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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 Distance4 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

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 15. 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

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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.

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.

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

Osprey=talon

Best All-Around Day Pack: Osprey Talon
I try so many backpacks and I can usually find something I love about all of them. But no matter how many I try, I always find that I come back to the Osprey Talon 33  (or for women, the Osprey Sirrus 36). It’s just the right balance between everything. You save weight because there is no frame, but the vented and padded back holds its shape, giving it a pseudo-frame. It’s big enough for long day hikes or overnighters, but when I don’t fill it on a shorter hike, it’s still nice and light. It’s got a sleeve for a hydration bladder and side pockets for Smartwater bottles.  I’ve been using (and beating) the same one since 2017 and it’s still going strong.
Latest Women’s Prices: REI | Amazon
Latest Men’s Prices: REI | Amazon

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.

Whitewater Preserve Canyon View Loop Trail Maps

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

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

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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.
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When you get to the PCT junction, make the left and start heading uphill.
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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.
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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.
Whitewater Preserve Hike Directions 39
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.
Whitewater Preserve Hike Directions 40
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.

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

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