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.
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.
Altra Lone Peak 5
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 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. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe
REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe
REI | Amazon
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.
REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated October 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 keep the website ad and promotion free. 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?
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 6. 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.
- 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 October 9, 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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