eaten. As you continue the walk up into the canyon, depending on the season, a healthy flow of water which is the result of snowmelt from the San Jacinto Mountains, reveals itself.
Finally, after a short walk up a hillside trail, the famous Tahquitz Falls suddenly appears. A breathtaking sight, the sycamore-shaded paradise is framed by massive boulders and at the bottom of the falls is a cool, inviting pool.
Hollywood director Frank Capra used the falls as a backdrop in his 1937 film Lost Horizon. In the film, this is called Shangri-La.
The walk back down the canyon offers panoramic views of Palm Springs and the valley below where Cahuilla Indians built the Coachella Valley’s first village more than 3,000 years ago.
Today, the site is occupied by the Agua Caliente Spa Resort and Casino.
Tahquitz Canyon’s blend of mythical malevolence and natural beauty is a great escape from the normal winter doldrums, as moderately warm temperatures are inviting.
Where is Tahquitz Canyon
Located at 500 West Mesquite Road, Palm Springs, CA 92016. Tahquitz Canyon is about two hours east of Los Angeles proper and one and a half hours from central Orange County.
Take the 10 freeway then exit towards Palm Springs. Get over onto Palm Canyon Dr. – the “main drag” – when it bends, keep going straight. Turn right on Mesquite. The visitor’s center is up ahead and you park in their lot.
The canyon is open daily from October through June 7:30 AM – 5:00 PM. Friday, Saturday & Sunday, July through September 7:30 AM – 5:00 PM