Dead Indian Canyon is a 2.1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Mountain Center, California that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking.

Length2.1 miElevation gain255 ftRoute typeOut & back
HikingViewsRockyNo shadeNo dogs
Description
Waypoints (0)

Weather
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Reviews (149)
Photos (307)
Activities (169)
Completed (163)
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Rod Hooper
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Hiking

The Indian Canyon trail appears to be closed January through September, permanently. There is signage and a permanent fence across the mouth of the canyon. That being said, you can bypass the Indian Canyon and hike the Art Smith trail. It starts out uphill but with in about twenty minutes at an easy pace you will get to a nice plateau with good views and plenty of rocks to sit on and enjoy the quiet and views. From the parking area to the plateau was almost exactly 1 mile each way and about 200 to 250 feet of elevation gain. As a bonus we came across four big horn sheep grazing between the parking area and the base of the climb. We were able to spend about 30 minutes watching them.

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Naomi Dowling
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Ashley Kaufman
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Hiking

It’s closed...

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Deborah Rei
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Rock climbingClosedGreat!

Closed at Dead Canyon today where bighorn sheep are. Followed Art Smith trail - easy to follow trail with posts but no mileage. Terrific switchbacks and moderate hike with great views.

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Tim Clyde
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Jonathan Torres
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HikingGreat!

very beautiful views.

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Derrick Kinsey
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Hiking

it was good but i got terrified of a herd of bighorn

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Abraham Ahern
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Hiking

The Art Smith Trail is beautiful, absolutely stunning desert chaparral all the way, with a good chance of seeing some Bighorns and beautiful views of the Coachella Valley, including the hills of Joshua Tree, San Gorgonio Mountain to the northwest, and the Salton Sea to the southeast on a clear day. But this review is more about the backcountry just west of the Art Smith. About 3/4 of the way out on the Art Smith at around mile 6.5, I decided to detour and try to make for Haystack Mountain from the north. I made my way up a finger toward the ridgeline north of Haystack, and began to make my way laterally over some additional up and downs. Light rock hopping and scrambling most of the way, and occasionally very steep grades, plenty of 45 or more, so this is not for beginners. Finding a route up this way was not entirely simple, and topo skills are a must. Haystack itself is mostly a plateau, clearly a major animal activity zone, with tones of big mammal scat and tracks. Saw Bighorns, and may have had a rare sight of a bigger cat from a distance. The peak, and much of the approach, has incredible views of the entire eastern face of the Santa Rosas, a perfect picture of San Jacinto, with San Gorgonio visible beyond. The entire Coachella valley and the north half of the Salton Sea are in view. I didn't want to go down the way I came up, so instead of turning around, I decided to try to make for a wash I could see running southeast of the peak, and follow that drainage back toward the highway. DO NOT attempt this route during runoff season or if you don't have experience down-climbing serious rock. I started down from the peak using the noticeable east ridge immediately below the peak, and then cut down off the ridge toward the drainage (too early -- if I did it again I would stay with the ridge until the first notch, it was just too loose and steep on the side). The wash was friendly at first, only occasionally bushwhacky and overgrown, but it quickly grew into a canyon as it dropped, with occasionally narrow slots and high walls. The last two miles before you reach the turnaround point of the Dead Indian Canyon trail (can we please not name things like this, ffs) are steep canyon descent, scrambling down water-polished granite. A couple of the scrambles require some care, and there are a couple nontrivial vertical falls. The real doozy is a final dry waterfall, probably in excess of 40 feet, that is narrow, vertical, and not observable from above. The canyon walls at this point don't really permit an exit, and the falls is not passable without gear, especially blind. I did find a small chute off to the right (facing downhill) that can be climbed, and then you can billy goat your way down the side of the canyon wall to the bottom of the falls. But the rock on this route is sandy, crumbly, and flaky, and careful testing of rocks and grips is really necessary if you don't want to break a leg in a canyon. At the bottom of the falls, you meet Dead Indian Canyon trail (which is really just the banks of the dry creek bed), and finish a nice flat final mile to the Art Smith trailhead. Overall, this is an incredible, remote, off-trail experience that is well worth the serious effort, but should only be attempted if you have experience in route-finding, and with challenging scrambling, and if you're not the kind who minds getting scraped, poked, and shredded by the lovely flora of the Santa Rosas. The upper portion of Dead Indian Canyon is one of the most incredible bits of landscape I've seen in socal, but don't kill yourself getting there, or getting out.

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Vic Hanson
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Gary Leibovitz
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Hiking

so fun

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Lidia Chavaque
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grace harris
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Hiking

Super fun and relaxing trail! At the beginning, it’s sandy but nothing too difficult, then you come to the rock climbing part. You climb big rocks to get to the beautiful viewpoint. Unshaded in the beginning but once you get to the rocks, there’s plenty of shade and big rocks to have lunch on! My favorite hike in the whole valley!

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Gary Leibovitz
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Hiking

so fun

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Rosa Vega
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HikingWashed out

Too much sand for too little payoff.

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David Mossop
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Hiking

Nice hike. 1/2 way back cut off to the left and connect up with the Art Smith trail. Saw a big heard of bighorns.

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Jack Tomberlin
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Renee Stern
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HikingGreat!

8 bighorns on the way in and lots of quail. The trail is sandy and bouldering is tough toward the end. Bring good shoes and water. Cool scenery!

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Albert Cohen
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HikingGreat!

Fairly easy trail until the end where you have to climb through a lot of boulders to get to a small group of palm trees - while the climb was a bit challenging it was a lot of fun and there were great views back down the canyon. Kids would really love scrambling up the rocks. Hardly anyone on the trail.

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Candice Lai
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Hiking

Sheep on the wall before the palm trees

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Perry Hitt
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HikingGreat!Rocky

Very cool.. sandy for first 3/4 then nice rocks 2 climb. Oasis at end is neat and trail continues up. Beautiful steep canyon / lots of small caves and only a few hikers today.

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Denise N
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Hiking

Beautiful desert hike. It seems like an easy way at the beginning but it turns challenging towards the end when climbing through the rocks. I would advise to use hiking shoes for better grip.

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Jillian Broughton
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HikingRocky

Super fun, enjoyed the climb. Busy day but barely anyone on the trail. Lots of space.

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Ellen Trager
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Hiking

Great short trail with nice rock climbing to navigate at the end.

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David Moore
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Was a nice short hike. Trail is not well defined by any means. You won’t get lost in the canyon as there is only one way in or out which probably accounts for lack of trail markers. Also, the last .15 of the way in that brings you into the grove of palms is a bit for an explorer. Gotta manage some big boulders and climbing. For this old back and kness, it was a pass.

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Joe and Andrea Wightman
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Elizabeth Yang
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HikingNo shade
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wolf Mearns
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Hiking

founds some sea shells spotted two hawks and saw a herd of long horn. I'd estimate about 10 total. I'd do it again there is some awesome chunks of quartz. only made it to just above the Palm tree grove.

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inge darquennes
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HikingNo shade

First part was borin untill you get to the climbing point. Kids loved to climb to the palm trees. We did not stay long bc we heard a lot of bees... did not want to be stung!

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