Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall Hike: Palm Springs Trail Guide

Just minutes from downtown Palm Springs, it’s no surprise that Tahquitz Canyon and its beautiful waterfall are wildly popular with hikers year-round. We put this trail guide together with everything you need to know about the Tahquitz Canyon waterfall (and swimming hole!). 

Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall Palm Springs California

As you hike through rugged Tahquitz Canyon, passing boulder fields and looking out for resident wildlife, it’s hard to believe Palm Springs’ downtown core is just five minutes away. 

It’s even harder to believe when you reach 60-foot-tall Tahquitz Falls, tumbling over canyon walls into a perfectly clear, tranquil swimming hole. 

Short, sweet, and with numerous natural features, the hike to the Tahquitz Canyon waterfall is a trek to a very literal oasis in the SoCal desert. It also has just enough of an incline to get you huffing and puffing, so despite being on the easier side, it’s far from boring. 

Tahquitz Canyon Trail Guide

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Tahquitz Canyon trail stats

Tahquitz Canyon Trail Palm Springs, California
  • Location: Agua Caliente Indian Reservation near Palm Springs, California
  • Distance: 2-mile loop
  • Elevation gain: 324 feet
  • Difficulty rating: Easy to Moderate
  • Timing: About 1 hour
  • Pets: Not allowed
  • Permits: No permits required, but all hikers are required to pay an admission fee 
  • View the trail notes

Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall hike overview

Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall Palm Springs California

Especially considering that the Tahquitz Canyon hike is so short, it punches well above its weight class. 

On this easy-going two-mile loop, you’ll pass enormous boulders, enjoy panoramic views of the city from the trail’s high point, and get your heart pumping juuust enough to feel accomplished. 

If you time it right, you’ll get to see the trail’s main attraction in all its glory, too: 60-foot-tall Tahquitz Canyon waterfall. The water’s almost always cold, but it’s oh so refreshing on particularly warm days. That’s right—you can swim at the base of the falls!

In the springtime, desert wildflowers also brighten up the whole trail with pops of yellow, reds, and pink. 

Things to know before you go

Tahquitz Canyon visitors center Palm Springs California-3

The Tahquitz Canyon hike is accessible and pretty straightforward for the most part, but there are still some important things to keep in mind. 

About Tahquitz Canyon 

  • Entrance fee: $15 per person
  • Hours: 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Limited entry: There is a limit to how many people can be in the canyon at a time, so they will close it to visitors until enough people leave. We were turned away when we arrived and were told to return an hour later.
  • Bring water: They check and will make you buy a bottle if you don’t have enough (32 oz. per person on hot days, 16 oz. on cool days)
  • Tip: At Indian Canyons, we got a coupon for $2.50 per person off the entrance fee for Tahquitz Canyon

Best time of year for the Tahquitz Canyon hike

Tahquitz Canyon Palm Springs California

The best time for this hike is fall through spring, avoiding the summer months. Aside from being oppressively hot between late May and late September, the Tahquitz Canyon waterfall dries up almost completely in the summer

If we have to pick a single best time, we vote for spring. Starting in mid- to late March, colorful wildflowers come to life in the canyon, dotting the canyon and creating gorgeous photos. 

Note that if you plan to visit in the summer, Tahquitz Canyon is open on weekends only from July through September.

Keep in mind that because Tahquitz Falls is spring-fed, even during the ‘right’ season, it’s best shortly after rain. 

How long does it take to hike to Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall?

It takes an average of one hour to reach the waterfall on the Tahquitz Canyon trail. That’s going at a relaxed pace and stopping at the falls for photos and a snack. If you plan to take a dip in the swimming hole, the entire hike may take about 1.5 hours or so. 

How difficult is the Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall hike?

Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall hike Palm Springs California

The Tahquitz Canyon hike is fairly easy and very family-friendly. It’s officially rated as moderate, but we firmly believe that’s simply because it heads uphill in a harsh desert environment. There are no technical obstacles to navigate, and the trail is very straightforward. 

Wildlife on the trail

Rattlesnakes make frequent appearances along the Tahquitz Canyon trail (this is the desert, after all!). They’re most likely to be out on warm, sunny days, and may or may not be in plain sight. 

If you encounter a rattlesnake—or any snake, for that matter, pay close attention to its body language. 

A coiled up snake is defensive and may be ready to strike, while a stretched-out snake or one slithering across the trail is in a more relaxed state. Specific to rattlers, listen for that signature rattle. It’s more of a warning system than a threat, but either way, steer clear if you hear it. 

