Murray Canyon Trail to Seven Falls: Palm Springs Hiking Guide

The Murray Canyon Trail takes you through a truly unique part of Indian Canyons. On this fairly easy-going hike, you’ll trek across open desert, gawk up at huge palms in a lush oasis, and end at a waterfall. Our trail guide will help you plan this unforgettable Palm Springs hike! 

Murray Canyon Trail Indian Canyons Palm Springs California-17

One of three impressive canyons that comprise Indian Canyons, Murray Canyon leads hikers across the rugged desert to the unexpected Seven Sisters waterfall.

Along the way, you’ll pass through a lush, verdant green grove of palm trees and cross a mountain-fed stream several times. It’s the very definition of an oasis in the desert!

The underrated, only occasionally crowded Murray Canyon trail is fairly easy, but also offers enough variety to satisfy even expert hikers. It’s a can’t-miss gem that appeals to everyone, and it’s somewhat hard to believe that downtown Palm Springs is just minutes away. 

Murray Canyon Trail Guide

Jump to the following sections (or just keep scrolling to see it all!).

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Murray Canyon trail stats

Murray Canyon Trail Palm Springs California
  • Location: Indian Canyons, Palm Springs, California
  • Distance: 3.7 miles out and back
  • Elevation gain: 538 feet
  • Difficulty rating: Moderate
  • Timing: 1.5-2 hours
  • Pets: no animals permitted in Indian Canyons
  • Permits: none required 
  • View the trail notes

Murray Canyon hike overview

Indian Canyons Palm Springs California

The Murray Canyon trail is a real-life contradiction. First, it’s somehow both underrated and popular with those in the know. This could be because many people head to nearby Tahquitz Canyon for their waterfall fix, or opt for the easier Andreas Canyon or Palm Canyon hikes.

Either way, we’re not complaining! Other than some spring weekends when the weather is perfect and word has gotten out that the waterfall is raging (it’s seasonal and doesn’t flow year-round), the Murray Canyon trail is rarely crowded

The next contradictions are the palm oasis and all the water, including the waterfall itself. It’s certainly not what most people expect to see in the harsh desert!

Seven Sisters Waterfall, also sometimes called the Murray Canyon Waterfall, got its name for the seven distinct peaks that surround it

It’s something you really have to see in person, but the snow-capped San Jacinto Mountains frame the falls and Murray Canyon perfectly, making the scenery even more memorable. 

Things to know before you go

Being such a unique trail, there are some things to factor in and consider before heading out on the Murray Canyon Trail hike. 

Best time of year to hike the Murray Canyon trail

Murray Canyon Trail Indian Canyons Palm Springs California

The best time of year to explore the Murray Canyon Trail is winter and spring—specifically November through April. Snowmelt feeds the stream and waterfall, so they’re at their peak during this timeframe and dry up completely in the summer and fall. 

Springtime also means wildflowers, their vibrant pops of color always a treat to see against the backdrop of the desert. 

With that said, if your visit happens to be in the off season (summer or fall), it’s still worth checking out Murray Canyon. The diverse terrain on the trail makes it incredibly unique, even with no flowing water. If you hike in the summer, though, start as early as possible! 

How long does it take to hike Murray Canyon trail?

Plan on the hike being right around two hours, give or take. This includes a few minutes at the waterfall and stopping to take plenty of photos (or rest in the limited shade!). 

If you spend more time at Seven Sisters Waterfall or bring lunch to enjoy at the picnic area, of course your hike will take a little longer. 

How difficult is Murray Canyon trail?

Murray Canyon Trail Palm Springs

The Murray Canyon hike is officially rated moderate. We agree with that, but consider it slightly more on the easy end of the spectrum—easy-moderate. 

Even young children and new hikers can easily manage this trail, but the exposure most of the way and multiple water crossings do make it slightly more challenging. In our opinion, those things are what make it such a cool hike! 

The route

We broke down the route for hiking Murray Canyon trail into parts to give you an idea of what to expect on the route.

Part I: Open desert

Murray Canyon Trail Palm Springs

The Murray Canyon trailhead is at the south end of the Andreas Canyon parking lot. Quick side note: the Andreas Canyon hike is one of the shortest and easiest in Indian Canyons, so you can easily do both if you’d like to explore more.

Once you hit the trail, you’ll walk across the open desert for about half a mile, getting closer and closer to the towering mountains. The trail surface here alternates between soft sand and rocky gravel, so while it’s an easy walk, it can be a bit slow-going. 

As you get closer to Murray Canyon itself, you’ll notice huge, interesting boulders and other rock formations along the trail. You may also hear the stream gently trickling in the not-so-far-off distance. 

Part II: Palm oasis

Murray Canyon Hike Indian Canyons Palm Springs California
Murray Canyon Hike Indian Canyons Palm Springs California

At about 0.6 miles in, the palm oasis appears out of nowhere after rounding a ridge. This is the mouth, or beginning, of Murray Canyon, and the first place along the trail where you’ll find some shade. There’s even a picnic area here, with tables tucked under the enormous palms. 

Inside the palm grove, you’ll cross the Murray Canyon stream several times. Exactly how many is dependent on recent rain levels, but it could be as many as 15!  

