Mission Creek Preserve Trail sits between the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. Credit: Theresa Sama

Are you looking for accessible trails with an easy skill level? There are many nice trails here in the Coachella Valley where you can get out for a nice, short stroll—while taking in breathtaking views of the area.

This time of year brings a bonus joy: beautiful wildflowers! How many there are will depend on how much rain the season brings us.

Let’s talk about a couple of those off-the-beaten path yet easy-to-access trails:

The Mission Creek Preserve Trail is definitely off the beaten path. Located off Highway 62 just north of Interstate 10, it sits between the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. You’ll need to drive about 2.5 miles on an unpaved road to get to the starting point at the locked gate, but it’s well worth it: The trail is beautiful, flat, easy and dog-friendly.

Shortly after you pass the gate, you will notice four old buildings (remnants of what were once an old ranch) that have been converted into picnic areas. From there, it’s just a bit more than 1.5 miles (with an elevation gain of about 325 feet) to the old stone house, another remnant from the ranch. The stone house is full of history, with interesting facts displayed on the walls; it has running water and flushing toilets, too.

From the old stone house, you can continue another 2 miles and connect to the Pacific Crest Trail, north of Whitewater. Making that your turn-around point means a 7-mile round trip. You may contact the Wildlands Conservancy and make arrangements for day-use access or camping at the stone house picnic area and campsite, parking included.

A creek parallels the trail, so that makes for a lot of wildlife. The area is home to coyotes, deer, bears, bighorn sheep and mountain lions. So far, I haven’t personally seen a lot of wildlife on the trail, but I did see bear scat once. So … be aware—and be careful! Remember, you are in their territory, and trying to capture that perfect picture is not worth your life.

Now is the perfect time to do the hike while the weather is cooler—and you will most likely see some beautiful wildflowers and lots of birds. It’s definitely not a trail to do in the heat, as there is absolutely no shade until you get to the stone house.

More accessible and closer to civilization is the Butler-Abrams Trail (aka Joe Butler Trail) in Rancho Mirage. The trail is located right behind Wolfson Park, just off of Frank Sinatra Drive at Da Vall Drive. This trail offers paved and dirt (or sand) paths that parallel each other for about a 2.5-mile out and back that ends at Country Club Drive. It’s perfect for a walk, a run, a bike ride or even a horseback ride; dogs on leash are also welcome. It’s a super-easy trail for all skill levels.

I first discovered this trail a few years back when I was having my car serviced at one of the car dealerships in Cathedral City. This was back in my running days, and I quickly noticed a trail that ran alongside a wash behind the dealership. To my surprise, it was the Whitewater Wash! I had a while to wait, and it was a populated area, so I felt safe enough to check it out. I had my running shoes in the car, and they hadn’t taken my car in for service yet, so I quickly changed my shoes. I told the service manager what I was doing—and away I went.

A stroll along the Butler-Abrams Trail (aka Joe Butler Trail) in Rancho Mirage. Credit: Theresa Sama

I ran the path along the wash over to Frank Sinatra, then up the hill alongside the street to the Da Vall intersection. From there, I noticed a cute little park across the street. (At the time, I didn’t know the name of the park or that the trail existed.) I continued on to find the scenery to be much more pleasant—and then it got even better as I meandered through the beautiful little park and onto the path that turned into the Butler-Abrams Trail.

The paved path veers off to the right, at the end of the Club at Morningside golf course driving range, and goes down a small slope, across the wash, and back up the other side of the wash. This is really the only elevation that you will find on this trail, and it’s only about 45 feet. From there, the scenery became greener, with a mix of wildflowers, the sounds of birds signing, and views of the local mountains.

The paved and dirt paths continued, with a residential area on the right side, and a golf course along the left side. Tall trees border the path on one side, with a wooden fence along the other. The path ends at Country Club Drive, near Highway 111. This would be the turn-around point for 2.5 miles—but feel free to continue along Country Club for a longer distance, which is exactly what I did: I made a left at Country Club and continued on the sidewalk for another couple of blocks.

Because I started out from Cathedral City, I ended up with somewhere around a seven-mile journey. The best time of day to enjoy this trail with a bit of shade would be either early in the morning or early in the evening, as there is little to no shade mid-day on a sunny day.

Please continue to be vigilant and be safe out there—and I hope to see you out 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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