Thursday, December 17, 2015

Palm Springs Hiking

Palm Springs, CA, is surrounded by mountains and lovely trails: good reasons to be there last week.

There are downsides to hiking in the Palm Springs area:
  • Too much driving to trailheads. It took one to two hours.
  • Days are short at this time of year. When my partner and I were hiking around Palm Springs last week, the sun set soon after 4:30 p.m.
But there are upsides to being in Palm Springs in early December:
  • Comfortable, dry climate. The average high in July is 108°F, but in December, the temperature reached the low 80's. At higher elevations, the temperature was in the 50's. 
  • Cheap digs. We stayed in a comfortable resort for close to one-third of prices charged later in December through the rest of the winter.

Resort forecourt

Apart from too much driving, our daily plan was relaxed:
  1. No wake-up alarm.
  2. Big breakfast.
  3. Hike.
  4. Dinner. We ate in the hotel bar, and enjoyed a tasty local IPA microbrew.
  5. Early night. There's a 2-hour time difference with Minneapolis.
We hiked in five areas.

Interactive Map

Day 1: Painted Canyons, Mecca Hills Wilderness

It was good to be walking in warm weather through terrain quite unlike Minnesota.
We missed a turn so we didn't get to experience a slot canyon. On a previous visit to Palm Springs we did find the slot canyon.

Hiking a slot canyon

Day 2: Lost Horse Mine Loop, Joshua Tree National Park

It's a long drive to Joshua Tree National Park, but it's well worth it. Even when we reached the park, we had to drive several more miles past piles of huge rocks that made us think of The Flintstones.

The trail revealed magnificent "big sky/wild west" views.
At the midpoint we walked past an abandoned gold mine.

Day 3: Indian Potrero Trail, Agua Caliente Indian Reservation

This trail is mainly desert, which contrasted nicely with a spring-fed oasis of California Fan Palms.
Day 4: San Jacinto Peak Trail, Mount San Jacinto State Park

We broke our "no alarm clock" rule because we wanted to get up early enough to catch the first aerial tram (cable car) of the morning. The tramway took us to the trailhead at 8,500 feet. From there, we had just enough time to walk to San Jacinto's peak at 10,834 feet, then return just before sunset.
This Alpine trail was our favorite hike. The views were magnificent, including the view shown at the top of this post.

Day 5: Lost Palms Oasis Trail, Joshua Tree National Park
On our last full day we returned to Joshua Tree National Park. This time, we entered the park from the south side, then hiked through desert until we reached an oasis of California Fan Palms.
Note: 140 Great Hikes in and Near Palm Springs by Philip Ferranti describes many good trails.

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