Murray Canyon Falls (Seven Sisters Falls)

Palm Springs / Agua Caliente Indian Reservation / Riverside County, California, USA

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 3.5
The main Murray Canyon Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Murray Canyon Falls (also referred to as the Seven Sisters Falls) was more of an adventure for us given that it took quite a bit of effort to reach compared to some of the other waterfalling excursions in the Palm Springs area (such as Tahquitz Falls). This adventure included ruining our hiking boots as we had no choice but to wade right through the dozen or more crossings of Murray Creek. Each of these creek crossings were at least ankle to shin deep when we did this hike in mid-February 2017. Yet with all the inconveniences, Julie and I found this to be a very scenic hike as we passed through desolate high desert terrain right at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains, then followed groves of palm trees lining Murray Creek while being towered over by unusual rock formations lining Murray Canyon itself. Throughout the hike, we saw many minor cascades, but topping it all off were a pair of waterfalls - one split falls about 15-20ft high and a pair of falls (each about 10-15ft plunging one after the other) right at the end of the official trail. Although we avoided the desert heat by doing this hike in the Winter time, we could totally see the appeal of this place when the temperatures would rise as Murray Canyon seemed to fit that stereotypical definition of a desert oasis.

The hike began from an unpaved palm-tree-fringing trailhead parking area signposted for Murray Canyon (see directions below). The trail then proceeded to gently descend into a seemingly desolate flat desert area where the majority of the vegetation didn't seem to grow any higher than one's waist. Such sparse and low-lying vegetation made it seem like this would be the last place to find a waterfall, but this was merely an interlude to get from Andreas Canyon (the area where the car park was) to the Murray Canyon itself. This flat stretch, which lasted about a half-mile, was open enough that we noticed some interesting rock formations sticking out amongst the low-lying shrubs while we were also able to look to our right at the San Jacinto Mountains rising majestically above the basin.

Eventually, the trail approached a thick line of palm trees flanking Murray Creek. The trail descended towards the first crossing of the creek, which had a lot of water when we did this hike. We had overheard locals say they had never gotten their shoes wet on this hike before, which underscored the rather unusual circumstances that we found ourselves in. In any case, immediately after the creek crossing, the trail reached a fork near some kind of solar-powered vane. We kept right at the fork to follow Murray Creek and the row of palm trees where we now could see the San Jacinto Mountains straight ahead of us as well as some impressive rock formations back across Murray Creek to our right. Shortly after a brief spell of dry hiking, we then reached the second creek crossing (this one definitely was deep enough to get our hiking boots wet over the top), and then the creek crossings would persist pretty frequently thereafter.

The trail would pretty much continue in this manner for the next 1.5 miles. The path would momentarily split and rejoin as there were horse paths leading to deeper but flatter and less-rockier creek crossings. There was also another trail junction where horse tours would deviate from Murray Canyon for good (so roughly the first mile or so would be shared with horse traffic from time to time). As the canyon walls would continue closing in, the creek crossings became even more frequent and trickier. Meanwhile, we'd frequently encounter minor cascades amongst Murray Creek (typically on the order of around 5-10ft or less). Even when we resigned ourselves to getting wet at each creek crossing, we still had to choose our steps wisely amongst the submerged rocks so as to not get in too deep in Murray Creek, especially where there was a current.

Eventually, we'd reach a point where the trail then climbed fairly steeply along the canyon walls while skirting around the first major waterfall in Murray Creek. Prior to the climb, there was an informal detour past a creek crossing to get to the base of this waterfall, which appeared to be split by a giant rock into a thin multi-tiered cascade on the left side and a 10-15ft plunge on the right side. It appeared that of all the dozens upon dozens of hikers partaking in this popular excursion, not many of them made this detour to the base of this falls. That said, this was not the main waterfall so definitely don't stop and turn around here as the next falls was even more impressive than this one. In any case, as we resumed the hike and climbed above the falls, we managed to get partial glimpses of that first waterfall down below though the views left a lot to be desired as they were never clean looks. Once the climb ended, the trail would resume with roughly three more creek crossings further upstream.

After the last of the creek crossings, the trail then rounded a bend before finally terminating at the main Murray Canyon Falls. This falls was a two-tiered falls where the first falls was a wide block-type falls while the upper one had a bit of a plunge. To get up to that upper waterfall, we saw about a dozen or so folks make the dicey-looking scramble up a steep sandstone slope to get past the first falls. Julie and I weren't comfortable taking that risk so we opted to stay before the first waterfall and bask in our accomplishment as well as the ambience of the place.

