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Whenever visiting southern California, my family and I love hiking the many desert nature reserves. Perhaps one of our favorite hikes is the beautiful and mysterious Tahquitz Canyon.
Tahquitz is located near Palm Springs, California in the San Jacinto mountains. It is owned by the Agua Caliente tribe of Cahuilla Indians.
The canyon was named after the powerful shaman “Tahquitz”. Legend has it that he became the guardian spirit of all shamans and gave them the power to do good. Over time however, Tahquitz began to use his power for selfish reasons and did harm to the Cahuilla people. They banished him to the canyon where many say, his spirit still resides. Some say he can still be seen in the form of large fireballs in the night sky, rumbling sounds in the mountains and crashing boulders in the canyon.
Tahquitz Canyon was closed to the public in 1969, when it became “Shangri-La” to thousands of hippies. Apparently, the hippies would skinny dip in the rivers, dance naked on the boulders, and party throughout the night. Unfortunately, all this fun in Utopia created all sorts of mayhem. The Canyon became trashed with litter and graffiti, until Tahquitz no longer resembled the oasis it once was.
In 1990, after 30 years of closure, the tribal elders decided to re-open the canyon to the public with guided and unguided hikes.
The hike through Tahquitz Canyon is magnificent as you follow a river and trail through deep narrow passages with steep rocky cliffs all around. Midway through the hike, you come to a majestic water fall.
Every time we visit Tahquitz Canyon, I think about the amazing history that preceded me. It feels like walking with our ancestors. There’s something very moving about being in such a magical and mysterious environment. If you ever visit the area, I highly recommend hiking the canyon. I promise, you will not be the same.