East Indio Badlands Trail Guide
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||5.5 miles (8.9 km)|
|Hike Time||2:30 - 3:30 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||900 feet (274m)|
|Highest Elevation||540 feet (165m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||City of Indio|
|Weather & Forecast||Latest Conditions|
|Stay Safe||Copy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.|
Just opened in 2020, the East Indio Badlands Trail hike offers a spectacular loop through a classic badland topography formed by thousands of years of erosion and an active San Andreas Fault. You’ll hike through slot canyons, in the shadow of tectonic uptilts, and along a prominent ridge with 360 views from the Salton See to San Gorgonio Mountain. It’s an extremely fun hike at a shorter distance that makes it accessible to almost all types of hikers.
Badlands: a barren area in which soft rock strata are eroded into varied, fantastic forms.Dictionary.com
Where Is the East Indio Badlands Trail?
Because this is a newer trail, the trailhead parking lot isn’t found on some mapping services. Use this trailhead address:
42000 Golf Center Pkwy, Indio, CA 92203
There are no toilets or water refills at the trailhead or on the hike.
Gear for the Hike
This is a sandy hike in a harsh area, so I’d recommend proper hiking gear if you have it. If not, you can get away with fitness clothing.
- Don’t attempt this hike when it’s hot out. There is no shade and temperatures are extreme.
- Bring at least 1L of water with you.
- Trekking poles will help on the climbing portions but most people are fine without them.
- Low gaiters will help keep the sand and debris out of your shoes.
Garmin InReach Mini 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI
Altra Lone Peak 6
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 Terraventure 3 or 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. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
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.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon
Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 2022.
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.
East Indio Badlands Trail Maps
You can break the hike into two rough sections: getting to the badlands and the badlands. The hike to the badlands crosses a flat and sandy area often used by locals that’s pretty average. And then you enter the badlands, which is a magical spot that feels like you are in a National Park. The interesting parts of this hike make the ho-hum approach worth the effort.
This trail is also referred to as the Indio Hills Badlands Trail, the East Indio Hills Trail, and the Golf Center Trail.
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.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. 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 7 or Epix. 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.
Quick Trail History
Before the official East Indio Badlands Trail opened, a mix of use trails crisscrossed this area. Understanding the need to preserve the badlands while sharing it in a responsible way, the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, Friends of the Desert Mountains, City of Indio, Indio Water Authority and the Bureau of Land Management got together and secured funding to create a trail. Local volunteers led by Friends of the Desert Mountains designed the route, built new sections of trail, and cleaned up the area around it. Today we have this awesome hike thanks to their efforts.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
This section can get confusing, there are several trails intersecting. You want to go straight until you cross under the power lines.
This guide last updated on January 11, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.