Overall, it took us about 2 hours to get from the trailhead to the end of the official trail. By the time we returned to the trailhead, we wound up spending about 3.5 hours away from the car. Given the conditions of our hike, in hindsight, we should have brought our trekking poles as well as water sandals. This was not the kind of excursion to let water into Gore-tex boots where the water had nowhere to escape except when I'd lift my leg to let the water out through the top. So the water weighing down our shoes probably caused us to move even slower than our already slow pace. Either way, the entire hike was said to be about 4 miles round trip. We were told that there were about a dozen stream crossings, but I swore that we might have counted a few more than that.

Finally, Murray Canyon Falls was said to be a seasonal waterfall. Therefore, the best time to visit the falls would be when snow from the San Jacinto Mountains would melt and drain into Murray Canyon. In other words, mid-Winter through Spring would be the seasons to visit though the longevity of the creek would depend on how much precipitation would have accumulated in the mountains. Obviously during a drought (like in the past few years), the window of opportunity to visit the falls when it would be flowing would be even more diminished or non-existent altogether.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

On the way to Murray Canyon, there was the Andreas Canyon Pride Rock, which was a pronounced set of big rocks next to a picnic area and vista of Palm SpringsOn the way to Murray Canyon, there was the Andreas Canyon Pride Rock, which was a pronounced set of big rocks next to a picnic area and vista of Palm Springs
Also within the paid admission area was the scenic Palm Canyon (by the Trading Post), where a large grove of giant palm trees all bunched together contrasted the desert landscape around themAlso within the paid admission area was the scenic Palm Canyon (by the Trading Post), where a large grove of giant palm trees all bunched together contrasted the desert landscape around them
Capping off a long day of adventure in the desert was downtown Palm Springs, which featured a bit of a happening night lifeCapping off a long day of adventure in the desert was downtown Palm Springs, which featured a bit of a happening night life
Before getting into the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation land, we had to wait in this queue to pay our fare at the kioskBefore getting into the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation land, we had to wait in this queue to pay our fare at the kiosk

The Murray Canyon TrailheadThe Murray Canyon Trailhead

Looking back at the Murray Canyon Trailhead ParkingLooking back at the Murray Canyon Trailhead Parking

The initial part of the hike to Murray Canyon involved going through some pretty desolate desertThe initial part of the hike to Murray Canyon involved going through some pretty desolate desert

Julie passing through the flat desert part of the hike to Murray CanyonJulie passing through the flat desert part of the hike to Murray Canyon

With so much flatness around in the first half-mile of the hike, rock formations like this one really stick outWith so much flatness around in the first half-mile of the hike, rock formations like this one really stick out

Julie approaching the first crossing of Murray CreekJulie approaching the first crossing of Murray Creek

Julie now hiking upstream along Murray Creek with some neat rock formations to our right and the San Jacinto Mountains up aheadJulie now hiking upstream along Murray Creek with some neat rock formations to our right and the San Jacinto Mountains up ahead

Looking back towards the first crossing of Murray Creek where we got this gorgeous view of rocks and palm trees fronting mountainsLooking back towards the first crossing of Murray Creek where we got this gorgeous view of rocks and palm trees fronting mountains

Julie about to re-join the grove of palm trees flanking Murray CreekJulie about to re-join the grove of palm trees flanking Murray Creek

This was the second crossing of Murray CreekThis was the second crossing of Murray Creek

This was the third crossing of Murray Creek though Julie initially tried to find a different way across (the effort was futile)This was the third crossing of Murray Creek though Julie initially tried to find a different way across (the effort was futile)

Parts of the trail had split into a horse trail (right) and the foot trail (left).  This would persist for roughly the first mile as that part of the trail was shared with horsesParts of the trail had split into a horse trail (right) and the foot trail (left). This would persist for roughly the first mile as that part of the trail was shared with horses

Julie approaching what I believe to be the fourth crossing of Murray CreekJulie approaching what I believe to be the fourth crossing of Murray Creek

Julie hiking amongst some tall rock formations as we were approaching the fifth crossing of Murray CreekJulie hiking amongst some tall rock formations as we were approaching the fifth crossing of Murray Creek

About to be overtaken by a long caravan of horses (roughly 30 or more of them)About to be overtaken by a long caravan of horses (roughly 30 or more of them)

