Magnesia Falls – doesn’t that sound wonderful? Especially in the desert?
The hike in Magnesia Falls Canyon is even better than it sounds. While you don’t want to come when the water is running (you’d be stopped at the first waterfall), come when the area is dry and you can hike up a series of waterfalls in this beautiful canyon.
The hike starts at Rancho Mirage Mountain Park (directions below). Walk up the road on the west side of the school to the gate that says City of Rancho Mirage and park hours 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Cross the bridge and turn right. Walk the path along the fence line, as it follows the nearby private road. While there are no signs here, there are signs coming.
Follow the sandy, dirt path about 0.75 miles to a fence and a dam. Take the path around the fence and you’ll find your first sign, “Ecological Reserve, No Trespassing.” Don’t worry, you’re allowed to hike here, but ONLY in October, November and December. The reserve is closed January through September. The sign also says no dogs allowed.
Now, climb up to the top of the dam. From here, you’ll see another dam up canyon with a trail on it. Hike down the dam you’re on, hike to the next dam, and hike up that dam.
At the top of the second dam a sign that explains you’re entering the Magnesia Springs Ecological Reserve. The sign explains that the area is closed January 1 to September 30. It says no pets are allowed, no bikes and lists several other rules.
After reading the sign, continue hiking up the canyon, veering left. A little over a tenth of a mile from the sign, about 1.3 miles from the Mirage Road, you’ll come to your first dry waterfall. You may find a palm tree and a small pond here, but the waterfall itself should be dry.
Now it’s challenge time — find the easiest way up, likely crossing from one side to the other side on a rock ramp of sorts. You will have to do some climbing. If you’re not comfortable climbing up this waterfall, then take some photos and turn around. The second waterfall is much taller and steeper. Also, remember as you climb up, it is easier to climb up, than down, so make sure you are comfortable going back down so you don’t get stuck.
If you make it up the first waterfall, the canyon gets more narrow and the rock wall are incredible. The walls are colorful and sculptured.
The second waterfall is about 35-feet high and may have mud at the bottom. Find the best route for you, which may mean going back-and-forth on the face of the waterfall. As you climb up, you may notice spots with wire mesh and concrete. That’s likely from steps that once took workers to the top of this waterfall and what looks like an old mine site.
As you continue up the canyon there are several more waterfalls to climb — some are 30-feet high, some are just a few feet high.
About 0.8 miles from the first falls, you’ll walk through a palm oasis in the canyon. And about 1.25 miles from the first falls, you’ll come to another sign. This sign says you’re leaving the ecological reserve. The reserve does not include the entire canyon.
You can turn around here, but I recommend hiking just a short distance, less than a tenth of a mile, to one more tall, dry waterfall. This one is about 80-feet high. While this waterfall is climbable, I’d only recommend it if you are with someone who knows the best route. This is the turnaround spot for most visitors.
Going back down the canyon, enjoy the down climbs and the canyon from a different perspective. It’s just as much fun hiking down as it was hiking up. Enjoy!
Details: The hike to the tall waterfall and back is about 5.4 miles with 650 feet of elevation gain.
Special rules: While there is no fee to hike here, the canyon is only open in October, November and December. The same rule applies to Carrizo Canyon and Dead Indian Canyon. Find more than 20+ other trails that are open year-round here.
Directions: The trailhead is just 0.3 miles off Palm Canyon Drive. Turn south on Mirage Road and follow it to the signs for Mountain Park. Google 71254 Mirage Road, Rancho Mirage, for directions.