Day hikers can take a mini celebrity house tour on the Araby Trail in Palm Springs.
The 4.2-miles round trip trail passes homes once owned by Bob Hope and Steve McQueen. Because the trail gains 1364 feet with no shade, you’ll want to limit hikes to September through April and hit it early in the morning when temps will be more comfortable and the mountainside provide shade. The small parking lot also fills quickly, often by 8 a.m.
To reach the trailhead, from downtown Palm Springs take East Palm Canyon Drive/Calif. Hwy. 111 south. Turn right/south onto Southridge Drive; the parking lot is at the intersection. Follow the signs to the trail. You’ll need to walk across Southridge Drive to the trailhead
The first couple of hundred yards of the hike are lush with a gentle grade. The downside is that there’s not much for views – a trailer court sits on the left – and the noise from Hwy. 111 can be loud.
Once past the residential section, though, the ascent – and the trail highlights – begin. Most of the year, mesquite and cholla cacti dominate the rocky mountainside, but in spring after a rainfall, it bursts alive with the color of varied wildflowers.
About 0.7 miles up, the trail enters a saddle below the Bob Hope home. The San Jacinto massif stands out across the northwestern horizon.
One above the saddle, the trail offers fantastic views of Palm Springs below and of comedian and movie star Bob Hope’s former home to the right.
Renowned Modernist architect John Lautner designed the Hope home, which looks like a flying saucer. At 23,366 sq. feet, the concrete, steel and glass house boasts 10 bedrooms and 13 full or partial bathrooms. It once was listed for $50 million. A rocky outcrop along the trail makes a good resting spot lets you view the backside of the house, which was constructed in 1979.
Another movie star home that can be spotted from the trail is that of Steve McQueen, which he shared with actress Ali MacGraw. Located in the gated community of Southridge, architect Hugh Kaptur’s design is considered a mid-century modern classic. Built in 1964, the home consists of two glass boxes, framed in steel, that intersect. At 4,493 sq. ft., the four-bedroom, four-bath home is valued at $4.6 million.
After passing the Hope home, the trail continues climbing, offering great vistas. Several of them mark excellent spots to watch planes take off and land at Palm Springs International Airport. Consisting of two runways, the airport’s use is highly seasonal with most activity in winter. Odds are that the passengers in those planes are arriving from or heading to either San Francisco or Seattle. A full 185,000 passengers in 2017 went to and from the Bay Area airport while another 129,000 were en route to or from Seattle/Tacoma.
The various vistas also offer fantastic views of the three surrounding mountain ranges. To the north and northwest is the San Bernardino Mountains, which runs for 60 miles between Palm Springs and San Bernardino. In the north and east is the Little San Bernardino Mountains, which form the Coachella Valley’s eastern wall. To the south is the San Jacinto Mountains (which the trail climbs) that along with the Santa Rosa Mountains rises as the valley’s western wall.
At the trail’s end are two connecting paths you can take if you’ve got some extra energy. The Berns Trails heads west to Smoketree Mountain. The Goat Trail goes east and overlooks the Canyon Sands area and the Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort; its eastern trailhead is at the end of Palm Hills Road, an extension of South Broadway.
Dogs are allowed on about the first half-mile of the Araby trail. A sign indicates the point past which they cannot go, which is the Santa Rosa/San Jacinto Mountains Monument boundary.
Be aware that the rough, steep terrain requires that you wear hiking boots. Unless hiking in the early morning, wear brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen – and regardless of the time of day, always bring plenty of water.