Finding the Wild: The Coachella Valley Preserve By Steve Brown
11/09/2012 12:49PM ● Published by Denise Brown
I remember a Thursday night some years back, when I met a couple visiting the Coachella Valley at Palm Springs’ VillageFest. I was providing information on the Joshua Tree Gateway Communities as part of a visitor outreach program conducted by the Yucca Valley Chamber of Commerce. The couple had a question I was to hear again and again in the years since: “We’ve played golf, we’ve gone shopping, we’ve visited museums, and we’ve gone to the spa. We see mountains and desert around us, but nobody has told us anything about them. What is there to do?”
I asked if they liked to get out in nature and if they enjoyed hikes and wildlife. When they answered “yes,” I gave them suggestions that reinvigorated their feelings toward their desert holiday. I’ll never forget how they thanked me half a dozen times for sharing the fact that there were so many opportunities to explore and enjoy the desert all around the Coachella Valley and Joshua Tree National Park gateway communities.
A lot of the mindset I’ve experienced over the years in the Coachella Valley, is that you want to keep your tourists in the Coachella Valley buying rounds of golf, shopping, getting spa treatments, dining and drinking, and enjoying all the civilized joys this part of the desert can provide. But there’s more to the desert than that, and for some visitors, the desert—sans all the amenities of Orange County—is the true attraction. Mind you, it’s great to go for a long day hike into a remote canyon and then discuss how fun it was over drinks and dinner at a fine restaurant (that’s one of the fantastic things about the desert— in so many locations you can enjoy the best of both the natural and the civilized worlds). But where do you go when you want your desert a little more natural, a tad bit more wild?
The Coachella Valley Preseve in Thousand Palms (on the north side of Interstate 10), is an easily accessible place to get your fix of the real desert. While there is a system of preserves around this location administered by a host of governmental and private organizations to protect species such as the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, the Coachella Valley Preserve, run by the Center for Natural Lands Management, is the best place for visitors to start. While there is a rustic visitors center, open seasonally, there are no additional facilities at the preserve. Visitors must plan to bring their own water and food with them (and there are great places to picnic).
Our favorite hike is to Pushwalla Palms, about a five mile loop that provides some excellent views of native palm oases, and Coachella Valley vistas. The hike to and from Pushwalla Palms (deep within Pushwalla Canyon), can be strenuous and lengthy, so for an easy and fun introduction, I recommend the short trail from the visitors center to the McCallum Grove and oasis pond. You’ll see a real native palm oasis and possibly some wildlife, as well as examples of the dune environment native to this part of the Colorado Desert.
Coachella Valley Preserve
29200 1000 Palms Canyon Road, Thousand Palms www.coachellavalleypreserve.org
Oct. 15-April 15: 7 a.m.-5 p.m., April 16-Oct. 14: 7 a.m.-6 p.m.