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East Indio Badlands Trail Guide

East Indio Badlands Trail Guide

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the East Indio Badlands Trail
  • How to Get to the East Indio Badlands Trail
  • Insider Tips & Recommendations for the Hike
Total Distance5.5 miles (8.9 km)
Hike Time2:30 - 3:30 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)900 feet (274m)
Highest Elevation540 feet (165m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)City of Indio
Park Phone760-391-4000

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

East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 2
There’s a medium-sized parking lot where Golf Center Drive and Ave 42 connect at the 90-degree turn. If the parking lot is full, you can park along the street in any areas not marked no-parking. The lot fills up with locals and isn’t usually indicative of the number of people on the East Indio Badlands Trail.

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.

Altra Lone Peak

The Most Comfortable Hiking Shoe Ever
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak 4.5 (Women: REI | Amazon  + Men: REI | Amazonis 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 work great on the trail. It’s a favorite of PCT and AT hikers for a good reason!

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.

Gaiagps

Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up to 40% off here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

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

My February 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 offset website expenses. 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.

East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 1
The key to staying on the trail are these trail markers. The arrow on the top points you in the direction of the trail. There are markers like this on the entire loop. If you don’t see one every 5 minutes or so, you might be in the wrong place.
Click Here To View Map

Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.

Elevation Profile

East Indio Badlands Trail Guide Elevation
In general you hike up to the viewpoint toward the middle of the loop, but there are a few of ups downs along the way.

3d Map

East Indio Badlands Trail Guide 3d Map
Here you can see the approach on the lollipop route. Once you get into the badlands, you do your loop through the canyons.

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

It’s easy to say thank you for this guide!

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Video Directions

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

Turn by Turn Directions

East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 3
From the parking area, hike up the hill and through the gate.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 4
This is a new one for me! The first minute or two of the hike shares a cart path with the golf course, just a heads up.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 5
Hike over the bridge and bear left.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 6
And then make the left onto the trail. Notice the East Indio Badlands Trail marker too. As I mentioned before, follow them, they are your friends on this hike.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 7
This part of the trail is busy with walkers and mountain bikes. Keep following the signs and don’t follow fellow walkers, who often use other trails here.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 8
The trail turns and you’ll see trail markers extend in front of you.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 9
This turn is easy to miss. As you go straight along the ridge, don’t make the sharp turn to the left at the end. Instead, go straight, over the bump, down the hill, and then straight into the flat desert. Again, you’ll see East Indio Badlands Trail trail markers here.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 10
Once you’re down the hill, you basically have a long, straight stretch of trail across the desert to reach the badlands. This is the not-so-exciting section I mentioned earlier.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 11
Avoid any side trails or roads and just hike straight, following the trail markers.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 12
When you approach the badlands you’ll see signs letting you know that this will be a little calmer and nicer. I’ve never seen anyone shooting on the last stretch, but I have occasionally seen dirt bikes and ATVs.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 13
Bear left at the split.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 14
And then another left after that.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 15
And then a hard left into the badlands and the cool part of the hike. The trail climbs up the rocky hill, following the markers.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 16
keep your eyes open for the trail makers. Some sections go right up and over the rock.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 17
Get into the rhythm of spotting the trail markers. Sometimes you can miss it if you space out.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 18
As you climb you are treated to some beautiful topography.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 19
After you crest the hill, head downhill and start the slot canyon below.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 20
The trail narrows as it makes its way through the canyons. Again, the beauty is striking.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 21
After the slot canyon opens up, look for a hard right turn.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 22
The trail climbs up the rock to the next little ridgeline.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 23
At the top are some incredible views of the rock stratum pushed up by San Andreas Fault action. The East Indio Badlands Trail starts to go downhill here.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 24
The trail winds its way through the canyon.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 25
When the canyon widens and splits, hike to the right. Again, the trail markers show you the way.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 26
Now you have a stretch of trail that heads up this canyon. Keep following the canyon.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 27
Eventually the canyon narrows and you have an uphill stretch with some small switchbacks.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 28
You gain the ridge and the the trail follows it to the viewpoints.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 29
The view to the North opens up and you can see the hills toward Joshua Tree National Park.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 30
Continue hiking up to the high point.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 31
From this highpoint you’ll get panoramic views from Mount San Jacinto, the Coachella Valley, San Gorgonio, and the Salton Sea. It’s an incredible spot.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 32
It’s all downhill from here. Follow the trail down and along the ridge.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 33
The trail descends into a canyon.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 34
And you follow the canyon back toward the desert area.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 35
As you hike downhill the canyon widens.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 36
When the canyon opens up, bear to the right on the wider trail, following the trail marker.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 37
Follow the trail marker and cross over the crossing trails.

This section can get confusing, there are several trails intersecting. You want to go straight until you cross under the power lines.

East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 38
Make the right on the sand road right after the power lines, again following the marker.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 39
Hike straight on the sand road.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 40
Look for the trail markers on the cross trail that you came up earlier. When you reach the official trail with the markers, hike left and go back down the way you came.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 41
You’ll wind down the same trail you came up earlier.
East Indio Badlands Trail Directions 42
And eventually reach the bridge at the end. That’s it. Bonus tip: look in the water for fish, they’re in there.

This guide last updated on February 8, 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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