Be sure to look UP as you hike, as well, looking for bighorn sheep. They tend to stay high up on the canyon walls, and can be hard to spot. Look for what appears to be tiny white moving dots. 

The route

Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall hike Palm Springs California

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

From the parking lot, set off toward the visitor center. You’ll soon come to the first of many small  forks in the trail. Go right—at all of them (yes, seriously). It makes things simple to remember: every time the trail forks, follow the path to the right

After the first fork, you’ll walk right alongside Tahquitz Creek for a short distance. The second fork leads you through some of the trail’s iconic boulders and desert shrubs, which are bright green and dotted with wildflowers in the springtime. 

Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall Palm Springs California

Shortly after the three-quarter mile mark, you’ll see a very small waterfall. It’s manmade, part of the reservation’s water runoff system, but still scenic. This is also the section of the trail with the most incline, with a series of rock steps to climb through the canyon. 

Tahquitz Canyon waterfall is only a short distance past the first, smaller cascade. When it’s flowing, it’s quite the impressive sight! Just beyond Tahquitz Falls, you’ll reach the highest point on the trail. 

Up here, there’s a scenic overlook with beautiful views of the city. After soaking in the view, and remembering you’re just minutes from Palm Springs proper, continue the rest of the way on the loop. 

On this stretch back to the parking lot, you’ll actually cross the creek via a stone bridge and walk on its opposite bank. Before you know it, you’ll be back at your vehicle! 

Psst! Check out our round up of the best Palm Springs hikes before you go!

Tips for hiking Tahquitz Canyon

Tahquitz Canyon Waterfall hike Palm Springs California
  • Arrive early. You can’t purchase admission tickets in advance, and the parking lot fills up quickly on nice days. As we mentioned earlier, if it reaches capacity, visitors will be turned away until others have left. 
  • Bring extra water. The park requires all hikers to have a minimum of 32 ounces of water, but on hot days, you’ll want even more. Consider wearing a small hiking backpack with a water bladder so you have more than enough. 
  • Wear adequate sun protection. Even on cooler days on this mostly exposed trail, the California sun’s rays are unrelenting. Don’t underestimate how damaging they can be; instead, lather on the SPF and wear a good sun hat and lightweight layers. 
  • Tahquitz Canyon has seasonal operating hours. From October 1st through 4th of July, the canyon is open daily, but it transitions to weekends only from July 5th through the end of September.
    • Along the same lines, the last admission of the day is at 3:30pm year-round. This ensures everyone has ample time to hike to the waterfall and back before closing.
  • You can swim at the base of the falls. The Tahquitz Canyon waterfall flows into a beautiful, swimmable pool. We recommend bringing water shoes and a lightweight camping towel if you plan to swim. 
  • Watch your step. The desert is literally crawling with critters that bite and sting. Specifically, keep an eye (and ear!) out for rattlesnakes, scorpions, and spiders. 
  • The visitor center is worth a stop. It has bathrooms, a nice gift shop, and cultural artifacts on display, plus you can pick up a handy trail map if you want one.
  • Consider joining a guided hike. Ranger-led hikes are offered four times a day from October through May, and they’re free with paid admission. It’s a unique tour in that rangers lead you to Tahquitz Falls, but then let you hike back at your own pace. 

Where to camp nearby

There aren’t a ton of camping options right in the city of Palm Springs, but there are several on the outskirts and nearby. 

To be totally honest, we prefer the slightly more rustic campgrounds at Joshua Tree National Park, less than an hour away from Tahquitz Canyon. However, if you want a closer option, here’s one:

  • Happy Traveler RV Park (here’s the link, but it’s not secure https, so I wanted to call that to your attention): practically across from Tahquitz Canyon and within walking distance to downtown Palm Springs, with a pool and full RV hookups 

We always use The Dyrt app to help us find campsites in new areas, including many that are totally FREE! If you’re looking for something between Happy Traveler RV Park and Joshua Tree, check out the app

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What to pack for hiking Tahquitz Canyon

  • Navigation*: we recommend using Alltrails+ to download the offline trail map
  • Hiking daypack 
  • Water bottles and/or bladder for your Camelbak + plenty of water
    • they check and will make you buy a bottle if you don’t have enough (32 oz. per person on hot days, 16 oz. on cool days)
  • Sun protection: sunscreen, hat, sun glasses
  • Bug repellant
  • Headlamp (if your hiking at 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
  • 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 Tahquitz Canyon waterfall 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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