Hidden Palms Trail

There are at least 10 hiking trails throughout the Preserve and as the name Thousand Palms implies, many lead to palm groves. The McCallum Trail passes through 2 groves, a riparian forest and a large pond oasis. To get to Squaw Hill from the Visitor Center 2 smaller palm groves line the trail. Indian Palms is a set of 2 groves separated by a hill.


Today we visit Hidden Palms tucked into a small canyon across the street and southeast from the Visitor Center.

Harlan, one of the trail guides walks with us as we head toward the ridge of Pushawalla through the wash. Most of the trail disappeared after the recent October 13th flash flood and I take some photos to share with our Preserve Manager, Ginny Short.

The sign below leads to Willis Palms. Can you find the trail? Neither could we.

Instead of hiking up the switchback and cutting through the ridge of Pushawalla to get to Hidden Palms, we follow Harlan to learn more about desert plants and observe new growth and blooms from the recent rains. (We head toward Willis Palms.)

Meanwhile, I practice identifying plants and shrubs, such as arrowweed below.

We head south and pass the hill to Pushawalla Ridge.

Looking back, I take a pic of smoke trees in the desert wash.

Desert trumpet is plentiful here. Harlan explains that the oblong swells along the stem are filled with carbon dioxide and the Cahuilla used to fill them with tobacco to smoke.

The brittle bush below is not dead.

The leafless plant surprises us with its sticky amber resin.

Nearby is a blooming brittle bush.

After showing us his secret off-trail spot to observe blooming plants, Harlan departs and Jeff and I continue south toward Willis Palms. We are taking the roundabout trail to Hidden Palms that takes us parallel to Thousand Palms Canyon Road and Washington Street.

Looking back… Cheese weed thrives among dead smoke trees in the wash. Across the street the palm grove of the Smoke Tree Ranch Trail stands to the left of Squaw Hill.

A babbling brook trickles along the wash beside the trail; the result of the recent flash flood.

Smoke trees…

The artistic effects of salt and sand striations…

Bobcat tracks…

And coyote tracks…

The hills… Notice how they look raked, almost as if a giant hand scraped its fingers down through them.

As we head east parallel to Washington Street, golden cholla cactus glow in the sunlight.

At the road to Covered Wagon Tours we head north toward Hidden Palms.

A cluster of beaver-tailed cactus greets us. Notice the tiny pink bud ready to bloom.

The thick palm skirts create the optimum habitat for desert wildlife.

We walk through the palm grove and take the trail to Pushawalla, cross over the ridge and return to the Visitor Center.

A Beautiful Day in the Desert

Another Hike in the Coachella Valley Preserve

Today we return to Palm Springs and head to the parking area near the intersection of Ramon Road and Thousand Palms Canyon Road where 2 trailheads begin. A few weeks ago we hiked the Willis Palms Loop Trail. Now we’re back for another desert adventure creating our own loop connecting segments of   3 trails: Hidden Palms, Horseshoe Palms, and Pushawalla Ridge, highlighted in orange on the map below.


The Hidden Palms Trailhead begins across the street from the parking area. Well placed rocks line the path and intermittent trail markers make the beginning of this hike easy to follow, although the thick loose sand makes it a workout to trudge through. Soon we reach a fork, one way leading to the Visitors Center and the other directing us to the grove of Hidden Palms.

We keep following the traffic of shoe prints. I turn around and capture the other side of Mt. San Gorgonio and the desert landscape.

I pause to take some close-ups that attract my attention.

Then the trail and tracks become confusing as we intersect a dirt road that leads to some fenced-off buildings, an old horse trailer, and what looks like some kind of elongated covered wagon used for driving sightseers. Oh, and 2 blue porta-potties…???… Out of options we head up the road and follow the truck tracks continuing through what seems to be private property. At last we see a hidden palm grove.

And we welcome the opportunity for some shade.

We find a small canopied lounging area with a fallen palm tree log to sit on, so we cool off, drink some water, and recharge with our cashew raisin trail mix.

Energized, our spirits are lifted and we’re ready to head for the Horseshoe Palms Trail.


Luckily, the Horseshoe Palms Trail corresponds with our map. Heading east out of Hidden Palms, we find the trail marker. But once again the trail becomes ambiguous and we are following truck tracks and shoe prints and slugging through dense sand.

Then, suddenly, we round a curve and 2 men are trudging toward us. They are returning from the Horseshoe Palms and warn us that there is lots more sand ahead.

Finally palm trees appear ahead of us in the distance.

As we search for more of a hiking trail than a vehicle trail, we discover an abandoned “campsite”…

An actual hiking trail pops up on the other side of the sandy dirt road and we decide this is the way to continue.

Confused, yet again, we choose to keep climbing up the hill. Distracted from second guessing our decision, I take pictures of Horseshoe Palms below.

But we keep hiking away from where we should be and the trail we are taking is not on the map. So, we head back. No problem, that is until Jeff suggests we hike up the rocky slope along a vaguely visible off-road trail. Are you kidding me? I don’t mind scaling up but good luck coaching me down! Jeff seriously thinks that there may be a trail back down to Horseshoe Palms.

Meanwhile, I document our out and back detour with an awesome view of San Jacinto and Gorgonio.

Instead of retracing our steps all the way back to the dirt road, we find a steep but short cutoff that lands us into the valley trail through the Horseshoe Palms.

Bearing left out of the valley, we head north toward the Pushawalla Ridge Trail.

We climb for awhile.

And then we make a decision. Do we choose to continue to ascend up the ridge or take the flat lower trail? Both will lead us back west to complete our loop.

We choose the high road.


So far, so good… We rise above the trails we just hiked.

And keep ascending.

As we pause to drink some water, I take a picture of Horseshoe Palms below.

Look closely, they’re there!

And then the real fun begins. The trail narrows as it cuts across the first ridge because on either side the drop-off is steep.

Before ascending again, I turn around and document where we just came from.

Onward and upward…

Here’s another view of the other end of Horseshoe Palms.

And now I can show you where we took the wrong trail and then backtracked.

Up and down we go.

Meanwhile, we get a bird’s eye view of the road not taken…

…and the other side of Hidden Palms…

Eventually we see the Visitors Center at Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve.

Soon, only a steep switchback separates us from the ridge trail to the trail back to our car.

As we descend our last few feet, I turn around and capture the moment.

We round the ridge and head back, once again on the Hidden Palms Trail, the loop we have not taken yet.

Large rocks line each side of the sandy trail again. Beyond the path, the sun highlights some cool desert rocks.

A large lizard scurries by and strikes a pose. Could it be the fringe-toed lizard?

We’ve been hiking for over 3 hours now. As we approach the trailhead where we began, I look behind and capture some photos.

What an amazing and beautiful day!