In an attempt to kick off 2023 on the right hiking foot, we found ourselves in Palm Springs California on January 1 2023 for a five day hiking vacation. Palm Springs is one of the best hiking cities in the US in my humble opinion. It’s small enough that the airport is not far from the centre of town and more importantly, many of the trails are accessible right from town. We rented a car but after the trip, we considered renting bikes when we return as that’s how close to town many of the hikes were. Palm Springs is perfect to visit in January (or any of the colder months), as there are pleasant temperatures throughout the day (not the scorching heat of summer) and clear blue skies. Despite the unusual weather that California was experiencing at the beginning of 2023 (cooler, rainier weather compared to usual), we had a great hiking vacation in Palm Springs.
We managed to do a hike (or more) every day even on the days when it was rainy. These are the list of the hikes that we did:
North Lykken Trail
This popular trail can be hiked as an out and back hike or as a loop. We did the 2.8 mile out and back, climbing 1000 feet and giving great views of Palm Springs. The trailhead is located at the end of Ramon Road where there is parking available. The perfect not too strenuous hike to start off the trip after getting in late the night before.
We decided to head to Joshua Tree National Park on the second day, one of the most well known national parks in the US, located about 40 miles from Palm Springs. The desert landscape, dotted with Joshua trees, is quite special. There are few strenuous hikes in this national park, and Ryan Mountain, one of the most popular hikes in the park, is one of them. About 1100 in elevation gain, it is a 3 mile (4.8 km) out and back hike, this was one of our favourite hikes during our trip.
West Fork Trail
On our third day, we headed to the Indian Canyons area, located off of South Palm Canyon Road, containing many hiking trails. We decided to do the West Fork Trail, a 5.4 mile hike climbing 1500 feet of elevation. The beginning of the trail goes through a beautiful palm oasis before climbing up into the desert. One of the bonuses was seeing the hummingbirds.
The Araby Trail was one of my favourite hikes in Palm Springs and is a prime example of how, in this city, within a couple of minutes of starting on a trail, you leave the urban behind and are in quiet desert wilderness. This trail starts right above a trailer park and takes you up 1200 feet over 3.4 miles and past some architectural gems such as Bob Hope’s former home. The parking at the trailhead is extremely limited so you have to get there early.
Palm Springs Museum Trail
The Museum trail is one of the most popular in Palm Springs. The short and steep 2 mile out and back trail rises over 1000 feet over a short distance so be prepared for some burning thighs. The trail starts behind the Palm Springs Art Museum (you can’t miss the giant Marilyn Monroe statue) and is the start of the popular Cactus to Clouds trail.
Bump ‘n Grind Trail + The Cross Trail
On our last day in Palm Springs we decided to do the Bump ‘n Grind Trail before catching our flight back home. It is quite a popular trail, (4 miles in total, 1430 feet in elevation gain) and there were many others on the trail with us. On the return trip, we came upon the junction to The Cross trail, and because we weren’t quite ready to be done with Palm Springs’ mountains, we decided to take it and a few miles later, ended up at a big crucifix atop the summit. It was a great way to end the trip as we said goodbye to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.
There are so many great hikes in Palm Springs, and we got to experience only a handful. When we come back, here are some that we plan to check out:
San Jacinto Peak Trail
Mount San Jacinto State Park is one of the gems of Palm Springs. A tramway takes visitors up to Long Valley where there are plenty of hikes to access, from easy to strenuous. One of the most strenuous is to San Jacinto Peak, requiring a wilderness permit. If you’re looking for a real challenge, you can skip the tram and head for the peak from the desert floor, on the Cactus to Clouds trail. There is snow at high elevations in the winter months. There are lots of less difficult trails to choose from in this state park.
Murray Hill Loop
This 7.9 mile hike, with 2506 feet elevation gain, takes you to the top of Murray Hill and back, giving sweeping vistas of the city and surrounding mountains along the way.
South Lykken Trail
Heading south towards the Indian Canyons area, is the beginning of the South Lykken trail heading into the Santa Rosa mountains. This out and back trail is 4.4 miles with 1000 feet of elevation gain.
There are many popular easier hikes in Palm Springs that often come up on ‘best of’ lists such as the Tahquitz Canyon Loop, Andreas Canyon, and Lake Cahuilla Recreational Area hikes. There is something for everyone in Palm Springs and it is a fantastic hiking city, particularly in the cooler months.