Mission Creek Preserve
Part of the Wildlands Conservancy group of California nature preserves, Mission Creek Preserve spans more than 4,700 acres between the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. In addition to the typical arid landscape of the desert, the preserve features a patch of wetlands and is home to wildlife such as deer, bears, and bighorn sheep.
Located just outside the town of Desert Hot Springs, Mission Creek Preserve boasts proximity to Joshua Tree National Park, Palm Springs, and the Pacific Crest Trail. Most visitors go for the preserve’s hiking, which offers views of wildflowers, eroded hills, and Mt. San Gorgonio. The main Mission Creek trail leads to the Pacific Crest Trail and to Whitewater Preserve—another area protected by the Wildlands Conservancy.
Things to know before you go
- Bring plenty of water and sun protection to stay hydrated and protected in the desert environment.
- The preserve has no visitor center.
- There are a few shaded structures along the trail for picnicking.
- There is no fee to enter the preserve.
How to get there
Mission Creek Preserve is located along Mission Creek Road, 10 miles (16 kilometers) northwest of Desert Hot Springs. There is a public parking lot outside the gate; a second parking lot further into the preserve requires permission from the Wildlands Conservancy.
When to get there
The preserve is typically open daily, between sunrise and sunset. Go in the spring, after the rainy season (when there is one), to catch the wildflowers. Animal sightings are more likely in the early morning and evening hours. Guided hikes take place occasionally; check the Wildlands Conservancy website for details.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
After your hike, head 18 miles (30 kilometers) south to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for another wilderness adventure that doesn’t require as much physical effort. Aboard one of the largest rotating aerial tramcars in the world, you’ll float more than 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) through the air on a 10-minute journey with views of Chino Canyon and Mount San Jacinto State Park.