long canyon trail desert hot springs

Hot on the Trail

Long Canyon Trail links Desert Hot Springs to Joshua Tree National Park, giving hikers a new path to explore either as a full-day excursion or a quick in and out.

Yasuko Smith Current Digital, Hiking

long canyon trail desert hot springs

The beginning of the Long Canyon Trail in Desert Hot Springs, a 12-mile trek one way that links to Joshua Tree National Park.

Desert Hot Springs is host to the newest trail to open in the Coachella Valley, located at the end of Long Canyon Road. It was scheduled to have an official grand opening this spring, but due to ongoing Covid-19 regulations, the opening has been postponed until later this fall. Following Long Canyon Road from Dillon Road, a dirt road turns right as it follows an old service road from Joshua Tree National Park; about a mile or so in you will find the new parking lot for the trail.

This 12-mile trail directly links Desert Hot Springs to the north side of Joshua Tree National Park. With new markers in place by local organizations including the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, adventure seekers can brave the 12-mile trail in one direction with a car waiting at the end (recommended) or you could casually hike a few miles in and out.


Creosote bush, Larrea tridentata, responsible for the unique “desert rain” smell locals experience when it rains.


Sahara mustard weed, Brassica tournefortii, is an aggressive invasive species introduced to the area with the arrival of date agriculture in Southern California. A single plant can produce up to 16,000 seeds. Using gloves can help deter any hand irritation from the slightly scratchy plant.

Now that wildflowers are making their brief appearances throughout the valley, the new trail has much to offer including creosote bushes that can be seen on either side of the trail with their fragrant yellow five-petaled flowers along with brittlebush, Mormon-tea plants and the occasional invasive Sahara Mustard Weed (feel free to pull out this invasive plant).


Paragneiss is derived from sedimentary rocks such as sandstone, notable by its fine dark and light alternating banding.

The canyon follows a north trending fault, aptly named the Long Canyon Fault. Many beautiful and unique wavy dark and light patterns are formed from differential stress of the North American tectonic plate and the Pacific plate colliding, deforming rocks into wavy bends. The lateral movement partially melts the sediments creating migmatitic gneiss. The metamorphism of light and dark minerals transform into a dark-colored metamorphic rock called amphibolite that can be seen within the lighter colored rocks to create a very artistically abstract look.

Around two miles in, there is a split in the trail, which at this time we chose to continue following the trail markers, but noting that it would be worth returning to explore later. Several barrel cacti and silver cholla will soon be ready to bloom with their beautiful vibrant fluorescent colors of fuchsia and lime green on full display to add to this beautiful rocky desert landscape.


Barrel cactus and silver cholla in the background, both used to be very common in these areas, but have seen a dramatic decrease over the last decade.

Hiking back, we were able to enjoy some grand views of Mt. San Jacinto, however, the trail itself needs work. Many organizations have come together to place markers along the trail and to help establish a safer trail, but more work still needs to be done. With large clean-ups postponed until fall, again due to Covid-19 regulations, the Biology Club at College of the Desert, Palm Desert, is encouraging its members to explore the new trail and bag some trash on the way out to earn a chance at their club’s raffle. This also encourages students to take a break from their computer screens and online courses while helping out the community.

The Long Canyon Trail is destined to become another great hiking trail in the valley. With help from the community in conjunction with other local organizations it will be a great moderate hike to enjoy with adventurous children if you are going in and out. It can be moderate to strenuous if you plan on hiking the full 12-mile length into Joshua Tree. Again, it is recommended that you park a car at the other end to avoid hiking 24-miles in and out. Dogs are allowed so long as they are leashed. Hikers are still encouraged to still have a mask handy and respect other hikers by remaining six feet apart as the county continues to address COVID-19 regulations.

Hiking Stats

Trail Name: Long Canyon Trail

Find it on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/HgiHkYL55Y3efoGMA

Length: 12 miles one way, but also ideal for shorter in and out hikes as well.

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult if you hike the entire trail.

Water: Hikers need to carry at least two-liters of water.


Light-colored aplite dikes and lit-par-lit injections can be seen here as well as in Joshua Tree National Park.