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3 Palm Springs Hikes - Overlook Loop, Murray Hill and San Jacinto Peak

Updated on December 16, 2015
Marilyn Monroe statue, downtown Palm Springs
Marilyn Monroe statue, downtown Palm Springs

Centrally located between Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix, the City of Palm Springs is a weekend-getaway hotspot. Situated in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, Palm Springs is a popular spa town, famous for all sorts of outdoor activities - like tennis, golf, swimming, horseback riding and biking. Plus, because it is surrounded by several mountain ranges, Palm Springs is an absolute hiking mecca!

The options for hiking Palm Springs are numerous, and several trails are even walking distance from the downtown hotel and shopping district. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway makes alpine wilderness hiking just as accessible as a hike in the desert mountains. When planning your trip to Palm Springs, make sure to schedule at least one day for hiking. This article includes three options for hiking Palm Springs: one short but strenuous option close to downtown, one longer option that includes a desert hike to a high peak with 360 degree views, and one that takes hikers from the desert floor to an elevation of more than 10,000 feet!

Cairn marks the way along the Museum Trail
Cairn marks the way along the Museum Trail
The payoff - east of the Lykken/Museum junction
The payoff - east of the Lykken/Museum junction

Palm Springs Overlook Loop

This is one of the most popular hikes in Palm Springs, not only because it is so accessible, but also because it is an amazing cardio workout that features unparalleled views of the City of Palm Springs, all of the surrounding mountain chains and the entire Coachella Valley.

Park at the Palm Springs Art Museum in the north parking lot. You will find a sign for the Museum Trailhead in the northwest corner of this lot. You opt to take this mile-long route up some 1,000 feet of elevation gain along a steep trail full of switchbacks and one amazing view after another to arrive at an amazing overlook featuring picnic tables where you can set up a romantic meal for your sweetie.

Or if you want a longer route, walk south along Palm Canyon Drive to Ramon Road and walk west toward the mountain to find the Lykken Trail Head. It will lead you to the same lookout with the picnic tables, but with a slightly less intensive climb. Then you can come back down the Museum Trail to return to your car.

The Mueseum trail will take you about 1.5 hours out-and-back. Plan on three hours for the full loop.

View of Murray Hill from the Goat Trails
View of Murray Hill from the Goat Trails
Cactus-eye view of northern Coachella Valley
Cactus-eye view of northern Coachella Valley

Eagle Canyon to Murray Hill

On this hike you will make your way through the Goat Trails to the floor of Eagle Canyon, where you will experience the serendipitous pleasure of a natural palm oasis, before climbing one of the most notable peaks in the lower Santa Rosa Mountains via the Clara Burgess Trail.

Begin your hike to Murray Hill Summit by parking at the dirt lot located just south of the Vons Supermarket at Highway 111 and South Broadmoor Drive in Palm Springs. Go up toward the water towers and hook a right. Follow the trail straight over some relatively small trails until you reach Eagle Canyon. Take the rim trail past the palm oasis that locals have dubbed Jane's Hoffbrau, and then cross the canyon to find the Clara Burgess Trail, which leads directly up the east face of Murray Hill.

The total hike is 7 miles out-and-back and you will experience an approximate 2,200-foot elevation gain/loss. Complete the hike in about 4 hours, depending on how much time you spend enjoying the sweeping views of the Coachella Valley and surrounding mountains.

The BLM places a voluntarily closure of the upper portions of Clara Burgess Trail from January 1 to June 31 to protect Bighorn Sheep breeding habitats so your best bet is to hike it from late October through the end of December.

Sign near the Long Valley ranger's station
Sign near the Long Valley ranger's station
Coachella Valley view, trail to San Jacinto Peak
Coachella Valley view, trail to San Jacinto Peak

Long Valley to San Jacinto Peak

If you have it in you, the hike from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway's upper terminal to San Jacinto Peak is a must-do for adventuresome Palm Springs visitors. The trailhead is 8,000 feet above Palm Springs and your hike starts in beautiful Long Valley. Check in at the ranger station there, as you will need to obtain a free wilderness permit before starting your trek. And plan to be on the 11.5-mile, out-and-back trail for as long as 7.5 hours, to make sure you have enough time for gawking at the best scenery this side of the Sierras.

The first tram up is 8 a.m. on the weekends and 10 on weekdays, and it is recommended that you start out early. Plan your hike from June to October, because winter comes fast at the summit. May and November may be good months, too, but check with the rangers first so you know what weather to expect.

This is a moderate hike, but it could be classed as strenuous given the length, high altitude, and the fact that you will have to do some scrambling up boulders to reach the summit. The best part of this hike is the payoff - expect to see breathtaking views of the Coachella Valley and the Transverse Mountains north of LA as well as much of the Los Angeles Basin. On a clear day you might be able to catch a glimpse as far west as Catalina and the Channel Islands. Be prepared, and have fun!

Don't forget a map!

For hiking Palm Springs and the surrounding area, I recommend you buy the new Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Trail Map from the Friends of the Desert Mountains. Also, check out some of the hiking guides listed with this post for more information on the many trails to be enjoyed on subsequent visits to the Coachella Valley.

Also, for more descriptions on these and other great hikes, check out the blog HikeyHikey! (To find the specific hike you're looking or just Google the name of the blog - HikeyHikey! - with the trail title you're looking for.) Be prepared...and happy hiking!

Great guides to hiking Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley

Let me know what you think of hiking Palm Springs!

Which one of these three hikes piques your interest the most?

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    • brianschwarz profile image

      Brian Schwarz 5 years ago from Washington, DC

      I'd say anytime between late October to April is ideal. They close some of my favorite mountain trails in the winter unfortunately because of the bighorn sheep and snow at the higher elevations, but there is such great variety here that this is really a hiking mecca year round!

    • Iamsam profile image

      Iamsam 5 years ago

      Thanks. You have given a good information about Palm Springs.

      What is the best time of the year to visit palms springs?