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Whitewater River

Features: The Whitewater River flows freely from the 11,499 foot- high summit of Mount San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino Mountains for more than 30 miles to the Coachella Valley. An area of high ecological significance, the Whitewater River is one of the most pristine and remote watersheds in southern California.

A critical biological link between the San Bernardino Mountains and the Coachella Valley and San Jacinto Mountains to the south, the river provides important habitat for such diverse species as the California spotted owl, Nelson’s bighorn sheep, and arroyo toad. The river’s rich riparian vegetation provides a seasonal home to endangered neo-tropical songbirds, including least Bell’s vireo and southwest willow flycatcher. The Whitewater River is also an important ceremonial and cultural area for traditional Cahuilla Indians, who visit the river to collect and gather native materials.

Much of the upper watershed is virtually trail-less, but the lower river may be easily accessed from Interstate 10 by visiting The Wildland Conservancy’s Whitewater River Preserve. The Preserve provides a trailhead to a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail that parallels and then crosses the river. The Preserve also offers regularly scheduled public education and interpretive programs. For more information, visit

Directions to trailhead: From Interstate 10 (approximately 14 miles east of Banning and 8 miles northwest of Palm Springs) take the Whitewater exit. Drive north on Whitewater Road 4.8 miles to the Preserve.


Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.