McCallum Trail Hike Guide
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance||2.5 miles (4 km)|
|Other Options||2 Miles Without the Vista Point|
|Hike Time||1-2 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||220 feet (67m)|
|Highest Elevation||730 feet (223m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free / Donations Accepted|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Coachella Valley Preserve|
You can’t go wrong hiking the McCallum Trail in the Coachella Valley Preserve near Palm Springs. The trail starts in the Thousand Palms Oasis, making its way through the native fan palms over a boardwalk. Then you’ll have a sandy stretch before you reach McCallum Pond, a desert oasis that is one of the rare areas where the endangered Desert Pupfish can live. A short hike extension takes you to a vista point where you can see San Andreas Fault below you. This hike packs a lot of scenery into a small package, and is excellent for families and beginning hikers.
How to Get to the McCallum Trail
The McCallum Trail’s start is located at the heart of the Coachella Valley Preserve, the Thousand Palms Oasis. The oasis is worth a visit in itself, so make sure you budget a little time to look around the various interpretive displays and attractions.
To get to the McCallum Trail, use this address:
Coachella Valley Preserve – Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve, 29200 Thousand Palms Canyon Rd, Thousand Palms, CA 92276
The Coachella Valley Preserve is only open at certain times, so it’s imperative that you check the website before you visit.
Gear for the Hike
Although the hike is short, it is an exposed desert hike, so bring at least 1L of water and sun protection. And do it at a time where it’s cooler. Summer at mid-day will have deadly high temperatures. The hike is best done in fitness gear or light hiking gear.
The Most Comfortable Hiking Shoe Ever
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak 4.5 (Women: REI | Amazon + Men: REI | Amazon) 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 work great on the trail. It’s a favorite of PCT and AT hikers for a good reason!
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.
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.
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.
McCallum Trail Maps
Overall the trail is well-marked and easy to follow. The majority of the McCallum Trail is soft sand, which is a little more challenging than usual to walk in.
Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map
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.
- The pond at the end of the hike, known both as McCallum Pond or the Simone Pond, was once home to the Desert Pupfish, a hearty fish found in desert oases.
- Although the pupfish can withstand water temperatures from 40F to 108F, it was no match for invasive species, specifically crayfish and tilapia (yup, the ones you see in the supermarket). In 2009 the last two pupfish were relocated after getting decimated by these new predators.
- Today they are trying to reintroduce the pupfish, but the crayfish, which lay thousands of eggs in the mud and can travel on land, are proving tough to kill off. You might see a platform in the pond that has instruments to detect the crayfish DNA’s presence.
- Once the crayfish are gone, the pupfish will be reintroduced.
- The pond is not always open due to these restoration efforts. To ensure the pond is open when you visit, call the Preserve before visiting (number at the top of this guide).
- The tall palm trees are home to many birds, and a favorite place for owls to nest. Keep your ears open for them.
- As you might imagine, this desert environment is home to snakes, including rattlesnakes. Give them plenty of room and they won’t bother you. If you see fallen palm fronds, leave them alone. Snakes often take shelter under them when the temperatures go up.
- This area is a park in part because of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.‘s efforts, who recommended that it be protected because of its beauty. Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. was the son of the guy who created Central Park in New York City,
- The trees here are native fan palms, not the palm trees you see used for landscaping in developed areas.
- John Guthrie McCallum, a Scot, and namesake of the trail, was one of the early gringos to visit the area and is credited with building Palm Springs into a settlement and eventually a city.
McCallum Trail Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
The vista point extension is optional and adds about 0.5 miles total onto the hike. If you don’t want to do it, just go back the way you came from the pond.
From here, just turn around and go back the way you came.
This guide last updated on January 27, 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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