Day hike leads to noteworthy Cahuilla Peak in foothills of Palm Springs
Day hikers can hike to the top of Cahuilla Peak, one of the most prominent summits in the Santa Rosa foothills, on the Berns Trail.
The 5.6-mile trail heads from Araby Cove to the summit. A connector, the Berns Trail is one of two trails you’ll need to hike to reach the peak.
To reach the trailhead, from downtown Palm Springs take East Palm Canyon Drive/Calif. Hwy. 111 south. Turn right/south onto Rim Road, which immediately becomes 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, which is at about 420 feet above sea level.
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, as you enter the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.
The greater roadrunner often can be seen darting about. This small creature can run up to 15 mph – though some have been clocked up to 20 mph – as hunting lizards, rodents and snakes. It also can fly and uses elevated perches to search for prey. Adults usually are 20–24 inches long and weigh between 7.8–19 ounces.
About 0.7 miles up, the trail enters a saddle below comedian and movie star Bob Hope’s former 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 the Bob Hope home to the right.
At 1.7 miles, the route reaches the Berns Trail. Go right/southwest onto it.
Within a few yards of the trail junction is a short spur to a vista. You’re at 1345 feet.
From the spur, the Berns Trail switchbacks up the side of Cahuilla Peak.
Keep an eye out for the bighorn sheep on the hillside. About 950 bighorn sheep live in the foothills and mountains surrounding the Coachella Valley. They blend in quite well with the tawny landscape, but their size gives them away. Adult rams can weigh between 150-200 pounds – as much as a full-grown man – and ewes usually are 100-125 pounds. The adult ram’s horns sometimes reach 30 inches each in length and at the base are 15 inches in circumference.
Bighorn often can be seen feeding on acacia, encelia, krameria and sweet bush, but they will adapt their diet to what’s available. Indeed, some bighorns have migrated onto Coachella Valley golf courses where they browse on the greens and drink from water hazards.
At 2.8 miles, the Berns Trail reaches the summit.
The small round hilltop offers an excellent view of Palm Springs and a more limited vista of Cathedral City and Palm Desert. Desert Hot Springs can be seen nestled against the Little San Bernardinos in the distance. Mount San Gorgonio can be seen to the northwest with the wind farm before them.
The Berns Trail does continue for another 0.1 miles down Cahuilla Peak’s south side, where it connects first with the Earl Henderson Trail and then the Garstin Trail. Other than satisfying curiosity, there’s no real need to walk that small segment of the trail.
Once you’ve taken in the views, retrace your steps to your vehicle.
The trail is named for Charlie “21” Berns, a businessman and gourmet who founded the “21” Club, a New York City establishment known for its fine foods and wines, and “21” Brands liquor company. He passed away while vacationing in Palm Springs.
- The hike offers a great view of the former home of comedian and movie star Bob Hope.: Rob Bignell
- The Berns Trail zigzags up the north side of Cahuilla Peak.: Rob Bignell
- 04-Sometimes-bighorn-sheep-can-be-spotted-feeding-on-the-sides-of-Cahuilla-Peak.: Rob Bignell
- Cahuilla Peak offers great views of Palm Springs and of Mount San Jacinto.: Rob Bignell
- The hike to Cahuilla Peak starts on the Araby Trail, which can be a lush green after a rainfall.: Rob Bignell