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Bear Creek Oasis Trail Guide

Bear Creek Oasis Trail Guide

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the Bear Creek Oasis Trail
  • How to Get to the Bear Creek Oasis Trail in La Quinta, CA
  • Insider Tips and Recommendations for the Hike
Total Distance (?)9 miles (14.5 km)
Hike Time4-5 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Hard
Total Ascent (?)2,540 feet (774m)
Highest Elevation2,350 feet (716m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedNo
Alerts & Closures (?)Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument
Park Phone760-862-9984
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The Bear Creek Oasis Trail hike in La Quinta, CA is just spectacular; there’s no other way to slice and dice it. The first mile is flat and easy as you follow the Bear Creek wash up into the Santa Rosa foothills. And then you start climbing, winding your way up like a bighorn along the ridges and switchbacks, eventually getting to a point where you can see for miles: San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, the Coachella Valley, and the Salton Sea. But wait, there’s more! Toward the end, you wind down into a canyon nestled in the desert mountains to find a beautiful hidden fan palm oasis. It a tough one, but the payoffs are incredible.

How to Get to the Bear Creek Oasis Trail

So the maps and the trailheads for this hike can be confusing. Two trailheads are close to the start of the hike. I prefer to use the farthest one since it gets you closer to the main trail, and you spend less time in the general use/dog walker area. Other guides start you from the first trailhead. And then there’s a “Bear Creek Trail,” which is paved and not the “Bear Creek Oasis Trail,” so heads up.

Use this trailhead address:
54990 Avenida Madero, La Quinta, CA 92253

Bear Creek Oasis Parking Detail
As you drive toward the trailhead address, go past the first parking area and continue down to the end of the street, before it turns right.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 1
There’s a decent-sized parking area.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 2
This is not the trail you want.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 3
There are water and shade at the paved trailhead from the last image.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 4
There’s also a nice trail map at the parking area. La Quinta does a really good job of making it easy for hikers. I wish more places followed their lead.
Cove Oasis Trails Start
This is the trailhead that you want to start at from the parking lot. No pavement for you today!

There are no bathrooms at the parking lot.

Gear for the Hike

This is a proper desert backcountry hike, so plan accordingly. And don’t do this in the summer or on warmer days. The landscape is harsh and there is no shade.

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.

Lone Peak 5

Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.

Latest Price on Women’s Shoe
REI | Amazon

Latest Price on Men’s Shoe
REI | Amazon

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.

Latest Price
REI | Amazon

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 2021.

My October 2021 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Bear Creek Oasis Trail Maps

The hike’s beginning can be a little tricky; there are a lot of use trails and mountain bike cutoffs. But once you start the climb at about 1.5 miles in, it’s very easy to follow (the only) trail. I’ll show you the details in the guide below.

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.

Gaiagps

How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

Elevation Profile

Bear Creek Oasis Elevation
The start of the hike is relatively flat as it makes its way up the wash. After that you climb. The last section to the oasis has a downhill dip.

3d Map

Bear Creek Oasis 3d Map
You’ll hike up the wash, and then hit the hills as you make your way up to the oasis, nestled in a secluded canyon.

Bear Creek Oasis Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

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Turn by Turn Directions

Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 5
Start the hike by heading through the Cove Oasis Trails gate.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 6
Make the right at the split.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 7
And then a quick left.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 8
And then hike past Cove Oasis Picnic Area on your left. It’s a nice spot and has water if you need it.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 9
After passing the Oasis and hiking for a few minutes, you’ll see this trail off to the right. This is the official start of the Bear Creek Oasis Trail.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 10
Once you go past the point in the last photo, there’s a downhill. At the bottom, make the left. Lots of folks miss this turn, so stay aware.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 11
If you look ahead from that left, you’ll see these Bear Creek Oasis Trail markers in front of you. Follow them. They’ll be your friend as you make your way up the wash.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 12
Here’s what the Bear Creek Oasis Trail markers look like up close. Keep following them.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 13
If you see a split, keep your eyes open for a trail marker in the distance. Locals and mountain bikers often use the side trails and cutoffs, and it can be confusing if you see footprints leading away from the trail. Always look for the marker.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 14
Some sections are clearly marked with stones.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 15
You’ll enter the sandy wash toward the end of this stretch. Hike up the wash.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 16
The trail splits off to the right as you go up the wash.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 17
Once you leave the wash, the trail slowly starts to notch up the incline and climb. Look for switchbacks as you hike. You’ll start winding uphill now.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 18
When you do wind around, you’re treated to nice views of the wash you hiked up and the Coachella Valley.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 19
Not long after the start of the climbing, it starts to get steep.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 20
There are more gradual sections like this one where the trail sweeps around the hillside. Look for the trail in the distance as you climb.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 21
There are some pretty dramatic viewpoints into the canyon. When you come to an edge, always look back for a switchback. There are no sections inside the canyon wall. If you’re there, you’re in the wrong place.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 22
The trail changes direction and starts to head west. The gradient eases up.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 23
As some point you’ll crest a rise and be greeted with stunning views of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio. Expect a jaw drop.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 24
And if you look behind you, you can see the Salton Sea.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 25
As you wind around to the west, you’ll get short flat section, but you’re not there yet.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 26
One last steep and rocky section of climbing.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 27
And then you’re at the high point of the hike. There’s a great rock viewpoint here that’s worth a stop.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 28
As the trail winds around the hill to the left, you’ll see the Bear Creek Oasis in the distance. The trail goes downhill and dips through the canyon.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 29
After dipping through the canyon, you’ll come to the oasis. These dead trees stand guard at the front.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 30
And then you’ll reach the full fan palm oasis.
Bear Creek Oasis Trail Directions 31
That’s it! From here, head back downhill to the start. All that hard work on the climb pays off as you descend. The views are non-stop and incredible.

This guide last updated on May 4, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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