The Coachella Valley Preserve protects some 20,000 acres of wild desert, where the San Andreas Fault has worked as chief landscape architect. Seismic action forced freshwater springs to pop up from underground, and the water nourishes groves of California fan palms—thousands of them. Start your 3.9-mile (round-trip) hike on the McCallum Trail at the visitor center, a cabin constructed from palm trunks. A raised wooden walkway keeps your feet dry as you wander through the watery marsh of Thousand Palms Oasis—a breathtaking contrast to the surrounding desert. Hum a few bars of “Midnight at the Oasis” as you walk under these cool, leafy palms, some 150 years old. Soon the trail opens out to a sandy wash that leads to the McCallum Grove, where skirted palms stand sentry over a tranquil pond. Walk its perimeter, then head uphill on Moon Canyon Trail to gain a ridgetop view of the surrounding Indio Hills.
From the junction of CA-111 and E. Ramon Rd., head east on Ramon Rd. for 9.5 miles, then turn left on Thousand Palms Canyon Rd. Drive two miles to the Coachella Valley Preserve parking lot. No dogs.