Do you like the great outdoors? Perhaps you’re a health fanatic, or adventurous—or maybe you just like to take long walks to clear your mind and rejuvenate yourself. Or, if you’re like me, it’s all of the above.

Hi, and welcome to Hiking With T!

I was born and raised in a small Midwestern farm town in Indiana, with hundreds of acres of forests and fields to roam—so hiking and the great outdoors go hand in hand for me. While growing up, I spent countless hours running and playing outside, cutting trails through overgrowth in wooded areas and fields, riding dirt bikes, climbing around on rock ridges and jumping through creeks.

Fast forward to my adult years, when opportunity led me to a major cross-country move to Los Angeles, where I worked for the Department of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. For 12 years, I helped handle the department’s administrative needs, working closely with the computer-support team, managing server files and departmental websites. I spent my free time playing softball, training for marathons and hiking/running trails.

After that, I moved here to the desert, where I serve as the administrative manager for a small nonprofit, HARC, Inc. I have been exploring, hiking and running the desert trails for 10-plus years now—and I enjoy every moment. It’s my release, my sanity, my saving grace.

In the coming months, I will introduce you to some of the most-amazing, off-the-beaten-path trails and adventures right here in the Coachella Valley, as well as trails in surrounding areas that will provide a great hiking experience packed with fun and adventure. I hope that you will follow along and enjoy the journey as much as I do.

So … since we’re now in peak hiking season, let’s start off with some basics everyone should know to get back on the trails safely. First: Remember, we’re still in the midst of a raging pandemic, so you should always make sure you add a face mask and hand sanitizer to your hiking essentials.

No matter the temperature, you need to be well-hydrated. If you had a couple of drinks the night before your hike, you’ll already be dehydrated when you get on the trail the next morning—and dehydration can be dangerous anytime, especially during hot days. Always bring more water than you think you should need—at least a half to one liter of water per hour, depending on the temperature and the difficulty level of the hike.

Be sure to wear good shoes that are meant for trails—not your street Vans or penny loafers. Believe it or not, I have seen people on the trails wearing these types of shoes and carrying only an 8-ounce bottle of water. Please tell me that wasn’t you.

Always remember trail etiquette: Pack in; pack out; and yield the right of way to uphill hikers. Horses always have the right of way—yes, horses are out on some of the trails, too. I once encountered a horse and rider on the Araby/Garstin Trail. It was one of the scariest moments of my life: I was running down trail while the horse and rider were ascending—but I was unaware of their presence until I approached a turn and was suddenly face to face with a horse and rider. We were all equally spooked.

Let’s talk about one of the best places to hike around the Palm Springs area. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has finally reopened—be sure to buy your tickets in advance—and the trails at the top are seemingly endless, offering more than 50 miles of hiking within Mount San Jacinto State Park. Upon exiting the Mountain Station to Long Valley, you will find a vast array of trails, starting with a short and easy 3/4-mile loop hike around Long Valley, called the Discovery Nature Trail, which provides a great introduction to the park’s plants and animals.

For a slightly longer loop of 1 1/2 miles, there is the Desert View Trail. It’s a bit more difficult, but it offers scenic overlooks and forest views—with some of the best stopping spots for a perfect picnic. Then there is a 2 1/2 mile trail that will take you to Round Valley with just a few short climbs.

Aside from the 5 1/2 mile trek up to San Jacinto Peak—which is absolutely breathtaking, with views of the Salton Sea and beyond, going as far as Catalina Island on a clear day—the 3 1/2 mile hike to the Wellman Divide junction is perhaps my favorite Mount San Jacinto State Park hike, offering incredible views and another great picnic stop. On a clear day, you can easily see the Pacific Ocean from here. From this junction, you can either continue up San Jacinto Peak, or descend to the town of Idyllwild, with both routes being equally strenuous (and day-use permits are required). Although water is available at the ranger station in Long Valley, you will want to bring plenty of water along with food, a warm jacket and gloves.

While the trails have reopened, campsites remain closed until further notice, due to COVID-19. For more information, visit and

Always be smart, safe and considerate. See ya on the trails!

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Theresa Sama

Theresa Sama is an outdoor enthusiast who writes the Independent’s hiking/outdoors column. She has been running and hiking the Coachella Valley desert trails for more than 10 years and enjoys sharing...

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