“This is a place of contrasts; it’s a place of ancient and new; a place of peace and turbulence; and it’s a place of power. Come with the right purpose and a clear mind to enjoy its beauty and mystery.” This is the legend of Tahquitz.
Tahquitz was the first shaman created by Murat, the creator of all things. He had so much power in the beginning and used it for the good of all people. He then became the guardian spirit of all shamans and he used his might to do good, but over time he used his power for other selfish reasons, such as using his influence to harm the Cahuilla people. They became angry and banished him to this canyon that now bears his name. He then made his home high in the San Jacinto Mountains in a secret cave below the towering rock known today as Tahquitz Peak. It’s said that his spirit still lives in this canyon. He can sometimes be seen as a large, green fireball streaking across the night sky, or the strange rumblings heard deep within the San Jacinto Mountains, the shaking of the ground, and crashing of boulders are all attributed to Tahquitz, as he stomps about the canyon.
– Extract from the brochure of the Tahquitz Canyons
I could write a long article about the history of Tahquitz Canyon, but there are plenty of articles and reviews on the internet to read for that. What I wanted to talk about was my experience visiting this famous place.
The Visitors Center
We found coupons for $2 off the admission and jumped with enthusiasm to visit this much anticipated hike. I have hiked all my life on all sorts of terrain, so I tend to wear my flip flops for most hikes that are deemed as “tourist attractions.” My flip flops were heavy duty with good tread, yet none of that mattered, because the man selling tickets told me that the hike was on rough terrain and my “footwear” wouldn’t be sufficient. I told him I’d like to try anyhow, and that I’d be responsible for my choice in shoes. He told me no and sent me off to another paid hike (that’s another story).
Not wanting to be discouraged, a few weeks later I put on my tennis shoes, with much inferior tread to my sandals, and headed back to Tahquitz Canyon. This time I was greeted with a smile. I paid $21 for two people, which included my coupons, but still a steep price in my mind.
The host at the front desk gave us a brief introduction, telling us that we would be climbing so many stairs we would feel as if we had spent the morning using a stair master to reach the 60-foot waterfall. “Oooh and ahhhhh” is what I thought, while he was describing what was in store for us. At that point, we were excited at the thought of an invigorating hike, followed by an unforgettable waterfall.
We then headed on our way, only to be met with several trails to choose. Not sure what trail to take (the host didn’t mention this), we looked at the map that indicated a simple loop. Throwing caution to the wind, we went left, far left. This was a problem we encountered several times during the hike. Fortunately, we quickly figured out that all the trails headed one way or another to the waterfall, but we would have appreciated knowing this tidbit of information beforehand.
We hiked at a moderate pace, knowing that the entire loop was just a mere 2 miles, while leading us up 350 feet in elevation. The hike was beautiful, and the map offered points of interests to look out for. We were hiking early in the morning and were pleasantly surprised at how shaded and cool the trail was.
Really, is that it?
Suddenly, before we knew it, we were at the waterfall which is beautiful. We climbed a few stairs, but it was nothing like we had expected. We had never even broken a sweat, and I can honestly say that I could have easily done this trail in any pair of flip flops—it was that easy. We met a few other hikers, and we learned that we weren’t the only ones disappointed in the “difficulty” level either.
Am I disappointed by my experience? Yes and no. I do think the price tag is just too high for the one simple hike that’s offered. I also think that someone who works at Tahquiz Canyon ought to do some hikes in the area, in order to experience hard hikes, many of which I’ve also done in my flip flops. That being said, it is a beautiful hike, good for all fitness levels, and it’s perfect for parents of small children who want to introduce their kids to hiking.
We then continued towards the visitors center, admiring the beauty of the most highly rated canyon in Palm Springs, California.