Murray Canyon Trail: Desert Wilderness On Your Doorstep

Murray Trail Palms


If you’re a nature lover, the Murray Canyon Trail is a must-do activity while in Palm Springs.  This hike will take you deeper into the wilderness than say, Andreas Canyon Trail. So, there’s a better opportunity to observe desert vegetation, wildflowers and a scant creature or two. The plant life is abundant here; visitors can view desert dandelion & lavender, palm trees, ferns, willows and different types of cacti. Of course, the type of plant life you will see is also dependent upon the time of year you are visiting.

There is also a vast amount of animal life to be seen on the trail. The likes of mule deer, lizards, birds, snakes, wild ponies and many other species of animals live here. Nestled in the dense shrubs, you will find two endangered animals: Peninsula Bighorn Sheep and the Last Bell’s Vireo bird.

In this article, we will explain how to best take in this natural wonder. We’ll cover the basics such as how to get there. But, we’ll also talk about what to expect if you hike the trail and other fun activities you can enjoy while there.

Who was Murray?

Welwood Murray was one of the founders of Palm Springs. Even before Palm Springs became a village, Murray constructed and operated the first 26-room hotel in 1886. That’s how Murray Canyon trail got its name.

Getting There

Geting to the Indian Canyons is an easy drive. When you get to Palm Springs, take S. Palm Canyon Drive all the way until it ends. There will be a information booth where you pay an entrance toll. That’s the start of the park. From there, signs will direct you to the path of your choice.

Hiking Basics

You can access hiking trails through a toll booth at the main entrance. Follow the signs toward San Andreas / Murray Canyon Trail. Once you arrive at the parking lot, Murray Canyon will be to your left. Follow the small dirt road that will lead you to the main trail. This is only a moderately difficult trail, so you don’t need much special gear to hike it. But you should have these six basics of desert hiking with you: sunscreen, sunglasses, whistle, watch, a mirror (for signaling), and water. There is no drinking water in the canyon, so be sure to bring your own bottles to keep yourself and your companions hydrated.

A few other items to consider are hiking poles if you need extra support, binoculars to see far away creatures and a camera or camera phone to capture the beauty of the Canyon. If you do take a camera or use your phone, be sure to have a protective cover in case it falls.  Also, make certain that it is fully charged.

While the trail is very accessible to the city never hike alone. Always take a friend with you and tell someone else where you plan to hike and when you will be back. There is cell phone coverage in certain areas along the trail, but we recommend checking with your service provider to be certain.


Cool Weather Hiking

The best time of year for a hike through Murray Canyon will be in April while the weather is still cool. The wildflowers are in full bloom at this time of year making for perfect picture taking.

Although the weather is cool, you may still want to wear pants and a lightweight long sleeve shirt as well as a hat to protect your skin from the sun.

Seeing the endangered Bighorn Sheep is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. These amazing animals can be seen during the daylight in the cool weather, but in the heat of the summer, you will find them resting in the heat of the day.

Due to the seclusion of Murray Canyon, there seem to be a lot fewer visitors here than in other trails and canyons in the area.

Hot Weather Hiking

The mercury can soar to well over 100 degrees in the summer here at Murray Canyon. In addition to the standard hiking gear, one should wear lightweight clothing, have lots of sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses to protect your skin and face.

During the hot weather, you may not catch a glimpse of the endangered Bighorn Sheep because they tend to escape the heat of the day under a shady palm.

Summer is the time of year when hikers choose to do an early morning hike to avoid the heat of the day.

Special Hiking Experiences

For the person that prefers to take in the sites on horseback, head on over to the Smoke Tree Stables where you can rent a horse and get a guided tour across the rugged terrain of the canyons. And for the perennially learning nature-lover, you can contact Jason Bruecks to be your guide on a 7-mile (out and back) trek. Jason, who is related to the Murrays, will teach you about the Santa Rosa Mountains and offer a little history of Palm Springs.

Hiking the Trail

Murray Canyon Trail, with an elevation of 1,200 feet at its highest point, lies just south of San Andreas Canyon. There’s a convenient 4-mile loop of moderate trails to navigate and enjoy here. The trail meanders alongside the Murray Canyon Creek. There are times when the trail crosses the creek, but the water is very shallow, if there’s any at all, as it was formed by natural rocks in the creek. So, no need to worry about getting wet.

Take time to look at the unique shapes of the mountains that were formed from the tectonic movement of the San Andreas fault. There is an abundance of animals here, including rattlesnakes. If you come across a rattler, don’t panic. Just stand still and let him go on his way. He is just as afraid of you as you are of him.

There are picnic tables at the trailhead where you can take a rest and have a bite while reveling in the beauty around you. There are also stops along the way where you will want to stop and enjoy the numerous beautiful vistas. Murray Canyon overlooks Palm Springs and offers a view of our lush little desert valley.

Bird Watching

The first half of the trail is where you will find the most birds. They like to hang out around the creeks and under the shade of the palm trees. Bird watching can be a very enjoyable activity while hiking the Murray Trail. There are several different types of birds to be seen. Examples are the common Raven, Pygmy Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees and Finches just to name a few. The Least Bell’s Vireo Bird, an endangered species, finds its solace in the dense shrubs. Make sure to take your binoculars and a camera or cell phone with a camera to capture a shot of these beautiful birds.


Around April, you will find wildflowers and several other types of plant life in full bloom. The beautiful colors are a great opportunity for magnificent pictures, and the aromatic smell is heavenly. There is a rainbow of colors and different species to be seen when the wildflowers are in bloom. Expect to see orange Apricot Mallow, golden Barrel Cactus, purple Desert Lavender, and many others.

Other Canyons to Choose from

Murray Canyon Trail is not the only route available in the Indian Canyons. There are several other canyon trails, each with its own history and legendary stories. Make sure to visit the visitors center at the entrance to pick up maps, learn about the history of the canyon and buy artifacts and souvenirs.

The trail in Palm Canyon is a 15-mile long trip that can include picnicking, horseback riding and hiking. The Andreas Canyon is known for its unusual rock formations, bird watching, picnicking and tons of photo opportunities.  The trail is not what you would expect in the desert. The rich vegetation gives the feeling of almost being in a forest. Tahquitz Canyon is home to a breath-taking 50-foot waterfall located at the south end of Palm Springs. This hike is 2 miles round trip, and there are four guided tours each day with the last tour at 3:30. You will see several different types of wildlife and plant life as well as ancient irrigation systems.


Now that you have learned a little about the area and the amazing experience you can have visiting Murray Canyon Trail or any of the other canyons that are part of Indian Canyons, make sure you include visiting in your itinerary for your next visit to Palm Springs. Share your pictures of your visits with us. Tweet us at @XPLORzine using #XPLORzine.

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