Hikers can enjoy great views of Cathedral City Cove and the surrounding Coachella Valley on a segment of the Dunn Road Trail.

Hiking the Dunn Road Trail segment

Topo map of Dunn Road-Art Smith Trail Loop

The entire Dunn Hill Trail runs 14.7 miles with a 6% average grade uphill almost all the way. For a day hike, though, you can simply do a segment of it. One good route is taking part of Dunn Road Trail and combining it with a segment of the Art Smith Trail so that you loop between the two ends of Cathedral City Cove. That comes to about 4.55 miles with a good portion of it downhill.

To reach the trailhead, in Cathedral City at the intersection of East Palm Canyon Drive/Calif. Hwy. 111 with Cathedral Canyon Drive, take the latter south. Turn right/west onto Terrace Road, which becomes Charlesworth Drive when the street curves south. Next, turn right/west onto Valley Vista Drive, which becomes Channel Drive when the street veers south. The trailhead is at the intersection of Channel and Carroll drives; park along the street.

Hiking the Dunn Road Trail segment

Spectacular views of the Santa Rosa Mountains await on the Dunn Road Trail.

Starting at 728 feet elevation in a wash, the trail quickly comes to a line of small boulders known as the Lower Dunn Road Wall. Past the “wall,” the trail curls south (some maps refer to this as the “Dunn Ramp, east trailhead”) and heads up the ridgeline.

To the northwest is Murray Hill, a prominent foothill visible in Cathedral City. The hill tops out at 2202 feet.

About 0.5 miles in, you’ll arrive at a junction with a narrower trail heading north (some maps refer to this as the “Dunn Ramp, west trailhead”). Continue straight-left/southwest.

Dunn Road is remnant of a conflict during the early 1970s between landowners and conservationists. At the time, Mike Dunn began building a road that would connect Palm Springs to Pinyon Flats so landowners could better access their property. The Bureau of Land Management – which oversaw the foothills at that time – believed the road posed a threat to peninsular bighorn sheep and promptly gated off the road.

Hiking the Dunn Road Trail segment

Construction equipment abandoned when the Dunn Road project was terminated can be seen occasionally on the trail.

Lawsuits followed, and eventually Dunn gave up on the project. Higher up the trail, remains of road construction equipment that Dunn left behind still can be seen. The land wilderness has become part of the San Bernardino National Forest, managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Despite being decades old, the road portion of the trail is in good condition. It’s wide and the surface is a smooth hard pack. Sometimes small sections wash out, though, so at times you’ll walk over rocks for a few yards. Hiking boots are recommended.

The trail soon arrives at one of its few flat stretches. The trail’s orientation changes as well, allowing for excellent views of the cove and the Coachella Valley below.

About 2.3 miles in, just before the trail starts climbing again, a trail junctions from the east. This is the Art Smith Trail. If you need a break, this is a good spot to rest as there are picnic tables.

Go left/east onto the Art Smith Trail. You’re at 1641 feet elevation and will begin your descent into Cathedral Canyon.

Interesting rock formations can be seen on the way through the canyon.

The trail arrives back in a wash at the Cathedral City Trailhead. From there, take Foothill Drive northwest back to Channel Drive and your vehicle, about a three block walk.

The trail is entirely exposed to the sun, so be sure to don sunscreen, sunglasses and sunhat. Leashed dogs are allowed on the route.







Image Sources

  • Spectacular views of the Santa Rosa Mountains await: Rob Bignell
  • Abandoned construction equipment: Rob Bignell
  • The Dunn Road Trail heads from Cathedral Cove into the mountains beyond.: Rob Bignell