For all of the snowbirds and tourists arriving in the Coachella Valley this month, there’s great news: You’ve come to a hiking paradise.
Surrounded by three mountain ranges – the Little San Bernardinos on the northeast, the San Jacintos on the northwest, and the Santa Rosas on the southwest – hiking trails abound in these ranges. Almost all of the mountains and their foothills are protected. Among the natural attractions in those ranges are Joshua Tree National Park, Mount San Jacinto State Park, the San Bernadino National Forest, and the Santa Rosa-San Jacinto National Monument.
Two of those mountain ranges pinch to form the valley’s northwestern end at the San Gorgonio Pass, a barrier between the valley and the expansive Los Angeles metro area beyond. There are same great trails just over the pass, however, and if living in the valley’s north end, it’s a short drive to many of them.
In between the two ranges on the valley floor is a metro area of nearly 400,000 residents whose communities offer their own urban hiking trails. Hills on the desert floor – the Mecca Hills and the Orocopia Mountains – as well as several oases, most notably the Dos Palmas, offer a variety of unique trails as well. The valley’s southeast side opens to the vast Salton Sea, which offer a variety of experiences most never would associate with glamorous Palm Springs or the rest of the Coachella Valley.
And there’s more great news: The best months to day hike the Coachella Valley are October through March.
Temperatures usually are pleasant and the air dry during the hiking season, though a sweatshirt or light jacket often are needed at night or during the early morning in December and January.
Depending on the year, September and April also can be great for hikes. From late spring through summer to early fall, though, temperatures often reach triple digits, making hikes on the valley floor simply unpleasant and even dangerous. During the summer, hikers often head into the cooler mountains surrounding the valley.
A great set of trails in the Coachella Valley for you to try out include:
• San Andreas Trail (Dos Palmas)
• Barker Dam Trail (Joshua Tree National Park)
• Ladder Canyon-Big Painted Canyon Loop (Mecca Hills)
• Mount San Jacinto Trail (Mount San Jacinto State Park)
• Garstin Trail (Palm Springs)
• Geothermal sites (Salton Sea)
• South Ridge Trail (San Bernadino National Forest)
• Oak Glen Nature Trail (west of San Gorgonio Pass)
• Cactus Springs Trail (Santa Rosa-San Jacinto National Monument)
So welcome back, snowbirds – we’ll see you on the trail!
- Granite Boulders: Rob Bignell
- Desert View Trail: Rob Bignell