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Mission Creek Preserve Hike

Mission Creek Preserve Hike

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions For the Mission Creek Preserve Hike
  • Parking & Trailhead Information
  • Gear Recommendations & Hike Tips
Total Distance3.4 miles (5.5 km)
Hike Time1-2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Easy
Total Ascent (?)340 feet (104m)
Highest Elevation2,445 feet (745m)
Fees & PermitsFree / Donations Accepted
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Mission Creek Preserve
Park Phone760-369-7105

The Mission Creek Preserve hike is a great family-friendly adventure that offers a little bit of everything in an easy package. You’ll be able to visit the ruins of an old “glamping” resort, follow a creek that started high in the mountains and is now irrigating the desert, pass a rare wetland, enjoy views of the high peaks, and then visit an old stone ranch house. The trail is wide, the climbs gradual, and it’s easy to follow. Even if you’re an experienced hiker, there’s enough beauty here to warrant at least one visit.

How to Get to Mission Creek Preserve

The Mission Creek Preserve hike is located off of Rt-62, which connects Palm Springs with Joshua Tree. Once you pull off Rt-62, it’s a 2.5 mile drive down a sandy, unpaved road to the trailhead. The good news is that the road is sandy and smooth, and is doable by low-clearance vehicles. Just don’t plan on going over 20mph.

Use this trailhead address:
Mission Creek Preserve, 60550 Mission Creek Rd, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240

Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 1
The 2.5 miles from Rt-62 to the hike start are on this sand road. It’s wide and doable with regular cars.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 2
You’ll pass the sign for the Preserve as you drive in. Keep driving past this until the road dead-ends at the parking area.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 3
The parking lot isn’t huge, but often has space because of the remoteness of this hike. If it’s full, you can park along the side of the road.

Gear For the Hike

This is an exposed desert hike. When it’s hot outside, you need to prepare accordingly or skip the hike altogether. Winter is the sweet spot for a visit. I always bring 1L of water here. Otherwise it’s an easy hike up a dirt road, and you can wear light hiking gear or fitness clothes. The rocky trail is best done with good footwear that keeps the rocks out.

Wildcat Small

My Goto Hiking Footwear: La Sportiva Wildcat
If you hike a lot or just want the best (but not the most durable) hiking footwear, the Wildcat trail runner is your best move.  It’s fast and light on trails, the sole gives me good grip off-trail or scrambling, and they dry quickly.
Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Rei Flash 22 Yellow

Best Budget Day Pack: REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack
Bang for the buck, you can’t go wrong with this pack. It’s super-lightweight and big enough to carry everything for a day hike, including a water bladder. Every year REI improves this pack and after a few years, it’s really solid in every way. I pack mine in a carry-on when I travel to do hikes on trips. And if you’re into ultralight backpacking, this is also a solid choice.
Latest PricesREI 

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.

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

My January 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.

Mission Creek Preserve Trail Maps

If you can walk down a dirt road, you can do this hike. I’ve included detailed directions below with images and video, but basically you’ll be walking up the road to the old stone house, and then back.

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). You can also use most smartphones. Check out my navigation recommendations and resources on my top gear picks page for options at all budget levels.

Elevation Profile

Mission Creek Preserve Hike Elevation
The hike climbs about 300 feet in about 1.6 miles, which is very easy. There are some small uphill gradients, but in general it feels like just walking up a gently climbing road. And of course, on the way back, it’s all downhill.

3d Map

Mission Creek Preserve Hike 3d Map
The trail makes its way up along Mission Creek, then turns away toward the end for the last stretch to the stone house.

Mission Creek Preserve History

Historic Mission Creek Photo Calisphere
The stone buildings at the start of the hike used to be a dude ranch called the T Cross K Guest Ranch. Think of it as an early form of glamping.  Photo from Calisphere / University of California.

Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions

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Video Directions

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

Turn by Turn Directions

Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 4
You can’t miss the start, look for the huge ranch gate, an homage to the original dude ranch. Head through the gate.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 5
Head straight past the trail sign. We’re hiking to the Stone House Picnic Area.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 6
You’ll pass a trail board shortly after that. Check out the board for any trail updates or notices.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 7
There’s also an old hiker logbook here. The log is long gone unfortunately.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 8
After the trail board you’ll see the old ranch houses to your right. You can climb over and explore them now or on the way back. You’ll also find an old pool and stone chimney, the only thing left of the main house where guests dined.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 9
Each cabin has a stone picnic table with some shade. A great place for a rest when the sun is beating down.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 10
After the cabins, you’re going to hike up the dirt road. It looks pretty much like this the whole way to the end.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 11
On your left will be Mission Creek, which comes down from the high mountains and flows all year. The creek is also the location of the Mission Creek strand of the San Andreas Fault.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 12
As you approach a mile into the hike, you’ll see the tall cottonwood tree poking out of the Painted Hills Wetlands.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 13
And soon the wetlands will be on your right. It’s amazing to think that you have a wet, marshy area in the middle of such a dry landscape. The wetlands attracts many bird watchers. Try to spot a Bell’s vireo and southwestern willow flycatcher, both endangered species that call this wetland home.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 14
When you pass the wetlands, the trail curves sharply to the right. Avoid the side trail on the left.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 15
You’ll have a short uphill section as the trail skirts around the wetlands.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 16
You’ll pass an old stone wall and foundation to the right.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 17
At this point you’ll get some nice views of Mount San Gorgonio to your left. It’s the highest point in Southern California at 11,503 feet. In the winter there’s often snow, which is a great contrast with the brown desert.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 18
Soon you’ll arrive at a big parking lot. Head to the corner of the other side.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 19
You’ll see the stone house, another remanent of the ranch days. There are doors on either side, just head in either one.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 22
The interior is in great shape and includes picnic tables and informational displays.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 20
There’s also a great old hearth that serves as a good photo background.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions 21
There are restrooms around the back of the stone house.

Once you’re finished, you just hike back the way you came. If you’d like to drive to the stone house without the hike, or would like to camp here, you can contact Mission Preserve (use the website link at the beginning of the guide) and request access.

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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