Tachevah Falls via North Lykken Trail
- Location: Palm Springs. From I-10, take the Highway 111 exit and head southeast for 9.5 miles and turn right on Via Escuela. Go 0.2 miles and turn left on Via Norte. Go 0.2 miles and turn right on Chino Canyon Road. Turn left on Panorama Road and go 0.3 miles. Bear left onto Cielo Drive and take a left on a spur (it will look as if you are going into private property, but you are not). At the end of the spur, between a tennis court and a cactus garden, park and begin on the North Lykken Trail.
- Agency: Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument
- Distance: 4 miles
- Elevation gain: 900 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Steepness, terrain, trail condition)
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: October – April, daylight only (waterfall access: October – December)
- USGS topo maps: “Palm Springs”
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat; long sleeve shirt and pants
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Inland Empire
- More information: trip report here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
Most people don’t associate waterfalls with Palm Springs, and those who do usually think of Tahquitz Canyon. However, Inland Empire hikers won’t want to miss Tachevah Falls, which, despite being dry most of the year, is very visually striking. Add a huge variety of scenery on the North Lykken trail – including panoramic views of Palm Springs, interesting geology and desert vegetation – and you have one of the more entertaining hikes in the area.
From the end of the spur off Cielo Drive, the North Lykken trail (named for former Palm Springs postmaster and businessman Carl Lykken) wastes no time in climbing 300 feet to a ridge. Here, hikers can relax at some picnic tables before continuing on. The trail dips down and closely hugs the side of the Santa Rosas. Terrain can be a little tricky here, although the route should be fairly obvious. After passing by a false trail that branches off down the hill to the left, and passing the mouth of a wide canyon, you arrive at a junction, 1.6 miles from the start. Here, the Lykken Trail continues (somewhat obscurely) to the left, and a spur heads off to the right, where you get your first look at Tachevah Falls.
According to “Afoot and Afield”, access is only legal from October to December, although I did not see any signs indicating this while actually on the trail. Still, if you are visiting during another time of the year and don’t want to take your chances, this can be a good turnaround point; the views are pretty dramatic. You can also continue on the North Lykken Trail, climbs out of the canyon and up to a junction with the Museum Trail and the infamous Skyline Trail that eventually leads to the San Jacinto summit.
If you want to see the falls more closely, follow the trail to the right up into the canyon. The trail follows the wash of Tachevah Creek, sometimes going in and out of it. You may find yourself climbing over rocks and pushing aside bushes, including some thorny mesquite (hence the long shirt/pants recommendation), but usually the trail won’t be too hard to find. The huge rock wall ahead will help with your orientation. The only real navigational point to remember is, when you pass a huge boulder on the right (about a quarter mile into the canyon), head uphill to the left on a trail that steeply ascends the southern wall of the canyon. A bit more climbing gets you to the waterfall, where your best views are from a rock shortly in front of it. Although water is likely to be only trickling here, the unusual rock surface – striped in beige, brown, white, gray and black from years of sedimentary buildup – is well worth the effort it takes to get there. Tachevah rivals Black Star Canyon for being one of the most distinctive looking waterfalls in So Cal, and unlike its Orange County counterpart, this one’s appearance is completely natural. And there’s no poison oak to deal with on the way down, either.
Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Cellular Service Difficulty PG13 Distance 2.1 to 5 miles Hikes with free parking Rating: 7-8 San Jacinto/Santa Rosa Mountains & Joshua Tree Season: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring waterfall hikes Adventure day trip Desert dry falls Exercise Fitness Geology hiking Inland Empire Lykken Trail nature North Lykken Trail outdoors Palm Desert Palm Springs Recreation San Jacinto Mountains Santa Rosa Mountains southern california Tachevah Falls Travel vacation waterfall