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Run to a desert oasis with towering California fan palms.

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1,280' 390 m


836' 255 m


488' 149 m


478' 146 m



Avg Grade (4°)


Max Grade (12°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features River/Creek · Spring · Views · Wildflowers


This is a desert run up a canyon to a desert oasis with huge California fan palms. In the spring, there are large variety of wildflowers and blooming cacti.

Need to Know

This is a desert:
  • Bring a lot of water
  • Best to go early in the morning to avoid the heat
  • Do not sit on sharp things....

The grade is relatively flat, a very gradual climb from the parking area to the oasis. However, the run is rated intermediate due to:
  • The trail is somewhat difficult to follow for about 0.4 miles to/from the oasis.
  • The trail surface is rocky.

The Palm Grove at the end of the trail is closed for restoration due to a fire in 2020. You are still able to overlook the grove, but you're unable to enter.


The Palm Canyon Loop starts at a parking area at the end of the Palm Canyon Campground. The first section of the Palm Canyon Loop is on the Palm Canyon Trail that is well marked and can be found towards the northeast end of the parking area.

Follow the Palm Canyon Trail northwest as it heads towards the mountains of Palm Canyon. Initially, the trail crosses a flat, open area. The trail is a rock strewn, sandy trail with low vegetation. In the spring, the vegetation is green with an abundance of flowers - very pretty. Brittlebush (yellow flowers) is everywhere. There are also several other yellow flowered bushes, desert dandelions, and other low, flowering shrubs.

After about a half mile, the Palm Canyon Trail bends to the right and enters the canyon. A steep, brush covered hillside, the canyon "wall", rises to the right of the trail. Tall stick-like ocotillos join the mix of vegetation. In the spring, the ocotillo stems become dark green, with orange tipped ends - the ocotillo blooms. About a mile from the trailhead, the trail turns left and crosses the stream that runs down the canyon. If one looks up the stream (to the right), in the distance, one can see the California fan palms of the oasis, about a half mile away.

After crossing the stream, the trail turns right and follows the stream as it heads towards the oasis. The canyon walls rise steeply on both sides of the trail, from here to the oasis. Just after crossing the stream and turning right, the trail enters a short stretch of relatively dense vegetation, made possible in the desert, by the stream waters. The trail soon emerges from the vegetation, and becomes much rockier, with areas of large boulders. In places it is hard to tell where the trail goes. Look for occasional arrows that mark the trail.

For 0.25 miles after crossing the stream, the stream is to the right of the trail. In other words, look for the trail on this side of the stream. The trail then crosses the stream again, and follows the stream, with the stream now to the left of the trail. After about 0.15 miles on this other side of the stream, just before the oasis, the trail crosses back over the stream, and enters the shaded oasis. At the oasis, there is a wonderful, cool shaded area in among the towering California fan palms.

After enjoying the shade of the California fan palms, follow the trail back the way you came, crossing the stream twice, then going through the short section of relatively dense vegetation. Coming out of the dense vegetation, is a trail junction where Palm Canyon Trail meets Palm Canyon Alternate Trail. Without crossing the stream, stay to the right to take Palm Canyon Alternate Trail.

Once on Palm Canyon Alternate Trail, the trail becomes easy to follow. Palm Canyon Alternate Trail is also a rock strewn, sandy trail, with a steep hillside (canyon "wall") rising to the right of the trail. The canyon widens here, and the area to the left of the trail is relatively flat. One can look down the canyon, and see the desert plains far into the distance. These plains are covered with low vegetation - a lot of yellow flowered brittlebush and orange tipped ocotillos in the spring. Green flowering cholla cacti, magenta flowering beavertail cacti, and barrel cacti are also sprinkled around. After a little over a mile, Palm Canyon Alternate Trail and Palm Canyon Loop end at the parking lot where the Palm Canyon Loop began.

Flora & Fauna

Brittlebush (yellow flowers), Parish's poppies (yellow), desert dandelions (light yellow), ocotillos, creosote (yellow flowers), common phacelia (little blue flowers), and other flowering plants. Cholla cacti (green blooms), beavertail cacti (magenta blooms), and barrel cacti (dark yellow bloom). Towering California fan palms at the oasis. These are the only palms native to California and are relatively rare in the wild.


Shared By:

Joan Pendleton with improvements by Nickolas Ross

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 9 votes


  4.0 from 9 votes
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in California


44 Views Last Month
3,310 Since Apr 3, 2017
Intermediate Intermediate



California fan palms grow in the Palm Canyon Trail's desert oasis in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Apr 3, 2017 near Borrego…, CA
Early morning is a great time to experience the Palm Canyon Trail.
Apr 14, 2017 near Borrego…, CA
Numerous ocotillos bloom along the Palm Canyon Alternate Trail.
Apr 3, 2017 near Borrego…, CA
Spring greenery brings color to the Sonoran/Colorado Desert. Yellow poppies grow to the right of the trail here, and yellow brittlebush everywhere else.
Apr 3, 2017 near Borrego…, CA
Ocotillo (tall with orange-flowered tips) and brittlebush (yellow bushes) bloom along the Palm Canyon Alternate Trail in the Sonoran/Colorado Desert.
Apr 3, 2017 near Borrego…, CA
The Sonoran/Colorado Desert comes alive in the spring. Orange-tipped ocotillo, yellow brittlebush, and a cholla cactus pose for a photo.
Apr 3, 2017 near Borrego…, CA



Current Trail Conditions

All Clear 70 days ago
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