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Hiking in Palm Springs: Moon Country at Coachella Valley Preserve

The grove near the Visitor's Center
The grove near the Visitor's Center
Deb Stanley

The Coachella Valley Preserve may be known for protecting several palm oasis, but it’s also home to a nice section of canyons. “Moon Country” and “Moon Canyon” is on the far north side of the preserve.

Moon Country area at Coachella Valley Preserve
Deb Stanley

The hike starts at the Visitors Center (directions below). Pick up a map and head out on the mile-long McCullum Trail. The trail starts in a peaceful oasis. Take the path through the palm trees. A few boardwalks have been built in the pond area to keep visitors from getting their feet wet.

Take the time to look around – see how tall the palm trees grow, see how thick the fronds get after they drop off the top, look for new palm trees growing in the bottom of the oasis.

Soon the oasis ends and hikers are on a sandy path in the desert. Watch for numbered markers along the path. The trail map will explain a little bit about each spot.

Signs along the trail point the way to McCullum Pond and Moon Country. Because the Moon Country Trail is a loop, I’d suggest passing the first turnoff to Moon County and continuing on to McCullum Pond. At the second turnoff for Moon Country, it’s just a short distance to McCullum Pond. Walk over to the pond and you might be surprised at how much water is here year round. The trail here circles the pond. Walk through the area or just take in the view of the pond and return to the last trail split.

After hiking across the flat desert, the trail to Moon Country begins to gain a little elevation in this next section. Notice the hills here and of course, the views. It’s about a third of a mile from the last trail split to a sign that marks Vista Point. Turn and walk a few steps to a nice view point of the area. Look for the tell-tale green areas that mark the nearby oases. Enjoy the views of the nearby hills and the wash below you. You may even see a few homes.

When you’re done, return to the main trail as it begins to wind through moon country. Soon the trail gets rockier as it winds through the hills. About 2.4 miles from the Visitors Center, the trail drops back to the main wash and a split. Now is decision time. You can turn left here and follow the wash back for a loop.

If you’re ready for a little more hiking, turn right and head into the canyons. A nearby sign tells hikers to stay on the right side of the wash as they hike into the canyons. We didn’t see any more signs, so we walked about a half-mile back into the canyons. We found several spots where the canyons split. It appears you can wander anywhere you’d like here. When you’re done exploring, go back the way you came in.

Back at the loop, we walked down the wash. A sign here suggested hikers now stay to the left of the wash. Brown signs every few feet help guide hikers the right way. Walk along the wash, pass an old cabin and return to the main trail.

Check out more than 25 other great hikes in the Coachella Valley area.

Admission: Please consider a $5 donation per person.

Website: http://coachellavalleypreserve.org/

Details: The hike to McCullum Pond and around the Moon Country Loop is 4.2 miles with about 200 feet of elevation gain. Add extra distance for exploring in the canyons.

Directions: From Interstate 10, exit Bob Hope Drive and go north. At Varner Road and turn right/east. Turn left/north on Ramon Road and drive north about 4.5 miles to 1000 Palms Canyon Road. Turn left and drive 2 miles to the preserve's parking lot on the left.