March is a great time to hike the North Lykken trail
A glorious sunrise awaits on the North Lykken Trail from the side of San Jacinto Peak in Palm Springs, Calif.
The trail runs 3.5 miles one-way with steep climbs and plenty of elevation gain. You probably will want to have someone drop you off at the trailhead and then pick you up at the other end.
March is a great time to hike the trail, as temperatures are in the Goldilocks zone (neither too warm nor too cold but just right). You’ll be able to see desert marigolds and lupines in bloom – and if you’re lucky maybe even a couple of bighorn sheep. Sunrise (when the sun is halfway above the horizon) is about 6:13 a.m. on March 1 and 6:34 a.m. on March 31.
To reach the trailhead, from downtown Palm Springs take North Indian Canyon Drive/Calif. Hwy. 111 north. Turn left/west onto East Granvia Valmonte then left/south onto the one-way Hwy. 111. Next, go right/west on West Chino Drive, right/north onto N. Patencio Road, and then left/west onto West Crescent Drive. Turn into and park at the pullout on the street’s left/south side. This is the trail’s north end.
The trail begins at the pullout’s northwest side and immediately goes up the side of the rocky ridge line. Once you reach the crest’s top, you’ll keep ascending, but the path isn’t as steep.
At about 1500 feet, you’ll junction a trail coming from the west. This is an alternate trailhead for North Lykken Trail; while that ascent from farther up Tachevah Canyon is not as steep as the path you just took, it’s about three times longer.
Go left/southwest at the junction. You’ll soon switchback up to the main spine of this ridge coming off San Jacinto Peak. Upon reaching it, you’re at about 1400 feet, a full 92 stories about Palm Springs.
The view is gorgeous. Palm Springs spreads out on the valley floor to the southeast with the San Jacinto Mountains rising above it. Following the mountain range down valley, Cathedral City can be seen in the distance.
This is a great place to catch the sunrise. Most times, the horizon behind the silhouetted mountains to the east will appear orange. Slowly the valley floor and the western mountains brighten in a warm glow. Once the yellow sun rises halfway above the horizon, its reflection begins to show in glass windows facing it, and the sky slowly turns a baby blue.
There will be plenty days to catch a sunrise. In all, Palm Springs and the valley enjoy about 269 days of sunshine a year. That’s nearly eight weeks more than the national average.
Even the days without sun aren’t bad. Only about 1 in 6 of those cloudy days sees precipitation.
From the vista, you’ve got a few options for continuing the hike. You could simply turn back. That would make the walk about 1.7 miles total.
Another option is to take the steep Skyline Trail east to its trailhead at the Palm Springs Art Museum for a 2.1-mile hike. A driver might drop you off at West Crescent Drive and pick you at the museum. Be sure to pay them back by stopping at the museum’s cafe for some lunch. You’ll need to replenish your calories anyway.
A third possibility is to continue south and finish the trail. After crossing the Skyline Trail, the North Lykken gradually descends to where West Ramon Road ends at the base of San Jacinto Peak. Rather than hike back up, have someone waiting at the trailhead parking to pick you up.
Hiking boots and a walking stick are highly recommended as the path is rocky and steep. Pants, rather than shorts, aren’t a bad idea either as there are spots where your ankles can rub up against small cactus. As the trail is entirely exposed to the sun – except in late afternoon when in San Jacinto Peak’s shadow – always don sunscreen, sunglasses and sunhat.
- North Lykken Trail: Rob Bignell