It costs $15 to hike in Tahquitz Canyon. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It would have been easy enough to find the waterfall on my own. But that would have meant not nibbling on the hummingbird plant that tastes like cucumber, or learning that brittlebush was used like Vicks VapoRub by Indians, let alone missing the petroglyph.

The ranger hikes at Tahquitz Canyon in Palm Springs are free. If you are into learning a bit about this area, take the time to go with a ranger.

Either way, it’s not a difficult 2-mile round trip hike, where a 60-foot waterfall is the destination. It’s easy to make it a loop, hiking on either side of Tahquitz Creek. The elevation gain is 351 feet, with the falls at an elevation of 867 feet.

Alejandro was a terrific guide last month on this two-hour excursion.

Alejandro talks about the petroglyphs in Tahquitz Canyon. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Etched on a rock is a red diamond rattlesnake. While it was hard for me to decipher this, with Alejandro’s help I could eventually see it.

He pointed out Sacred Rock. This is one of the Agua Caliente Indian’s oldest dwelling sites. Artifacts found here are more than 1,500 years old.

It’s not surprising Tahquitz Canyon is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

So many plants along the trail were used by the Indians, with some still part of their culture. There was the creosote bush, Yerba Santa plant, and desert lavender. I was told to steer clear of the catclaw, what rangers call the “wait a minute” bush because the thorns seems to reach out and grab you.

Before reaching the main falls a smaller one comes into view. This is where in 1960 the U.S. Geological Society built a garish water gauging station. Today it provides information that people may track online.

Tahquitz Falls flows steadily in late November. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It’s Tahquitz Falls that will captivate you. It seems so amazing for this much or any water to be spilling forth so close to downtown Palm Springs. It was like being transported to another world.

While some people opt to cool off here, with the creek being 49 degrees, I was good with not even dipping my toe in.

The waterfall and creek are fed by snowfall and rain. When Tropical Storm Hilary blew through the desert in August it filled the canyon with flood waters that measured 10.6 feet, according to my guide. He said the highest level it’s ever been recorded is 12.7 feet in 1967.

According to the tribe, “Tahquitz was the first shaman created by Mukat, the creator of all things.” Tahquitz at first used his power for good, but when he started doing bad things he was banished to this canyon. “It is said his spirit still lives in the canyon. He sometimes can be seen as a large green fireball streaking across the night sky.”

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