If you are in the Palm Springs area, and you’re looking for a great outdoor workout to help you shed those extra pounds you are inevitably gaining during the holidays, the Lykken Trail is an excellent option.
The Lykken Trail is broken into two sections, North and South, with both offering various approaches of entry and exit along the way. If you’re an early riser, you can catch some of the most amazing sunrise views. Also, if you’re lucky enough—as I fortunately have been a few times—you may come across a spectacular view of endangered peninsular desert bighorn sheep. If you do spot the bighorn sheep (or any desert animal), please remember that you are in their territory. Be careful; keep your distance; and do not disturb them.
The North Lykken Trail is accessible within walking distance of the center of downtown Palm Springs. A big part of the North Lykken Trail actually hovers right above downtown, overlooking beautiful Palm Springs. Views extend beyond downtown into the Coachella Valley to the east as you experience the hills just below the San Jacinto Mountains. You can start your hike at the Palm Springs Art Museum, on the Museum Trail. It meets the North Lykken Trail near an area with picnic tables, and it’s all a little more than 3.5 miles out and back, with Ramon Road being the turnaround point. You can also take streets from the end of Ramon back to the museum, making it about a 4-mile loop.
From the museum, this trail is steep, rough and rocky until you reach the picnic tables, about 1 mile away at just less than 1,000 feet of elevation gain—and the trail is heavily trafficked. From the tables, you can choose to go either north or south. Either way, be careful, as the Lykken Trail intersects with the Skyline Trail for a short bit just beyond the picnic tables, then veers off, so be sure to stay right if continuing north, or stay to left at the fork (rock pile) if continuing south. Otherwise, you’ll end up on the Skyline Trail (aka Cactus to Clouds)—a day trek up into the backcountry and to the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, or even to the top of San Jacinto Peak, more than 20 miles one way. As AllTrails points out, that trail is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. (You can read more about it in my Aug. 17 column.)
It may be a bit easier to start your hike at the trailhead at the west end of Ramon Road. It’s about 1.5 miles from there to the picnic tables, but still moderately challenging. Regardless of the starting point, the tables are centrally located and make for a great stop to take a break, have lunch or a snack, and enjoy the amazing views. If you started at Ramon, from the tables, you may continue on to the north (remember to stay right at the fork), down the other side of the mountain trail and into Chino Canyon, where it will turn into steep, rocky terrain on one side, and flat meadow lands on the other side. There’s a huge boulder at the base of the mountain trail. You can’t miss it! It, too, makes for a perfect stopping spot. You may want to take a moment there and climb upon the boulder, have a snack, enjoy the beauty around you, and just meditate for a bit.
From there, I like to continue on, staying on the trail that leads toward and then along the rocky hillsides, heading up into Chino Canyon and yet another picnic table area. I must say that this section of the North Lykken Trail is by far my favorite part, as it is much less traveled; you are completely surrounded by the beauty of nature, and you can feel a deep sense of serenity. I’m not a fan of going the other (flatland) direction that goes toward the dam. It’s a bit flat and boring for me, and much less of a workout. However, the option is there! The great thing about the North Lykken Trail is that you have many options, both in terms of direction and mileage.
The South Lykken Trail is a moderate section of 4.4 miles, or 8.8 miles out and back, with an elevation gain of just more than 1,000 feet. You can start at the north end of the trail, at the west end of Mesquite Avenue, south of downtown Palm Springs. The south end begins off of South Palm Canyon Drive, just before Bogert Trail. Regardless of the end at which you start, you’ll encounter a climb on switchbacks that will take about 30 minutes—if you’re in fairly decent shape. South Lykken is just as heavily trafficked as the North Lykken Trail.
One of my favorite parts of this trail is finding the perfect spot overlooking Tahquitz Falls. If you listen to the sounds of nature while you hike, and if the timing is right, you might be lucky enough to hear the serene sounds of the 60-foot waterfall. Once you hear the waterfall, it’s a fairly easy hike down to locate it—and it’s totally worth taking a moment to enjoy the tranquility as you look down on the Tahquitz Falls from high above.
Dogs are prohibited on the Museum Trail, the South Lykken Trail and the North Lykken Trail. Also, please keep in mind that we are still in the midst of a pandemic, so be considerate, and wear a mask when you meet someone along the trail; use hand sanitizer; and try to keep your distance. There is no shade, so remember your hat, sunscreen and more water than you think you might need, even during the cooler months. Always wear good hiking shoes, as parts of the trail can be challenging.
I hope to see you on the trails soon!