Hiking on San Andreas Fault to Pushawalla Palms Oasis

We spent the Black Friday hiking on the Mission Creek Strand of the San Andreas Fault in Coachella Valley Preserve. The Pushawalla Palms Trail offers geological evidence of the fault’s past activity, the cool desert oasis, and the beautiful view of the Coachella Valley.

Desert Hot Springs, where we currently stay, is situated on the Southern California section of the world-famous San Andreas Fault. The San Andreas Fault is a transform fault — a type of fault whose relative motion is predominantly horizontal — that separates the Pacific and North American plates. It played a significant role in the two major earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1906 and 1989. The San Andreas Fault has two parallel strands that run through the Coachella Valley. The Mission Creek Strand runs right through Desert Hot Springs. It also runs through the Coachella Valley Preserve where we hiked to Pushawalla Palms Oasis.

The Coachella Valley Preserve is located in the Indio Hills near Thousand Palms. The trailhead parking lot is on Thousand Palms Canyon Road near the Preserve Visitor Center. See a note about the warning sign for theft at the bottom of this post.

I had a difficult time trying to find out about the Pushawalla Palms Trail to plan our hike. Although I found some useful information from a few websites, I couldn’t find the exact GPS track of the trail. Gaia App, my go-to resource, did not have a complete route of this trail either. Fortunately, at the trailhead post there was a map of trails in the Preserve so I took a photo of it with my iPhone. You can download trail maps from the Preserve website. I recorded a GPS track of the hike before we headed out using Gaia App with an off-line map that I previously downloaded. It turned out to be extremely helpful to check our return route and to confirm that we were not taking the wrong trails.

Trail sign at trailhead. I was glad that I took this photo because we needed to reference where we were on this hike, esp. on the way back.

Trail sign at trailhead. I was glad that I took this photo because we needed to reference where we were on this hike, esp. on the way back.

GPS track of the hike. We did this loop hike clockwise.

GPS track of the hike. We did this loop hike clockwise.

The Pushawalla Palms Trail could be hiked as a loop. We did the hike clockwise and would recommend it done this way because the view got better as we returned through the ridge line. If you hike the trail clockwise, please note that after you get to the oasis it’s not obvious where the trail that continues past the oasis picks up. At the oasis, walk toward the palm grove. After you past the horse tie up post, look for the trail that continues along the side of the canyon on the left.

A typical view of the trail next to the uplifted section.

A typical view of the trail next to the uplifted section.

A flat section at the top before heading down to Pushawalla Canyon

A flat section at the top before heading down to Pushawalla Canyon

Hiking down to Pushawalla Canyon

Hiking down to Pushawalla Canyon

A remain of an old truck next to a canyon wall

A remain of an old truck next to the Pushawalla Canyon wall

Approximately 2 miles in and we're at Pushawalla Palms Oasis.

Approximately 2 miles in and we’re at Pushawalla Palms Oasis.

Pushawalla Palms Oasis

Pushawalla Palms Oasis

There's standing water at the Oasis.

There’s standing water at the oasis.

Beautiful scenery of Pushawalla Palms Oasis

Beautiful scenery of Pushawalla Palms Oasis

During lunch at the oasis, we spotted this coyote watching us. Probably waiting for us to leave so that she or he could get a drink.

During lunch at the oasis, we spotted this coyote watching us. Probably waiting for us to leave so that she or he could get a drink.

Walking through beautiful grove of palms

Walking through beautiful grove of palms

The texture and color of the trunk of these palms are so captivating. I couldn't stop taking photos.

The texture and color of the trunk of these palms are so captivating. I couldn’t stop taking photos.

As I mentioned earlier, the hike back was even better. The view of the Coachella Valley from the ridge line was gorgeous. Watch your steps as you walk on narrow ridges with about 200-300 ft drop-offs on both sides. I felt safe hiking on this section but I tried not to walk and take photos at the same time.

Heading back out

Heading back out

A couple we met at the oasis told us about the route to get back. This down tree was one of the landmarks. So we know we headed the right way.

A couple we met at the oasis told us about the route to get back. This down tree was one of the landmarks. So we know we headed the right way.

After getting out of the canyon, the trail continues along the ridge top.

After getting out of the canyon, the trail continues along the ridge top.

Gorgeous view on the way back

Gorgeous view on the way back

Amazing view of Coachella Valley

Amazing view of Coachella Valley

A ridgeline section of the Pushawalla Palms Trail

A ridgeline section of the Pushawalla Palms Trail

The Pushawalla Palms Trail is one of those hikes that I didn’t have much expectation but it ended up being a really wonderful experience. I highly recommend it. Bring plenty of water if the weather will be warm.

  • Date hiked: November 25, 2016
  • Hiking time: 3h 33m
  • Distance: Approx. 4.8 mi round-trip (loop)
  • Elevation change: 580 ft gain
  • Free to park and hike
  • There is a warning sign at the trailhead about not leaving anything valuable in vehicles to avoid theft. We saw evidence of broken windshield on the parking lot ground.

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