This week on lastadventurer.com, true confessions. Confession number one: I have been going back and forth from Southern California to the Coachella Valley region and areas North of it for over twenty years off and on. Until about a month ago, I had no idea that there was an area of pristine flood plain, containing miles of hiking trails, and great views of the San Gorgonio Wilderness in the area. No. Idea. At. All. I feel at this point that there should almost be some sort of demerits taken against my wilderness specialist card. After all, the area I’m talking about is part of the Pacific Crest Trail (“PCT”) – how could I miss this? However, it’s better to arrive at the party late than not arrive at all.
Yes, what I am talking about is the Whitewater Preserve, an area of over 2,826 acres that is owned by the Wildlands Conservancy. The region is situated directly on the floodplain of the Whitewater River, and is surrounded by large swaths of land owned by the Bureau of Land Management and the San Gorgonio Wilderness, providing one large area to explore, and one colossal wildlife corridor. The Wildlands Conservancy holds a number of pieces of land within California, and in my experience, each of them are well managed, well maintained, and well protected, something that is definitely needed with the Department of Parks and Recreation in California facing continuing budget cuts. Due to time constraints, I didn’t get as far out into the backcountry as I would have wished, but I did get out on the Canyon View Loop trail, which leaves directly from the picnic area/Ranger Station/interpretive center, and in my opinion, provides a great scenic overview of the preserve for the first time visitor.
Directions: To enter the Whitewater Preserve, exit the I-10 at the Whitewater exit, and head North up the Whitewater Canyon Road for five miles until the road ends. There is a parking lot at the end of the road, but do note that the area is popular for picnics as well as hiking, and the lot does fill up. From the parking lot, the trailhead is directly to the North, and is the main jumping off point for all of the hikes into the backcountry. The trail is well marked from the beginning, and leads past a large boulder with mileage distances along the PCT as well as the preserve. After about a half mile (.5), you will see a turnoff to the West, which will lead you over the Whitewater River on a well maintained footbridge.
As 2012 has been a dry year for Southern California, the water was well below the bridge; but I suspect that in a wet year, the river could be difficult to cross; something you should keep in mind depending on when you are visiting. Once across the bridge, the trail heads through some brush before heading uphill through some switchbacks to the top of the ridge, where the Canyon Loop Trail is again well signed. From here, you can see some great views of the canyon as you head South before ultimately looping back around to the Ranger station and parking lot. Roundtrip, this hike will be about three and a half miles (3.5), and I would rate it as easy and suitable for all ages. Do note that there is indeed some uphill portions; but overall, the hike is not overly strenuous.
Tips: There’s a secret river and park near Palm Springs! What more do you want? Ok, let’s go for bonus tips: due to the fact that the preserve is connected to large swaths of backcountry, it is a wildlife corridor for many animals, including black bears which do head into the canyon on a regular basis. From my observations, it’s also a great place to view animals, as I saw plenty of small animals in the area during the middle of the day. Last, if you don’t feel like hiking, it’s a great place to sit back and relax among the trout ponds and river to beat the desert heat.
See you on the trail!
http://www.wildlandsconservancy.org/maps/Whitewater%20Canyon%20Preserve%20Map.pdf, http://www.wildlandsconservancy.org/maps/wwtm21610.pdf, http://www.wildlandsconservancy.org/preserve_whitewater.html, http://www.yelp.com/biz/whitewater-preserve-white-water, http://calitravelgirl.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/whitewater-preserves-canyon-view-loop-trail-has-views-to-die-for/#comments