Whitewater Preserve Hike – Canyon View Loop Trail
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance||4 miles (6.4 km)|
|Hike Time||2-3 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||790 feet (241m)|
|Highest Elevation||2,760 feet (841m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free / Donations Accepted|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Whitewater Preserve|
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
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.
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.
The Best All-Around Hiking Footwear
For most hikers, a hiking shoe is the great choice, and the Moab 2 is a winner. The ventilation is great, they last forever, offer good protection, and have a solid grip. There are sizing options for everyone’s foot in this really comfortable and reliable shoe. This shoe is also a favorite of thru-hikers. The only downside is that they are a little heavy. If you are looking for something more aggressive or lighter, check out the bottom of my gear page.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
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 April 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.
Whitewater Preserve Canyon View Loop Trail Maps
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?
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 Whitewater Preserve is home to endangered peninsular bighorn sheep, bears, coyotes, and mountain lions. Generally you won’t see any of these animals, but occasionally, if you keep your eyes open on the hills above you, you may spot a bighorn.
- In order to return the land back to its original state, the Wildlands Conservancy has removed old buildings, roads, non-native plants, and has restored the river from a muddy cattle bog to the crystal clear water you see today.
- The Whitewater River, which you follow on the hike, starts high in the mountains and flows down to Palm Springs. When it’s flooded and raging, the river sometimes flows out into the Salton Sea. Generally the area is closed when flooded, but even the “normal” river levels can be deadly. There is a death from being swept away in the river every few years. Enter the water with extreme caution, if at all.
- PCT thru-hikers often make the short detour to camp at the Whitewater Preserve visitor’s center area.
- The Sand to Snow National Monument, which this hike is located in, was inspired by the Wildlands Conservancy’s Sand to Snow Interface Project.
Whitewater Preserve Hike Directions
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This guide last updated on March 28, 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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