east indio hills badlands trail

Good Hike in the Badlands

The East Indio Badlands Trail is the most recent hiking trail addition to the Coachella Valley with help from Friends of the Desert Mountains in conjunction with other local organizations.

Yasuko Smith Current Digital, Hiking

east indio hills badlands trail

A great example of uplifted sedimentary layers of light and dark minerals and sand from previous deposition on the East Indio Badlands Trail.

Located at the eastern end of Avenue 42nd and the northern end of Golf Center Parkway, the East Indio Badlands Trail offers a variety of geologic features, desert vegetation, and picturesque views of the Coachella Valley.

Begin your journey of this 5.2 mile loop along the edge of the Terra Lago Resort Golf Course. You may start to notice seashells and fine beach sand along the canal and the trail, signs left behind from Ancient Lake Cahuilla, whose shores once reached the very edges of this trail.

Half a mile in, crossing a rather open desert area, you will notice several creosote plants on either side of the trail. These amazing desert scrub bushes have beautiful five-petaled yellow flowers and lend the desert it’s unique aroma most notably during the rare rain occurrence. Through the canyons you will notice some flora such as the Spanish needle, brittlebush, and Morman-tea plants.

Approaching the hills you will observe different tilted sedimentary layers uplifted and seemingly crashing into one another. Two geological formations of heavily deposited delta-sediments from the ancestral Colorado River, the Palm Springs formation and the Mecca formation are layers of light grey sandstone with interbedded sandy silts, clay, and shale dating from the Pliocene age roughly over 2.5 million years ago. These deposits are, of course, angular to sub-rounded grains from granitic and metamorphic debri, shaped from the travels of grains being rounded.


Landscape view of the Palm Springs formation and the Mecca formation with creosote bushes dotting the foreground.


Effects of flash flood erosion on the soft sand hills.


In between the scars winds the trail. Here you can really see the unique beauty that the name badlands lend with its topographical scarring and uplift.


Short, but steep incline. Created with the help of Friends of the Desert Mountains.

A mile in and you start to see the effects of heavy erosion from flash floods on soft sedimentary rocks as you pass the short columns. The badland name comes from the type of topography, a product of layers of fine sand and poorly consolidated rocks that over time are subjected to flash floods that create steep-sided gullies leaving some very interesting sand sculptures and nature art on the hills throughout the trail.

Around three miles in after moving through canyons, switchbacks, and a short but relatively steep incline, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the valley from 600 feet above sea level. Here you can really appreciate all of the beautiful geological processes that occurred over millions of years. Beautiful banding layers of dark and light sediments can be seen throughout the hills with water formed scars along the hills. The uplift of the land helps one see how pressures from several faults including the San Andreas, combined with the pressures of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates, can impact the soft pliable sands of the Coachella Valley to help create this beautiful and distinctive landscape.


A very interesting and unique skull sand sculpture created by nature.

Once you have made it out of the canyons there is a beautifully unique skull-like sandstone feature around the fourth mile. The last leg of the trail follows a service road and allows the hiker to enjoy the vast open desert with a beautiful view of Mount San Jacinto.

The East Indio Badlands Trail is the most recent hiking trail addition to the Coachella Valley with help from Friends of the Desert Mountains in conjunction with other local organizations. It’s a great moderate hike to enjoy with adventurous children. Dogs are allowed so long as they are leashed. Hikers are encouraged to still have a mask handy and remain six feet from other hikers as the county continues to address COVID-19 pandemic.

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Trail Name:
East Indio Badlands Trail

Find it on Google Maps: google.com/maps/place

5.2 mile loop


Hikers need to carry at least two-liters of water.


View of badland type topography.