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Mccallum Trail Hike Guide

McCallum Trail Hike Guide

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the McCallum Trail
  • Parking and Visiting the Coachella Valley Preserve
  • Insider Tips for the McCallum Trail
Total Distance2.5 miles (4 km)
Other Options 2 Miles Without the Vista Point
Hike Time1-2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Easy
Total Ascent (?)220 feet (67m)
Highest Elevation730 feet (223m)
Fees & PermitsFree / Donations Accepted
Dogs AllowedNo
Alerts & Closures (?)Coachella Valley Preserve
Park Phone760-343-1234

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.

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When the parking lot is open, it’s pretty massive.
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If the parking lot is closed but the Preserve is open, you can park on the side of the road outside of the parking lot.
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There are bathrooms in the Thousand Palm Oasis area, just down from the parking lot.
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The Thousand Palm Oasis by the visitor’s center also has places to chill out.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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In addition to trail signs, any potential confusing junctions are generally blocked off.
Mccallum Trail Hike Directions 1
This is a sensitive habitat for animals that depend on the water and greens here to survive. Do them a favor and stay on the trail.

3D Map

Mccallum Trail Hike Guide 3d Map
The McCallum Trail goes along the green oasis area and is very gradually uphill. The green area is the fault line. When the earth moves apart (as it is in the cliff above), the groundwater comes to the surface and creates these green oases. Where you see green, you are looking at the fault line.

Hike Brief

Desert Pupfish
Maybe you’ll see a Desert Pupfish, an endangered species, when you visit the pond. Photo Paul V. Loiselle

McCallum Trail Directions

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Video Directions

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

Turn by Turn Directions

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Head to the end of the parking lot where you’ll see this welcome center. There’s usually a docent here that will answer any questions that you may have.
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Continue into the Thousand Palm Oasis and make the right.
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There’s an old settler’s cabin that serves as a visitor center.
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Head in between the big palm skirts to start the McCallum Trail.
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Right away you feel like you are in another world as you wind through the massive palms.
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Head down the stairs.
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And then you’re walking on a boardwalk above the water.
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Stay right when a trail branches off to the left.
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The trail passes over a dryer area. The white on the soil is alkali and salt from evaporated water.
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And then you have another stretch of boardwalk.
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The boardwalk ends and you head up on the sand trail.
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At this intersection, make the left to continue up the McCallum Trail. When you come back, you can skip the boardwalk and take the shortcut to the right back to the parking lot.
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There’s a sign at that last trail junction. We’re heading to McCallum Pond.
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For the next 0.5 miles, the trail is going to look a lot like this.
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Wherever there are side trails, there’s a trail sign for McCallum pointing you in the right direction.
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At this split, make the right. To the left is a ranch.
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There’s a shaded bench along the way, but otherwise no place to stop.
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When you get to the fenced entrance to the pond, head in if it’s open. Sometimes the pond is open but the gate is closed. If that’s the case, just open (and close) the gate yourself. Again, call ahead to see when the pond area is officially open. When it’s “closed closed” the gate will be locked.
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You’ll enter the McCallum Grove.
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The Preserve encourages you to go around the pond in a clockwise direction.
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From the start you’ll get a nice view of the crystal-clear pond.
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Continue the loop around the pond.
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Toward the top of the pond there’s a cool wooden viewing platform.
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When you’re done at the pond, head back to the gate and make the right to visit the vista point.

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.

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Head along the fence surrounding the pond.
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There’s a sign for the vista point.
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Make a right at the junction and hike up the small hill.
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At the top of the hill, make the left.
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And enjoy sweeping views of the McCallum Grove, Simone Pond, Thousand Palms Oasis, and the San Andreas Fault in front of you.
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If you look behind you, you can see Mt San Gorgonio, the highest point in Southern at 11,503 feet.

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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