Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Classic Palm Desert Hiking: The Original Art Smith Trail


Of the trails in Palm Desert, the Art Smith Trail is my personal favorite. It starts near Highway 74 near the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument Visitors Center and heads into the heart of the Santa Rosa Mountains. The trail originally headed up Dead Indian Canyon before steering north and into the hills. Now, the trail goes up the hill nearer the trailhead in order to avoid Bighorn Sheep habitat. Today I hiked up the original trail.

There is a really good parking area at the trailhead and the trail is well marked, at least at the beginning.

The sign directs you to the NEW Art Smith Trail but that's not where I'm going today. If you want to get to the original Art Smith Trail, stay on the left of the wash next to the mountain and don't take this trail that switchbacks up the hill.

You'll come to this gate which is open for three months from October-December.

You can stay in the wash or hike up the higher dune on the left. Either way it's very sandy. In the distance is Dead Indian Palms.

Turn before getting to the Palms into the large, obvious canyon on the right. There is a large canyon on the left, Grapevine Canyon, but this is a very rugged canyon with no trail.

This classic trail sign was the only marker for this trail for years. It is still the coolest sign here.

Since the new trail was built this trail has not seen much use and is in poor shape in areas. Previously it was one of the valley's most used trails. I much prefer it to the new trail because of the view of the palms and the feeling of being alone in the wilderness.

Near the junction of the new and old trail is this rocky viewpoint. This is a good place to stop and enjoy your surroundings and a sandwich.

The view is wonderful from up here and I'd like to sit up here and enjoy it all day but some of us have to work today but I'd recommend this trail for anyone looking for a nice, short hike with great views and a chance to spot a Bighorn Sheep. Plus, if you want a longer hike you can keep going all the way to Palm Springs. All those things combine to make this the best hike in Palm Desert.

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