These crossings are easy and straightforward, but trekking poles may come in handy for added traction. When the water level is lower, you can also boulder-hop back and forth across the stream or walk across fallen palm trees. 

As you criss-cross the stream, look for unusual but perfectly circular holes in the rocks along the creek bed. These are remnants of bedrock mortar, an ancient method of grinding food. 

Be sure to look up, also, scanning the rocky canyon walls for mule deer and bighorn sheep. 

Part III: Seven Sisters Waterfall

Seven Sisters Waterfall (John Atienza)
Image by John Atienza via Alltrails

Just after the Coffman Trail junction (don’t take it—yet! You’ll have the opportunity to check it out on the way back), the Murray Canyon trail narrows and gets noticeably rockier. 

1.5 miles in, you’ll come to an ‘End of Trail’ sign, followed by a short uphill scramble. 

This is NOT actually the end of the trail (we assume it’s the end of the officially maintained trail, but there’s nothing posted saying to not go further), and while it may look intimidating, it’s actually quite easy if you take your time. 

Just beyond the scramble, probably no further than one-tenth of a mile, you suddenly arrive at the waterfall and its tranquil swimming hole. 

Seven Sisters Waterfall is a seasonal cascade fed by snowmelt. That means in an average year, it only flows in the winter and spring months, drying up completely by the summer. 

The waterfall actually has three tiers, but only the lowest one tumbling into the pool is visible—probably about 12 feet or so tall. 

Part IV: Return

Murray Canyon Trail Palm Springs

After enjoying the falls and possibly taking a refreshing dip (the absolute BEST reward on a hot day!), head back out on the trail. 

Optionally, you can hop on the Coffman Trail junction, which will be on your right. This only adds 0.2 miles to your total distance and forms a loop, rather than doing the Murray Canyon Trail as an out-and-back hike. 

Coffman Trail takes you up high onto a ridge, adding totally different scenery before dropping you back into the canyon and rejoining the Murray Canyon trail. 

Tips for hiking Murray Canyon Trail

Murray Canyon Trail Palm Springs
  • Wear water-friendly shoes. Your feet WILL get wet (in the winter and spring, anyway), so wear either waterproof closed-toe shoes or hiking sandals.
  • Consider using trekking poles. The Murray Canyon Trail isn’t steep or particularly technical, but poles can help in the water crossing sections.
  • Bring plenty of water and sun protection, even if it’s cool out. The UV index is strong in Southern California, so you can burn within 15 minutes even if temperatures are in the 70s or there’s some cloud cover. 
  • Arrive EARLY. Indian Canyons closes temporarily when visitor capacity is reached, and people will actually be turned away. You can’t reserve entry ahead of time, so get there as early as possible.
  • Watch your step. Rattlesnakes are known to hang out on and right near the trail, especially on warm, sunny days. Lots of people ride horses here, too, so you may have to navigate a different type of ‘boulder.’
  • There aren’t any ‘real’ bathrooms. Many people are surprised by this, especially with a nice visitor center onsite—but there are only porta-potties available, which get pretty nasty in the heat.
  • Don’t expect to race through it. Between multiple water crossings and heavy crowds on nice spring weekends, you may find yourself waiting at several points on the trail. 
  • You can easily hike Andreas Canyon on the same day. This easy, one-mile loop hike starts from the same parking lot as the Murray Canyon trail, so why not get some more exploring in? 

Where to camp nearby

There’s unfortunately not much in the way of traditional camping near Murray Canyon, but you’ll find some awesome options if you’re willing to drive a bit

Joshua Tree National Park has amazing campsites tucked into the Joshua trees and rock formations, about an hour away. The same distance but the opposite direction, the San Bernardino National Forest has a variety of campsites including free and dispersed camping

We always use—and highly recommend!—The Dyrt app to help us find exactly what we’re looking for in a campsite. 

If proximity to Indian Canyons and downtown Palm Springs is a priority, there are two RV parks nearby. 

  • Happy Traveler RV Park: Walking distance from downtown (and super close to Tahquitz Canyon!), plus beautiful mountain views and nice amenities including an outdoor pool and full hookups
  • Cathedral Palms RV Resort: A nice outdoor pool with a separate children’s wading pool, and the ability to accommodate big rigs, just 15 minutes away 

What to pack for hiking Murray Canyon trail

Indian Canyons Palm Springs California
  • Navigation*: we recommend using Alltrails+ to download the offline trail map
  • Hiking daypack
  • Water bottles and/or bladder for your Camelbak
  • Sun protection: sunscreen, hat, sun glasses
  • Bug repellant
  • Headlamp (if hiking near dawn or dusk)
  • Camera/tripod (this one’s our favorite for hiking)
  • Hiking layers (here is a great resource if you’re wondering what to wear hiking)
  • Comfortable hiking boots or shoes
    • We recommend Chacos for hiking in the desert like this as they are super versatile and you can get them wet when necessary (like for the Murray Canyon hike)
  • Hiking poles (optional)
  • Plenty of snacks: check out our favorite hiking snacks here!

Be sure to download our FREE hiking packing list before your next trip and never leave another essential behind again!

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We want to hear from you!

Have you hiked the Murray Canyon trail near Palm Springs? What was your experience like? Are you planning to do some hiking near Palm Springs and want more advice? Comment below and let us know!

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