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Cove to Lake Trail, La Quinta, California

Lake to Cove Trail in La Quinta

View looking east from the Lake to Cove Trail in La Quinta

One of the most popular of the La Quinta cove’s many hikes is to Cove to Lake Trail, also called the Morrow Trail. It’s so named because the trailhead starts at the top of the La Quinta cove and winds around a mountain to Lake Cahuilla.

The full trail is about 3 miles long and can be done as a thru-hike if you drop a car or arrange to be picked up from the lake. You can also start at Lake Cahuilla County Park and hike thru to the cove, but there are fees to enter.

  • View looking east from the Lake to Cove Trail in La Quinta
  • Sculpture along the Lake to Cove Trail
  • Craggy peaks rise alongside the length of the trail.
  • A portion of the trail skirts a golf course at The Quarry at La Quinta.
  • Along the Lake to Cove Trail in La Quinta
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Mission Creek Trail – Desert Hot Springs, California

Mission Creek Trail in Desert Hot Springs

Stone house on the Mission Creek Trail.

Mission Creek Trail is an often-overlooked gem on the way to the Joshua Tree area from Palm Springs. The area is owned by the Wildlands Conservancy, which also owns other hiking areas around San Gorgonio, including Whitewater Preserve, Oak Glen Preserve and Pioneertown Mountains Preserve.

The Mission Creek Trail is an easy stroll of just under 3.5 miles round-trip to a stone house (with picnic tables and flush restrooms) with the namesake Mission Creek flowing alongside most of this path. Wildflowers bloom during the spring, and there is a large patch of grapevines at one point. For a strange diversion, veer to the left when you see the sign for the stone house to discover an old water-monitoring station on the creek against a cliff.

The trail continues past the stone house and eventually links with the Pacific Crest Trail, which will lead you to another of the conservancy’s preserves – Whitewater. The between the two preserves is 8 miles and can be done as a thru-hike if you have a car waiting for you at the Whitewater terminus.

  • Wildflowers along the Mission Creek Trail.
  • Mount San Gorgonio peeking up above the Mission Creek Trail.
  • Locks on the gate at the Mission Creek Trail parking lot.
  • Yucca plant on the trail.
  • Abandoned resort near the start of the trail.
  • Pool near the abandoned resort on the trail.
  • Mission Creek is an unexpected ribbon of water in the desert.
  • Wildflowers along the Mission Creek Trail.
  • Mission Creek Trail
  • Water monitoring station a couple hundred feet off the trail.
  • Little friend on the Mission Creek Trail.
  • Stone house on the Mission Creek Trail.
  • This windmill no longer stands near the stone house.
  • Yucca plant near the trail.
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North Lykken Trail – Palm Springs, California

North Lykken Trail

North Lykken Trail

Not to be confused with the South Lykken, the trailhead of the North Lykken Trail begins at the end of Ramon Road in Palm Springs and meets up at the same picnic tables above the Desert Museum Trail.

With an approximate 900-foot elevation gain and absolutely zero shade, the North Lykken is on the tougher edge of being a moderate trail. A trip from Ramon Road to the picnic tables and back is about 3 miles, but there are other trails you can connect to from the picnic table area to lengthen your hike.

When starting out, keep a look out for the trail to veer left and take that instead of the wider jeep road that pushes ahead. Almost immediately, the trail goes into a series of switchbacks heading up the first ridge. Get used to that… it’s a common theme on this trail.

There are great views of downtown Palm Springs as the trail traverses ridges directly to the west of the town. You can easily pick out the Forever Marilyn statue, the convention center, Desert Regional Hospital and more.

  • North Lykken Trail
  • North Lykken Trail
  • North Lykken Trail

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Mount San Jacinto Peak – Palm Springs, California

Me at the 10,834-foot peak of Mount San Jacinto.

Me at the 10,834-foot peak of Mount San Jacinto.

The trek to the peak of Mount San Jacinto is one of the more strenuous hikes in the area – and worth every bit of effort it takes to navigation 11 miles round-trip with a 2,300 elevation gain.

As you’re heading out from the mountain station of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, make sure to stop first at the ranger station and fill out a free permit for hiking in the wilderness areas of Mount San Jacinto State Park.

Once you’re on your way, the hike can be broken down into three parts:

– Tram station to Round Valley: The initial portion is about 2.5 miles long with a modest 700-foot elevation gain. You’ll keep bumping into (and crossing over) a stream with varying levels of water depending on the season. You’ll travel past large boulders and Jeffrey pines until you see a meadow to the north, your signal that you’re almost at Round Valley. There are pit toilets and a nearby campground with a spigot for washing (or boiling before drinking). Round Valley is about 9,100 feet above sea level.

– Round Valley to Wellman’s Divide: This is a steep incline, the most difficult stretch of the hike in my opinion. It has the same 700-foot elevation as the first segment but over only a one-mile distance. It’s a beautiful trail through thick pine forest with plenty of boulders to rest on if you need to catch your breath in the increasingly thin air. Once you arrive at the lookout with great views to the southwest; you may even be able to see Palomar Observatory. Now you’re just a bit under 10,000 feet above sea level – around 9,700.

– Wellman’s Divide to the Peak: Continue following signs at Wellman’s pointing to the peak. The tree cover will get thinner (as will the air), and as you switchback up the final ridge, you can look east and see both the open Round Valley meadow and the mountain tram station. You’ll go mostly up for about 2 miles until you crest the ridge and make your way across a brief flatter area until you see a stone house, used for rangers and emergencies. At this point, the trail ends, but to reach the peak, you’ll go boulder-hopping up to the very top, where a sign marks the 10,834-foot-high peak, the second-highest mountain (next to Mount San Gorgonio, viewable to the north) in southern California.

Take your time, take some photos and enjoy the beautiful 360-degree views at the peak before heading back the same way you came up. It’s a memorable journey, and you’ll earn bragging rights for conquering Mount San Jacinto… And I’ll brag: I’ve done it 5 times!

  • Mount San Jacinto
  • Round Valley meadow
  • Round Valley
  • Wellman's Divide
  • Mount San Jacinto peak
  • Mount San Jacinto peak
  • Mount San Jacinto peak
  • Mount San Jacinto peak
  • Round Valley
  • Mount San Jacinto peak

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Araby Trail – Palm Springs, California

View of Bob Hope's house from the Araby Trail.

View of Bob Hope’s house from the Araby Trail.

The Araby Trail in Palm Springs is a moderate-to-strenuous hike up to the first ridge of the Santa Rosa Mountains. You’ll gain 1,000 feet of elevation in about 2 miles, and once at the top of the Araby, you can connect to the Santa Rosa’s impressive network of trails via the Burns, Garstin and Clara Burgess trails.

The most notable feature of this trail is that it skirts just behind the Bob Hope House, an iconic Palm Springs landmark. And it gets close: You can look into the house’s patio and front windows from the trail’s nearest point. Mind the “No Trespassing” signs as the property (which as of Dec. 2012 is for sale) reportedly has armed security guards.

  • Murray Peak pokes over a ridge as seen from the Araby Trail in Palm Springs.
  • Araby Trail in Palm Springs.
  • Looking up at Bob Hope's house from the Araby Trail.
  • Looking up at Bob Hope's house from the Araby Trail.
  • View of Bob Hope's house from the Araby Trail.
  • View of Palm Springs from the Araby Trail.
  • Araby Trail junction with Berns and Garstin trails.
  • View of Palm Springs from the Araby Trail.
  • Araby Trail in Palm Springs.
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