16 Palm Springs Treks Out Of The Pool


By Andrew Belonsky

Some hiking, biking and climbing are good for what ails you.

Before the movie stars celebrated Palm Springs's liberal sexual atmosphere in the 1950s, and before the United States Army used the Coachella Valley as an air field and staging area during World War II, the desert town was all about nature.

One of the first 19th Century Californians to settle there, in 1885, San Francisco lawyer John Guthrie McCallum, and he did so so his son, suffering from respiratory problems, could recuperate in the dry desert air. Within two decades, health tourists and dignitaries, including Vice President Charles Fairbanks,were climbing over the mountains to rest up in Palm Springs.

Although much has changed since those days, when hotels were still relatively rugged, when music festivals were acoustic and when the desert was mostly unplanted - not yet those sprawling golf courses -- but the fresh desert air and the mountains stay mostly the same, save for some ski lodges and trams.

Here, we present 16 Palm Springs activities away from the hotels and poolside cabanas and venture into the great outdoors.

To get a panoramic shot of the Coachella Valley, hop on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Though the ticket prices are shockingly steep ($23.95/person), there are few other ways to get such a wide view of spectacular Palm Springs. Then, after ascending about 6,000 feet, you're deposited at the top of the San Jacinto Mountains, where you can hike around 14,000 acres of natural wonder or, if you'd rather keep the trip low energy, have a bite at the Peaks Restaurant overlooking the valley.

Elsewhere on the San Jacinto Mountains, the range that borders Palm Springs to the West, you'll find Tahquitz Falls, a splendid natural oasis that puts the hotel's pool to shame. Found at the end of the Tahquitz Canyon trail, the waterfall is surrounded by desert flowers such as apricot globemallow and red-budding chuparosa. Legend has it that the Tahquitz roams the canyon, feasting on human souls, so be sure to watch your step.

Another easy hike can be found at the Cactus to the Clouds Trail about a mile outside of town, a great path for those who want to get a feel for the terrain. But for those conditioned for a really challenging trail should try the 11.8 trail that runs up Marion Mountain to see a view that pioneering naturalist John Muir called "the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth."

Just don't attempt this or any other trail in the summer. It's far too hot.

Tags: Palm Springs