Palm Desert 2014

Hikes and Birds

List of Hikes

1Feb-03 MonRandall Henderson
2Feb-08 SatEisenhower Peak
3Feb-15 SatBoo Hoff Trail
4Feb-20 ThuArt Smith Trail
5Feb-25 TueMorongo Valley
6Feb-28 FriEagle Canyon
7Mar-02 SunChaparosa Peak
8Mar-08 SatHorsethief Canyon
9Mar-10 MonRed Dome
10Mar-13 ThuMoon Country
11Mar-18 TueRuth's Ramble
12Mar-20 ThuPalm Canyon
13Mar-22 SatTim's Ramble
14Mar-24 MonDevil's Slide to Saddle Junction
15(several)Bump 'n Grind Trail
16(several)The Cross
* with Coachella Valley Hiking Club


Clicking the hike number on the map will reveal further details. In those details, most hike names can be clicked and this will take you to pages with more information. Many are to very good YouTube videos of the hike made by other people. I've linked to them because they often provide a very good (or at least not bad) impression of the actual hike. Some notes:

  1. The links to the Boo Hoff and Art Smith trails show much longer versions of the hikes than we did
  2. Nobody but Tim knows where Tim's ramble actually goes and I'm not even sure that Tim knows! However, we crossed the better known 'Window Rock' trail several times so it is in the same area.
  3. "To get there" provides you with a Google map to get to the beginning of the hike (time, distance etc) from Palm Desert. If you want directions from somewhere else, enter the Starting Address Here: before clicking any of the "to get there" links. (NB if you run into problems here, try testing out your starting location on a separate Google Map to begin with.)

    Park your car there, pick up the pamphlet for the walk inside the Santa Rosa Monument center, have a look at the birds that are attracted to the several feeders near the beginning of the walk, and head out! More of a long walk than a strenous hike but a very pleasant one, especially for those interested in nature. The pamphlet provides explanations for the plants identified by numbered signs found at points out on the walk. If you're lucky you may spot the Big Horn sheep that move about on the nearby hills

    From your parked car head towards the hills and follow the signs to Boo Hoff. We found the signage to be a bit haphazard so if you have a guide to point you in the right direction and don't get on the other trails in the area you'll be fine. The start of the hike is across a sandy flat which is tedious but once you start to climb, the trail gets interesting, with good views of La Quinta and its surrounds. We were with a group that turned around after about an hour's walking. Lynda and I went further up but didn't quite reach the point where the trail heads off East and West for those interested in much longer hikes.

    Probably our favourite hike, but we live in Palm Desert and already have a membership at the Living Desert. If you don't have a membership, pay the $15, or go with someone who already has one, or better still take out a membership, as it's a great cause; and the place should be enshrined as a preserve for desert cacti alone. The hike exits the grounds through a gate on the far side (ask someone where the hiking gate is). Head out across the desert following the trail. I suggest going anti-clockwise around the loop so that you get the great views on the way back. Lots of interest here; a viewing point for the San Andreas fault, all kinds of birds and vegetation. You're heading for that peak in the distance; after 20 minutes on the flat, you'll enter a gulley; stumble along here for a kilometer or so before you start a climb of some 500 feet, and cross the face of the peak to arrive at a lunch place. The ramble back along the ridge with a gradual drop gives you great views of the Coachella Valley and immediately below, the golf courses in Indian Wells.

    Park in the Santa Rosa Monument and walk across the road or simply park on the West side of Hwy 74 opposite the Monument. Head along the side of the wash until you see the trail zig-zagging up the ridge on your right. You'll get a good test of your wind on this hike as you climb but you'll start to get great views over Palm Desert. Keep to the left at the several intersections, most notably the Hopalong Cassidy trail that heads off to your right a kilometer or so up into the hike. After a couple of K the hike begins to level out a bit and becomes a very pleasant meander up through a series of Palm oases. You can pick your lunch spot at one of the oasis and turn around or, if you have a mind and energy take on the longer walks that are possible from here do so but make sure you know your route.

    This is a great spot for bird watching. There are many walks/hikes you can do from here within the Preserve but we headed down Big Morongo Canyon for about an hour then turned around and took a different loop back. (You can optionally leave a car at the bottom and hike the whole canyon). Very pleasant and easy walk. Saw both a Ladder-backed and a Nuttall's woodpecker along here.

    Whitewater Canyon is another great spot for birdwatching in large part because of the presence of running water and a small pond here. You can choose from a variety of quite pleasant hikes in the area. We were at Red Dome to do some trail repair. The hike is dead flat and interesting mostly for birds and flowers and the chance of seeing Big Horn Sheep. The Loop (a different trail), which we did last year and has a little more climb, has more variety and better views. Both are no more than about 5 Km. If you are looking for something a little more strenuous, take the Pacific Crest Trail which crosses the reserve either to Canada or to Mexico!

