Murray Canyon Falls (Seven Sisters Falls)

Agua Caliente Indian Reservation / Palm Springs, California, USA

About Murray Canyon Falls (Seven Sisters Falls)


Hiking Distance: 4 miles round trip; many creek crossings
Suggested Time: 2.5-3.5 hours

Date first visited: 2017-02-11
Date last visited: 2017-02-11

Waterfall Latitude: 33.74425
Waterfall Longitude: -116.54772

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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.

Murray_Canyon_029_02112017 - Julie approaching the thick grove of palm trees near the first crossing of Murray Creek about a half-mile into the hike
Julie approaching the thick grove of palm trees near the first crossing of Murray Creek about a half-mile into the hike

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.

Murray_Canyon_201_02112017 - A big rock splitting the first of the major Murray Canyon Falls
A big rock splitting the first of the major Murray Canyon Falls

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.

Murray_Canyon_001_02112017 - Before getting into the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation land, we had to wait in this queue to pay our fare at the kiosk
Murray_Canyon_007_02112017 - The Murray Canyon Trailhead
Murray_Canyon_017_02112017 - Looking back at the Murray Canyon Trailhead Parking
Murray_Canyon_013_02112017 - The initial part of the hike to Murray Canyon involved going through some pretty desolate desert
Murray_Canyon_019_02112017 - Julie passing through the flat desert part of the hike to Murray Canyon
Murray_Canyon_023_02112017 - With so much flatness around in the first half-mile of the hike, rock formations like this one really stick out
Murray_Canyon_030_02112017 - Julie approaching the first crossing of Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_034_02112017 - Julie now hiking upstream along Murray Creek with some neat rock formations to our right and the San Jacinto Mountains up ahead
Murray_Canyon_044_02112017 - Looking back towards the first crossing of Murray Creek where we got this gorgeous view of rocks and palm trees fronting mountains
Murray_Canyon_046_02112017 - Julie about to re-join the grove of palm trees flanking Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_048_02112017 - This was the second crossing of Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_050_02112017 - This was the third crossing of Murray Creek though Julie initially tried to find a different way across (the effort was futile)
Murray_Canyon_056_02112017 - 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 horses
Murray_Canyon_058_02112017 - Julie approaching what I believe to be the fourth crossing of Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_062_02112017 - Julie hiking amongst some tall rock formations as we were approaching the fifth crossing of Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_069_02112017 - About to be overtaken by a long caravan of horses (roughly 30 or more of them)
Murray_Canyon_073_02112017 - The horse caravan went up this different trail, which deviated from the Murray Canyon Trail
Murray_Canyon_078_02112017 - More interesting rock formations in Murray Canyon
Murray_Canyon_079_02112017 - Julie traversing what I think was the sixth crossing of Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_081_02112017 - One of the small cascades on Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_086_02112017 - Julie about to go across the seventh crossing of Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_087_02112017 - With all the adventure of doing the Murray Canyon excursion, sometimes we had to pause and take in the beauty of the canyon itself
Murray_Canyon_095_02112017 - Julie evaluating the best way to make the eighth Murray Creek Crossing
Murray_Canyon_099_02112017 - I believe this was the ninth crossing of Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_101_02112017 - The trail was getting increasingly rougher as Murray Canyon was closing in
Murray_Canyon_105_02112017 - This group of hikers seemed to have come prepared with trekking poles for balance as well as some water shoes
Murray_Canyon_196_02112017 - This was part of the first of the Murray Canyon Falls after going on a short detour
Murray_Canyon_197_02112017 - This was the other half of the first of the Murray Canyon Falls
Murray_Canyon_109_02112017 - To get past the first Murray Canyon Falls, we had to go up this steep climb
Murray_Canyon_119_02112017 - There were still more creek crossings above that first of the Murray Canyon Falls
Murray_Canyon_121_02112017 - Some intermediate cascades along Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_130_02112017 - Julie making yet another crossing of Murray Creek. I had lost count of how many there were at this point
Murray_Canyon_134_02112017 - On the trail after the last of the crossings of Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_136_02112017 - Finally at the official end of the Murray Canyon Falls Trail
Murray_Canyon_143_02112017 - In order to get past the first of these two waterfalls, we saw people making the steep and dicey scramble to the right
Murray_Canyon_157_02112017 - Closeup look at the main Murray Canyon Falls
Murray_Canyon_162_02112017 - Contextual look at the main Murray Canyon Falls
Murray_Canyon_178_02112017 - On the return hike, we got to take in more attractive views of Murray Canyon
Murray_Canyon_214_02112017 - Julie almost back at the third or second crossing of Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_218_02112017 - Almost back at the first crossing of Murray Creek
Murray_Canyon_227_02112017 - Back at the desert part of the hike
Murray_Canyon_233_02112017 - Finally making it back to the trailhead parking for Murray Canyon

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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.

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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Tagged with: murray canyon, palm springs, waterfall, riverside county, agua caliente, indian canyons, seven sisters falls, san jacinto, swimming, oasis, desert



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