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Palm Springs’ myriad activities attract outdoor enthusiasts

Palm Springs, California, is a favorite winter getaway destination for active Southern Nevadans because it’s fairly close, about four hours, and there are lots of outdoor activities to enjoy. You can hike, play golf, swim and even play in the snow all in the same day. One can hike among the palm trees in the desert, yet easily access alpine forests where you might even find a lot of snow to play in.

One of the best places to hike is at the Indian Canyons, managed by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, whose ancestors settled Palm Springs. Located just a few minutes from town, the reservation contains 32,000 acres, 6,700 within the city limits with other parcels checkerboarded nearby.

There are four main canyons: Palm, Andreas, Murray and Tahquitz, all home to the California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) and many other indigenous plants. In the past when the Cahuilla lived off the land, these canyons provided everything they needed. They had plenty of water, an abundance of wild game and more than 200 plants to use for food, medicine, clothing and shelter. Even today, if you are fortunate while in these canyons, you might see peninsula bighorn sheep, mule deer and even wild ponies.

If you only have time to hike one trail, I recommend Andreas Canyon. It is the second-largest canyon and there is an easy trail between the palm-covered banks of Andreas Creek and the steep rocky cliffs. It’s a moderate hike for most people but does have uneven footing and some drop-offs, so very young children need to be watched.

Another great activity is to take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway into the San Jacinto Mountains. This is the world’s largest rotating tram and travels up 2½ miles through Chino Canyon from Valley Station at 2,643 feet up to Mountain Station at 8,516 feet. It’s a safe ride and has carried millions of people over the years, but it’s not for the faint of heart, as the tram sometimes swings at the upper towers.

Once off the tram you’ll find two restaurants, observation decks, a gift shop and miles of trails. Visitors can just relax and take in the far-reaching views of the valley below or head out the back door to hike some trails or maybe enjoy a winter wonderland this time of year, if Mother Nature allows. With an abundance of snow you can throw some snowballs, make snow angels or even go tubing, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.

When there is adequate snow, the Winter Adventure Center is open and rents gear Fridays through Sundays. Be sure to wear warm clothes, hats and mittens and appropriate footwear, as you can expect temperatures 30-40 degrees cooler than in Palm Springs, where the average daily high in January and February is in the low 70s, but the temperature can dip into the 40s at night. For more information, call 888-515-8726 or visit http://www.pstramway.com.

Plan to be in Palm Springs on any Thursday evening and you can take part in Village Fest from 7-10. This street fair is always fun for all ages with both visitors and locals strolling the arts, crafts and food booths while enjoying plenty of entertainment along the way. It takes place in downtown Palm Springs on Palm Canyon Drive.

If you head to Palm Springs soon, the International Film Festival runs Jan. 2-13.

Additional information can be found at http://www.visitgreaterpalmsprings.com.

Many of Deborah Wall’s columns have been compiled into books about hiking in the Southwest. She is also the author of “Great Hikes, a Cerca Country Guide” and a co-author of the book “Access For All, Seeing the Southwest With Limited Mobility.” Wall can be reached at Deborabus@aol.com.

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