Indio Hills Badlands Trail - Indio, CA: Mar 2019

Updated: Jan 31

Hike distance: 4.98 miles


Like many desert hikes, the beginning of the Indio Hills Badlands trail is nothing to write home about; however have patience. After climbing a small hilly section at the start, the trail crossed a sandy flats with power transmission lines directly above us.

Hiking  Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail

After about a mile, the badlands hills began to rise immediately in front of us.

Badlands terrain, erosion of folded sedimentary rock layers, tortured rock formations
Badlands terrain, erosion of folded sedimentary rock layers, tortured rock formations

The trail traverses the San Andreas Fault exposing twisted and tortured rocks that have been uplifted and moved over millions of years. These hills formed over 6 million years as the North American and Pacific tectonic plates slid against one another along the fault. This action caused land on either side of the meeting line to rise dramatically at odd angles.

Folded sedimentary rock layers from movement along San Andreas fault network formations

In addition, sediments deposited over the millennia were compressed by water and cemented together when the water evaporated. The forces combined to form soft sedimentary rock that covers much of this area.

Wind and rain erosion cavities in sedimentary rocks along Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail

As erosion continued, steep slopes, sharply angled rocks, razor like ridges, and deep gullies formed - all hallmarks of 'badlands geology'. Continued plate movement and uplifting further accentuated these outcomes.

Folded sedimentary rock layers from movement along San Andreas fault network formations
Folded sedimentary rock layers from movement along San Andreas fault network formations. Badland terrain in the Indio Hills

Pock-marked and scarred rock surface provide evidence that erosion is an ongoing process.

Wind and rain erosion cavities in sedimentary rocks along Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail

As we hiked further the trail grew more narrow around us.

Wind and rain erosion cavities in sedimentary rocks along Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail
Wind and rain erosion cavities in sedimentary rocks along Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail

The trail entered several narrow slot-like canyons but the side walls were never more than 8-12 feet above our heads.

Wind and water erosion in sedimentary rock along the Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail

There were lots of highly eroded mud rock, small openings etched out of stone and numerous nooks and crannies in the canyon walls.

Wind and water erosion in sedimentary rock along the Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail
Wind and water erosion in sedimentary rock along the Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail

This rock formation looks like two skulls facing each other.

Wind and rain erosion cavities in sedimentary rocks along Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail

We began climbing out of the wash and canyon. With a gain in elevation, the rock formations were more dramatic. Dave raced ahead for this summit.

Hiker standing in wind and rain eroded sedimentary rocks along Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail

But we shared in this panoramic view from the top.

Folded sedimentary rock layers from movement along San Andreas fault network formations

Just look at the odd angles of these sediment layers and imagine the forces it took to cause this effect.

Folded sedimentary rock layers from movement along San Andreas fault network formations

Some great views as we descended back into the wash.

Wildflowers filled the wash.

Wildflowers fill a wash along Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail

Painted lady butterflies were everywhere.

Painted lady butterflies in flowering encelia plant along the Indio Hills Badlands trail

A final climb out of the badlands hills with the trail hugging a ridge line.

Hiking along a ridge on the Indio Hills Badlands trail
Hiking along the ridge on the Indio Hills Badlands Trail.

We entered the wash that led back to the sand flats.

Hiking through narrow wash along Indio Hills Badland Loop Trail

Although not the most challenging portion of the hike, the super bloom of lupine and desert sunflowers in the sand flats made for a great end to this hike.

Wildflowers along the Indio Hills Badlands trail

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