Explore Palm Springs: Road to Nowhere

Proposed development never gained traction, and left an abandoned road in its place

Renee Brown History 0 Comments


The road that scales the hill at the intersection of Highway 111 and Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs has always generated curiosity for those who look up and wonder where the road goes.

It has become a haven for mountain bike riders and hikers because it allows easy access to the foothills of the surrounding Santa Rosa Mountains. 

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Michael Dunn and local artist Val Samuelson had a vision of a housing development that would extend 30 square miles and be accessible by a 65-foot wide highway. It would provide a short 12-minute drive from the warm desert environment of Palm Springs with the cool mountain environment of the Santa Rosa Mountains.

The proposed development, Palm Springs Atajo, would build custom homes nestled in the rugged terrain. The developers struggled for years to gather support from both government agencies and the surrounding communities. Finally the project was abandoned, leaving only the road that actually went nowhere.

On April 7, 1971, the developers shared their dream for the development with the community when they brought a group of local residents and representatives of various agencies on an all-day trip to discover just what was on the other side of the mountain. They arrived at the 4,200-foot vantage point and were able to get a glimpse of the valley below.   

There is a multitude of ways to Explore Palm Springs, which turned 75 in 2013.

One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring Palm Springs history.

The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a weekly story whose time and place corresponds with today.

The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive. Visit for more information.

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