On the outer edge of Desert Hot Springs, California, at the base of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, is a relatively unknown hiking trail known as Brice’s Canyon. The canyon is also known as Swiss Canyon Trail; although, a recent hike of the trail found a marker naming it Brice’s Canyon, named after Brice Alden, the man who spent the last three years cleaning and sculpting it; along with a local man named John.
Further credit also goes to Camille Linde, who helped organize a pick up trash day with her hundred local volunteers. Both Linde and Alden are members of the local Desert Hot Springs CCAC subcommittee, which is taking responsibility for cleaning up the local canyons.
In a community primarily known for its health spas, natural spring water, and air quality, it’s refreshing to know there is a well maintained hiking trail for most ages, skill levels and physical conditions within city limits.
The trail can be found starting on Verbena Drive, between the cross streets of San Rafael Road and Yucca Drive, along the flood channel. By following the flood channel on an eastward path, you’ll find the trail separates, one to the north (left), which will lead to the top of the mountain, and another path to the east (straight), which will curve around to the north (left). This is the path to take to Brice’s Canyon. While walking along the path, you’ll also notice an unfinished country club project to the right that was not completed due to the poor economy.
As you head into the canyon, you’ll immediately notice a clear pathway shaped and lined with small rocks. At several intervals, you’ll also notice rock formations, like rock walls with openings to walk through and rock gardens. The further you go up the footpath you’ll notice it narrow, but the wash can also be walked on; although, it’s much harder to use due to the soft sand.
About half way up, you’ll realize the canyon narrowing with ever increasing wall heights. The walls themselves are picturesque, with studded boulders, cacti and other assorted desert flora. The only desert fauna seen were lizards and spiders, but because it is the desert, special care should also be taken with regard to the occasional snake, scorpion and coyote.
It’s not advisable to travel this route alone, just in case you are hurt; and cell phone reception is intermittent at times, especially inside the ravine. Please be mindful that the weather can change as you go deeper into the canyon, especially with the airstream as it flows through the narrowing walls. At first it can be refreshing, but the deeper you travel up the trail, wind speed can become a hindrance.
Make sure you carry plenty of water with you, especially during the summer months, when temperatures can rise to over 110 degrees. Also, there are several shaded areas for resting, which could help your recovery if needed.
Depending on a hiker’s skill level, it should not take more than two hours to trek to and from the first natural dry waterfall. The more skilled hiker could go up much further, but this requires a great deal more effort and preparedness. Your author only traveled to the fourth natural dry waterfall, which stood about 12 feet high or so. There was a steep upward path to the right, but due to time constraints and a lack of preparedness, this path was not explored further.
Some reports said the trail is about 1.2 miles, while others have it as long as 2.2 miles. It’s hard to confirm, but if you just stay on the regular path, or go only to the first natural dry waterfall, the distance is perhaps closer to 1.2 miles.
As well, the Swiss Health Resort operates local canyon hiking tours for its guests, including Brice’s Canyon.
So, if you are looking for an afternoon outing, you might want to consider Brice’s Canyon, a new jewel for hiking enthusiasts in Desert Hot Springs.