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Whitewater Preserve Hike Canyon View Loop Trail

Whitewater Preserve Hike – Canyon View Loop Trail

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Canyon View Loop Trail Directions
  • Getting to the Trailhead in Whitewater Preserve
  • Insider Hike Tips for the Canyon View Loop Trail
Total Distance (?)4 miles (6.4 km)
Hike Time2-3 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)790 feet (241m)
Highest Elevation2,760 feet (841m)
Fees & PermitsFree / Donations Accepted
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Whitewater Preserve
Park Phone760-325-7222
Weather & ForecastLatest Conditions
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One of my favorite hikes, the Canyon View Loop Trail at the Whitewater Preserve, between Palm Springs and Joshua Tree, offers beauty at every twist and turn. The well-marked trail follows the Whitewater River Canyon until it reaches the iconic PCT and then climbs up to a bluff that offers non-stop views into the canyon and high peaks of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. It’s a hike that’s worth making a trip for, so give it a try.

Where is Whitewater Preserve?

Whitewater Preserve is a few miles up the Whitewater River from Interstate 10. The hike starts from the visitor’s center area, which also offers bathrooms and picnic tables. Unlike most hikes where you can show up and hike whenever you want, Whitewater Preserve usually has opening hours and is closed some days to give the wildlife some space. Check the link at the beginning of the guide to confirm the hours.

Use this trailhead address:
Whitewater Preserve, 9160 Whitewater Canyon Rd, Whitewater, CA 92282

Whitewater Preserve Hike Directions 3
There’s a big parking lot as soon as you pull in.
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If that lot is full just go straight and there’s another, larger parking lot.
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There are a ton of picnic benches in the shade to chill out and relax at.
Whitewater Preserve Trail Start
The Canyon View Loop Trail starts right at the entrance to the Preserve visitor area.

If you park in the lot, take note of the closing time. The gates are locked and you may be stuck in there.

Whitewater Preserve Alternate Parking

There are times when the Whitewater Preserve visitor’s area is closed, but the trails are still open. Again, check the link at the top of this guide for the specifics. When this is the case, you can’t park at the main lots and have to start the loop hike downs the road from the visitor’s center.

Whitewater Preserve Trail Alternate Start
The alternate parking is a few minutes down the road from the visitor’s center area entrance.
Whitewater Preserve Hike Directions 2
The alternate parking area is along the road, just before you cross the river. If you go further up the road, it’s all no-parking.

Gear for the Hike

This hike is in the desert, and in the summer, it can get very hot. I recommend going early or in a cooler season and still bringing some sun protection. Bring at least 1L of water for the loop hike. The trail is sandy in places but otherwise very well manicured. I use light hiking gear, but you can get away with fitness clothing.

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Garmin Inreach Mini 2

Garmin InReach Mini 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.

Latest Prices: Amazon | REI

Lone Peak 6 Yellow

Altra Lone Peak 6
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak 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’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Terraventure 3 or Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.

Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon 
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon 

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.

Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon 
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon 

Gregory Zulu 30

Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.

Women’s Latest Prices: REIAmazon 
Men’s Latest Prices: REIAmazon 

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 2022.

My June 2022 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 keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Whitewater Preserve Canyon View Loop Trail Maps

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.


How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

To access this guide when out of cell phone range on the trail, simply save the webpage on your phone ( iPhoneAndroid ).

Elevation Profile

Whitewater Preserve Hike Canyon View Loop Trail Elevation
While there’s about 700 feet of climbing, if you’re in decent shape, it’s not a big deal. The climb has switchbacks to make the gradient easier.

3d Map

Whitewater Preserve Hike Canyon View Loop Trail 3d Map
The first part of the hike follows Whitewater Canyon. You’ll then climb up to the top of the bluff on the PCT, and then head back down to finish the loop.

Hike Brief

Whitewater Trout Farm Historic Photo
The area around the visitor center used to be the Whitewater Trout Farm. You can see the trout pools when you start the hike.  When it went out of business in 2006, local conservation groups bought the area and it eventually came into the care of the Wildlands Conservancy. Photo circa 1950s from Banning Library District

Whitewater Preserve Hike Directions

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Video Directions

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

Turn by Turn Directions

Whitewater Preserve Hike Directions 6
The trailhead is by the entrance to the preserve. Look for the trail board.
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Read the trail board for any notices and continue on.
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Continue past the trout pond.
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Right after that is a neat trail distance sign on a stone, along with an interpretive display just past it.
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Continue straight down the path, avoiding side trails.
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When you get to the junction, make the right to continue on the loop trail.
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Your next landmark is the Pacific Crest Trail in 0.5 miles.
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Shortly after the last trail sign, make the left at the post to continue on the trail.
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Follow the trail towards the river and bluffs.
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You’ll cross the river on a few little wooden bridges.
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Head up this marvelously engineered stone staircase.
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You’ll see a sign letting you know that you’re entering the San Gorgonio Wilderness.

What is a Wilderness Area?

Whitewater Preserve Hike Directions 18
When you get to the PCT junction, make the left and start heading uphill.
Whitewater Preserve Hike Directions 19
I love that the trail sign has the distance to Canada on it (via the PCT). We’re just doing the slightly more modest Canyon View Loop today; three miles to go.
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Start climbing out of the canyon on the PCT.
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You’ll get some great views into the canyon as you climb.
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Switchbacks make the effort manageable.
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You’ll head away from the canyon, and if you look closely, you’ll be able to see the trail climbing up the hillside and through the notch ahead.
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At the top, make the left.
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You made it to the high point! Head straight down the trail. For the next mile or two you’ll be treated to nice views.
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Look for small use trails to the left which offer panoramic views into Whitewater Canyon.
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Continue on the trail as it heads away from the edge. The big mountain ahead of you is Mt San Jacinto, which you can summit from the bottom (Cactus to Clouds)or with the help of a tram ride.
Whitewater Preserve Hike Directions 28
Avoid the side trails on the left for a hot second.
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Until the main trail swings around and comes to the edge.
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From here you’ll be able to see down into the visitor’s center area at Whitewater Preserve.
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And the lower peaks of the San Gorgonio Wilderness.
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After you soak in the views, continue down the trail.
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The trail goes along a fence, which is next to the sheer cliff.
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And then at the end of the plateau you’ll start the descent.
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Follow the switchbacks downhill to the canyon.
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Towards the bottom the trail makes a hard left and is marked as such.
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And then you pop back out on the road. Walk up the road for a few minutes.
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And look for this marked trail sign on the left after you cross the river. There are a bunch of unofficial paths before this. Go until you see the trail sign.
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The trail is flanked with stones as it winds its way up the wash. If you’re not walking on a path like this, you’re not on the official trail.
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There’s a marker half-way up pointing you to the right. And again, the trail is flanked with stones.
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This part of the hike is really pretty. You’ll get nice views of the mountains as you head up the wash.
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And soon you’ll end up back at the parking lot by the visitor’s center. That’s the hike.

This guide last updated on February 21, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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