    Difficult to find this obscure hike as it starts on a dirt road off Hwy 111 and wanders off into the hills before circling down into a very attractive canyon for the hike out. Unfortunately the end of the canyon is littered with the debris of hobo encampments and new construction but a nice walk if you can put up with those.

    Another good-hike-if-you-can-find-it, and you can also take in Pioneer Town on your way back. Views are across a very flat terrain; at the top there are points of interest in the varied rock formations and a plaque. Very good photos of the hike at the link provided.

    Very pretty and varied hike. Take the left turn 1/4 mile past Sugarloaf Cafe on Hwy74 (if you're coming from Palm Desert). Keep to the right on a road leading out of the parking lot, down a hill and up round a bend to the right until you get to a sign indicating the start of the trail. Then the trail begins a series of ups-and-downs (the latter mostly) and after about an hour's walking you'll reach the stream and associated greenery of the creek. I didn't but it is possible to continue with a further exploration of other destinations along here. Entertain yourself along the way with the thought that the trail got its name from the horse thieves who hid (themselves and their loot) along here in days of yore.

    This hike takes you from one extreme to another! The Visitor Centre/Thousand Palms Oasis at the Coachella Preserve is a large, dense oasis with huge palms. Hike out from here a mile or so (a bit of a slog through the sand at times) along the McCallum trail to the McCallum Grove—an equally watery and surprising oasis in the middle of desert. Watch for Northern Flickers and American Kestrels. From the oasis, follow the signs out to Moon Country. I'd suggest taking the ridge (Vista?) out; the trail back comes back parallel to this along the bottom of the same ridge in the wash. It helps to be interested in birds and plants. As always, it seems, keep an eye out for Big Horn Sheep...but am beginning to wonder about this!

    You have to have Ruth take you on this one, as it starts from her house (off I-10/Hwy 62), winds initially on a road beneath the windmills, and then darts up a canyon. Here there was rock debris of startling color and variety, all the result of the hill on our left, which is a leftover from a mining operation. We hooked back; meandered up and down; ran into a variety of cacti...and some ran into us: a spooky variety of cholla seemed to get you if you went anywhere near it.

    There are Palm Canyons everywhere but this is the one in Borrego Springs. The latter is well worth the 90 minute drive down the Salton Sea, if only to look at the famous sculptures. The Anza-Borrego Visitor Centre has some interest too. Head out towards the trail; the first part of it is a labelled nature walk; the second part is a less interesting slog across a mile of flat sand to get to the beginning of the canyon. Now things get livelier; the trail dips and dives and ends in a bit of scramble to a spring and an oasis. An alternate route back will give you a bit more exercise than the way in.

    You'll never find this hike without Tim but follow the nearby Window Rock and adjoining trails in Joshua Tree Park and you'll cover similar ground. Be prepared for a bit of a line-up at the gate on weekends. The appeal of walks in Joshua Tree is the considerable difference in vegetation and rock formations at these higher elevations. Very pleasant day.

    On some hikes, the destination (viewpoints usually) justifies the slog to get there; on this hike it is the other way around. The drive alone to Idyllwild is a complete surprise if you've never been here: pine forests and grassy ranches aren't what you might expect if you've spent all your time in the desert climate below. The hike is equally refreshing. It winds through pine forest along the side of a broad canyon, with great views out to Suicide Rock and beyond. You are hiking through the unusual cool of big trees and may even encounter snow before April so it was more like home for us Northerners. Saddle Junction itself provides little interest as it is just a junction of several trails in the middle of some woods. Hikes to bigger peaks lead off from here. Stop for lunch in Idyllwild as well

    This quick aerobics loop is just behind Target on Fred Waring Drive. It's an 800 feet climb and a 5km trail loop that can be done in less than an hour. Nice views over 'town' (Palm Desert) and surrounds. Busy though. A Roadrunner crossed the trail in front of me once just as I was starting this hike.

    For those who live near or in Palm Desert, it's another quick aerobics hike (many people run it). About 3km round trip and a climb of about 500 feet. Good views of Palm Desert from the Cross and surrounds (which was supposedly erected by Frank Sinatra in memory of his mother). Busy though. You can link from here to other trails, such as the Hopalong Cassidy, but for that you'll need to arrange transportation back to your vehicle.

Birds observed

Bird spotting was not a particularly difficult business in California. Hummingbirds came to our balcony; Mocking Birds were a common sight and an even more common sound; Ravens circled constantly overhead. But I also regularly wandered over to nearby "prime" locations and occasionally drove to some formal bird walks (usually at some unearthly hour) at more distant locations.

Move mouse over bird name to see image of bird

Bird photos courtesy of Wikipedia