The horse caravan went up this different trail, which deviated from the Murray Canyon TrailThe horse caravan went up this different trail, which deviated from the Murray Canyon Trail

More interesting rock formations in Murray CanyonMore interesting rock formations in Murray Canyon

Julie traversing what I think was the sixth crossing of Murray CreekJulie traversing what I think was the sixth crossing of Murray Creek

One of the small cascades on Murray CreekOne of the small cascades on Murray Creek

Julie about to go across the seventh crossing of Murray CreekJulie about to go across the seventh crossing of Murray Creek

With all the adventure of doing the Murray Canyon excursion, sometimes we had to pause and take in the beauty of the canyon itselfWith all the adventure of doing the Murray Canyon excursion, sometimes we had to pause and take in the beauty of the canyon itself

Julie evaluating the best way to make the eighth Murray Creek CrossingJulie evaluating the best way to make the eighth Murray Creek Crossing

I believe this was the ninth crossing of Murray CreekI believe this was the ninth crossing of Murray Creek

The trail was getting increasingly rougher as Murray Canyon was closing inThe trail was getting increasingly rougher as Murray Canyon was closing in

This group of hikers seemed to have come prepared with trekking poles for balance as well as some water shoesThis group of hikers seemed to have come prepared with trekking poles for balance as well as some water shoes

This was part of the first of the Murray Canyon Falls after going on a short detourThis was part of the first of the Murray Canyon Falls after going on a short detour

This was the other half of the first of the Murray Canyon FallsThis was the other half of the first of the Murray Canyon Falls

To get past the first Murray Canyon Falls, we had to go up this steep climbTo get past the first Murray Canyon Falls, we had to go up this steep climb

There were still more creek crossings above that first of the Murray Canyon FallsThere were still more creek crossings above that first of the Murray Canyon Falls

Some intermediate cascades along Murray CreekSome intermediate cascades along Murray Creek

Julie making yet another crossing of Murray Creek. I had lost count of how many there were at this pointJulie making yet another crossing of Murray Creek. I had lost count of how many there were at this point

On the trail after the last of the crossings of Murray CreekOn the trail after the last of the crossings of Murray Creek

Finally at the official end of the Murray Canyon Falls TrailFinally at the official end of the Murray Canyon Falls Trail

In order to get past the first of these two waterfalls, we saw people making the steep and dicey scramble to the rightIn order to get past the first of these two waterfalls, we saw people making the steep and dicey scramble to the right

Closeup look at the main Murray Canyon FallsCloseup look at the main Murray Canyon Falls

Contextual look at the main Murray Canyon FallsContextual look at the main Murray Canyon Falls

On the return hike, we got to take in more attractive views of Murray CanyonOn the return hike, we got to take in more attractive views of Murray Canyon

Julie almost back at the third or second crossing of Murray CreekJulie almost back at the third or second crossing of Murray Creek

Almost back at the first crossing of Murray CreekAlmost back at the first crossing of Murray Creek

Back at the desert part of the hikeBack at the desert part of the hike

Finally making it back to the trailhead parking for Murray CanyonFinally making it back to the trailhead parking for Murray Canyon


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Full 360 degree sweep showing the area right at the end of the trail before the main Murray Canyon Falls


Checking out the lower pair of Murray Canyon Falls from a few different angles right at its base


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From the intersection of North Palm Canyon Drive, South Palm Canyon Drive, and Tahquitz Canyon Way in downtown Palm Springs, we drove south on South Palm Canyon Drive for about 1.5 miles. We then kept right at the fork in the road to remain on South Palm Canyon Drive and drove for the next 2.7 miles to the Indian Canyons kiosk, where we paid our $9 per adult fee (as of 2017) to get in. Shortly after the kiosk, we then followed the signs for Murray Canyon, which was the first right at the next junction. We then drove about 0.8 miles to the Andreas Canyon Pride Rock Picnic Area and Parking Area, but we then continued driving past a bridge and onto an unpaved road leading to the Murray Canyon Trailhead in another 1/4-mile or so.

Overall, this drive took us about 40 minutes, but half of that time was spent waiting in line to get past the Indian Canyons kiosk.

For context, Palm Springs was roughly 2 hours drive east of downtown Los Angeles pretty much along the I-10 Freeway before heading south on the Hwy 111 just past Cabazon and the Morongo Casino.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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