We visited the Whitewater Preserve on a 70 degree February day. The Whitewater River was the perfect depth for toddlers, preschoolers, and young kids to splash in. The trail system connected with the Pacific Coast Trail and a hike could go on for days. We opted to stay around the visitor's center, trout ponds, and take a short hike to the riverbed. We had no problem keeping our 2-4 year old kids attention as their were sticks and rocks to find, leaves to collect, water to jump in, and trails to follow.
We found this oasis to be easily accessible from Highway 10 outside of Cabazon and Palm Springs. The road was paved the entire way. At the preserve were picnic tables, restrooms, and dirt paths with trail markers.
Bring sunscreen, hats, and water to protect yourself and your kids against the desert sun. I would also suggest bringing an extra set of clothes and towels as the water was just to refreshing to stay out of.
While the adults enjoyed the visitor's center, our little ones preferred the hands-on learning of the outdoors.
I don't go east on the 10 towards Palm Springs much. If it's 100 degrees at my Inland Empire home, I don't see a reason to go toward the even hotter weather. But leaving at 8am, I thought it might be okay to explore a nature conservancy in the desert before the midday sun rose. And the Whitewater Preserve did not disappoint.
From the 10 East, take the Whitewater exit and follow the dirt road out into nowhere for a few miles. When the road ends, you have found the preserve. At the end of the road is the ranger station, a trout pond, and the beginning of some great hikes.
The ranger station has a tangible map that shows the topography of the land. A kid center is in the corner where kids can learn about the land they are about to explore. Grab a map here and begin to plan out your day. Outside of the station is a trout farm with beautiful, turquoise water and large, healthy trout. Take your packed lunch (remember whatever you pack in, you must pack out!) and start on the hiking paths.
The paths lead to the Pacific Crest Trail and range from 6 miles to 2,500 miles (a la Canada), for the seasoned hikers. For our group, two moms with 5 kids, we walked the trail with Thoreau and Muir quotes chiseled on rock markers, and then found our way to the low flow creek to do some creek walking. It was so nice out, we brought our umbrellas and towels and let the boys play in the water. If the water hadn't captured their attention, we would have taken a short one hour hike into the canyon for an introduction into the surrounding habitat.
On our way back to the parking lot, we stopped and played in a man made water hole and cooled off. The crowds began to come around 11, so definitely go early.
Dogs are allowed, but there is not much shade on the trails, so be sure to bring lots of water. There is no fee to access the trails, but donations are welcome.
This nature preserve was a pleasant surprise and definitely a place we will go back and explore.