Mission Creek Preserve Hike
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance||3.4 miles (5.5 km)|
|Hike Time||1-2 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||340 feet (104m)|
|Highest Elevation||2,445 feet (745m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free / Donations Accepted|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Mission Creek Preserve|
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
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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). 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.
Mission Creek Preserve History
- The area that you are hiking through is geologically unique. Similar to nearby Joshua Tree National Park, you are in a transition zone between the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. Unlike Joshua Tree, here you have Mission Creek providing a water source, attracting animals and providing plants the moisture to grow. You’ll even pass an area designated as wetlands, right here in the desert!
- As I mentioned earlier, the first stone huts used to be part of a larger complex called T Cross K Guest Ranch. The ranch offered horseback riding, hiking, barbecues, a pool, and “mother’s good home cooking.” Rates were $5 a night, or about $100 in today’s money. Not bad. The ranch fizzled out in the 1950s.
- Today the Mission Creek Preserve is in the care of the Wildlands Conservancy, and is part of the Sand to Snow National Monument, created by President Obama in 2016. There’s another great Wildlands Conservancy hike just down the road at Whitewater Preserve. You can do both hikes in one day if you want.
Mission Creek Preserve Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
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.