The Coachella Valley Hiking Club continues to blaze new trails whether it’s for a beginner at the base of the Indian Canyons to the expert who can experience the picturesque peaks of the San Jacinto mountains.
The valleywide club has something for everyone, according to club member Craig Karsen.
“We have a little bit of everything and there’s no limitations as to where we hike,” says Karsen, a Chicago native. “We hike up Magnesia Falls in Rancho Mirage or carpool to hike Idyllwild or in the San Bernardino mountains. We primarily are hiking, but we also have a small speaker’s series, take hikes for the purpose of photography and have socials once a month.”
Karsen adds that the club is open to all residents, snowbirds, and visitors for a $15 annual membership. “There’s even hikes where you can bring your dog,” he says. “We have three to 10 hikes per week in season, and all you have to do is talk with one of our hike leaders to find out what’s best for you.”
Hike leaders explain the level of expertise needed, tips and tricks, details of the hike, length, interest, etc. You then contact the leader by email or phone number and they provide you with any other information. On the club website, each upcoming hike is listed according to level of difficulty with details of the area and elevation.
First-time hikers are better off going in group to avoid surprises.
Karsen says coming from his native Chicago, where most hikes are flat, he advises visitors from similar parts of the country to start with the same level, mostly flatland hikes. There are several available at the Agua Caliente’s Indian Canyon trails or the multiple routes on Lykken trail.
Others who are more adventurous choose the moderate level depending on their fitness level. If someone is a biker or runner, they may be prepared to take on the more strenuous Art Smith Trail with more elevation near Big Horn in Palm Desert or the Hopalong Cassidy route, shorter but still difficult.
“If you’re visiting here from Chicago and used to everything being flat, you want to do an easy hike starting out,” said Karsen. “And I encourage the first-timer to do it with a group so there’s no surprises. Then you see what interests you from there.”
When checking out hikes, look to the advice from hike leaders. Most have formal experience or are avid hikers who have completed an orientation program and follow the club’s protocol and leader’s training. The $15 yearly includes all hikes except those that call for an entrance fee, like some at Indian Canyons and Joshua Tree National Park. Members can also bring along guests for free with the CV Hiking Club group, so valley visitors are welcome.
The club also utilizes the book, 140 Great Hikes in and near Palm Springs, by Philip Ferranti, as a guide to landscapes, elevation trails, views and photo spots along these routes for all age and experience levels. Ferranti is one of the founders of the club.
Coachella Valley Hiking Club: cvhikingclub.net
Also look at Desert Trails: deserttrailshiking.com
Magnesia Falls: “Unique, hiking behind Larry Ellison’s house, you need to scramble up dry falls. Different versions to choose, making it into Cathedral City and finishing west of the Mary Pickford Theatre area.”
San Jacinto: “Clearly a top one for here, take the tram up 8,400 feet then hike to 10,800 feet for some great views.”
Tahquitz Peak: “By Idyllwild, a great lookout and topography.”
Mission Creek: “A land trust area and very beautiful where water comes down from the Whitewater Preserve.”
Joshua Tree: “A wonderland of rocks.”
Trails.com on Popular Hikes:
• The Art Smith Trail (approx. 16 miles): named in 1977 for the late long-time Trail Boss of the Desert Riders who was responsible for the development of numerous routes in these mountains, is the gem of the northern Santa Rosas,offering a grand tour through the heart of the wilderness. The trail features outrageous cacti, outlandish rock formations, several small palm oases, and a chance to commune with the desert. Despite its length and the rugged terrain, the trail gains less elevation than might be expected. Those looking for a quick jaunt can hike 3 miles out past palm oases to a vista point, then return. For a longer hike, go all 8 miles to the end at Dunn Rd., then return. Or better yet, connect to the Hahn Buena Vista Trail and follow it down to Fern and Palm Canyons.
• Hopalong Cassidy (approx. 4 miles): This short but strenuous hike begins at the base of Homme Adams Park in Palm Desert and links with the 8-mile Hopalong Trail, which opened in 2006 as a connector trail to the Art Smith and Bump and Grind trails. Sweeping views of Coachella Valley, desert vegetation, rock formations.
• Bump and Grind Trail (approx. 3 miles): Also known as the Desert Mirage Trail, is an extremely popular trail because it is so conveniently located and offers a vigorous workout over a short distance. On a pleasant weekend, you are likely to meet hundreds of hikers and joggers getting their exercise on the trail, which climbs the northern flank of Shadow Mountain with the upper portion crossing the Magnesia Spring Ecological Reserve. Quite steep at times so shoes with good tread are recommended.
• The North Lykken Trail: North half of the 9.5-mile Carl Lykken Trail, which weaves along a series of mountain ridges above downtown Palm Springs. This shuttle hike begins at the west end of Ramon Road in Palm Springs and ends at Cielo Road, off Vista Chino Road, north of downtown. It’s more strenuous and less crowded than the south half of the Carl Lykken Trail (known widely as the South Lykken Trail) with a total elevation gain of about 800 feet, and it links with two popular trails — the Museum Trail and the Skyline Trail, also known as the Cactus to Clouds Trail.