For dogs, the desert is dessert

By: DogTrekker Staff
view of desert mountains and palm trees
Photo by Elizabeth Iris.

On a crisp fall or winter day in the desert, crystal-clear air is a tonic for the soul. It’s the perfect time of year to hike or camp, and the Greater Palm Springs Region, comprised of nine cities spread across the Coachella Valley, features hikes of all levels for dog parents and their pups. It also makes a prime base camp for exploring the larger Desert Region of California that cuts through five Southern California counties and encompasses millions of acres of public lands.

For a fun and educational activity you can enjoy with your four-legged friend, head to Moorten Botanical Garden, where the two of you can stroll around a “living museum of desert lore” and admire more than 3,000 desert plants plus dinosaur fossils and petrified trees. The Palm Springs Museum Trail, rising above the Palm Springs Art Museum, tempts seasoned hikers with a 1.5 mile climb to a summit offering sweeping views of the Coachella Valley.

Another moderate-grade trail that intersects with the Museum Trail is the North Lykken Trail. The other option is the South Lykken Trail, providing excellent views into Tahquitz Canyon. And local favorites don’t stop there: the Whitewater Canyon Loop Trail is rated easy but gets you up close and personal with desert landscapes, while the Homestead Trail rewards with sweeping views of the Coachella Valley as you trek to a lighted cross on top of a hill.

Want to explore a little farther afield? Pick a mountain range – the San Jacintos, Santa Rosas, Orocopias, Mecca Hills – and pack lots of water for both you and your dog; you’ll need it in this dry, wide-open environment. Pack a leash, too, for times you’ll encounter other people, dogs, livestock, mountain bikers or wildlife that could cause conflicts in the outback.

The San Jacinto Mountains, accessed out of Idyllwild, are part of the San Bernardino National Forest. Send off for a map or get one from REI before you set out, as your iPhone GPS is not likely to work this far out in the boonies.

A good introductory, family-friendly hike is the 5.2-mile (round-trip) Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail, which doesn’t require a lot of climbing. Most of the path leads through a conifer forest, where you can practice your identification skills. The premier hike in the area is Devil’s Slide to Tahquitz Peak, a more difficult, 8.4-mile round-trip trek so popular that permits are limited on weekends and holidays. The trail leads from Idyllwild’s Humber Park on a forested, uphill trajectory to a saddle at 2.5 miles. Take a right from there, and you’ll be headed for the summit. Views open up gradually until you find yourself in a granite landscape with panoramic views to forever.


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