Here’s a little desert hideaway that’s a surprisingly cool escape, even when the weather’s hot! Whitewater Preserve in Sand to Snow National Monument is an oasis in a rugged stretch of land just northwest of Palm Springs. The former trout hatchery was recently renovated into a tranquil outdoor playground and gateway for desert exploration.
Though the pool bottom is man-made, the dramatic canyon setting is natural and the water is 100% fresh from the source, channeled in from the chilly Whitewater River. And since the water is constantly moving through the pool, it never gets the chance to heat up, making it a perfect spot to escape the hot desert air. This pool is great for experiencing swimming in a natural body of water without any of the dangers or icky stuff that can often come along with it—no current, no plants, no aquatic animals, no algae, no deep water—just good clean fun!
The preserve is free of charge and the pool is easy to get to, making it an extremely popular spot even during a scorching summer. If the weather permits and you have some extra time, you can explore several miles of hiking trails within the preserve that weave through the canyon along the Whitewater River, passing through bighorn sheep and southwestern willow flycatcher habitats. The trails are too exposed to really enjoy during scorching summer temps, although the trail to the river is just a quarter-mile. Worth checking out if you can brave the heat. Just be sure to stay hydrated! Back at the old trout farm are plentiful shady picnic tables where you can enjoy lunch, in addition to a visitor center where you can learn more about the preserve, between sessions of lazing about in the cool Whitewater pool.
From the I-10 just east of the Palm Springs turnoff (CA-111), take Exit 114 toward Whitewater. Head north on Tipton Rd., turn left onto Whitewater Canyon Rd., and follow it till it ends at the preserve. Parking and entry are free. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Arrive early, as the parking lot fills up quickly and there’s no overflow parking in the summer. Dogs are permitted on hiking trails, but not at the pool.