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Hiking Palm Springs: Museum Trail - North Lykken Trail loop

The start of the Museum Trail
The start of the Museum Trail
Deb Stanley

If you're looking for a short, scenic, workout hike, don't miss the Museum Trail and North Lykken Trail loop. But before you go, you'll have to decide which trail you want to climb up and which one you want to take down.

Scenery along the North Lykken Trail, Palm Springs
Deb Stanley

The Museum Trail is steeper -- you'll gain 950 feet in 0.8 miles. The North Lykken Trailhead starts at a higher elevation, but the trail is longer, so you'll gain 860 feet of 1.4 miles. I choose to get the elevation gain out of the way first, and enjoy the views down for longer, by going UP the Museum Trail and DOWN the North Lykken Trail.

The Museum Trail is aptly named because it's right behind the Palm Springs Art Museum (directions below). Park on Museum Drive and walk through the museum's parking lot to the trailhead. It's in the northwest corner of the parking lot. Back in the trees, you'll see a sign that says "Welcome to the Museum Trailhead." It warns that if you park in the museum's parking lot, you could get ticketed or towed. The sign also warns that this trail is strenuous and very steep.

When you're ready to go, take a step up on the concrete wall, turn left on the dirt trail and start hiking. The trail quickly switchbacks and starts gaining elevation. The trail crosses over pipes and passes a metal fence that has seen better days. Be careful and stay on the trail.

Less than a tenth of a mile from the trailhead, you'll come to a road. Cross the paved road and you'll see a sign on the other side that says, "Museum Trail, stay on trail." That seems simple, but it's about to get difficult to stay on trail.

As you continue hiking up the steep, rocky trail, you'll soon notice white arrows pointing you the right way. You may also see white dots. That's great. However, there are places where the white dots go different ways. I had read that you should follow the white dots. I had also read an article on the internet about a blogger who got lost up here. I finally realized why when I saw the white dots all over the place -- some on the trail, some not so much. At one point, while I stood on the trail trying to determine which way, a trail runner caught up to me. She said said she read an article that told people to bring white spray paint and mark the trail -- maybe that's why there are so many white dots up here.

The good news? While I often took one route and the trail runner took a different path, we kept running into each other when the trails intersected. It seemed that as long as you were going up, you were going the right way. Heck, at one point, there was an arrow that pointed BOTH ways.

I tried to follow the paths with the most footprints and when I saw a hiker coming down the trail, I tried to figure out which way they had come from and go that way. It can be hard to find your way when you're breathing hard from the steep hike up, so take lots of breaks and enjoy the views.

Suddenly, just .75 miles from the trailhead, I came around a corner and saw the picnic benches. That meant I was almost done with the hardest part of this hike. After enjoying the views here, I continued straight up the trail, between the picnic benches, up and over a hill and down to a trail split.

While the split was unsigned in Nov. 2013, there was a large pile of rocks and a sign that explained hiking club volunteers had removed the shortcuts on the next section of trail to reduce erosion. Well, after all the confusion on the Museum Trail, I was thrilled to read that.

At the trail split you have two options. Going north will take you to the Skyline Trail, a steep, long hike to the top of the mountains and the tram (about 9 miles and 7,000 feet of elevation gain from this spot). Going south is the North Lykken Trail -- I chose that way.

The North Lykken Trail is a treat after the Museum Trail. It's mostly downhill and has great views of the Palm Springs area. I also enjoyed looking at the rocks as I hiked down. There are a few white dots along the path, but they aren't needed because the path is easy to follow.

After hiking about 0.9 miles and dropping about 500 feet, there's a sign for the Lykken Trail. From here, it's just under a half mile to the trailhead. Keep working your way down the hill, down several switchbacks, until the trail ends at Ramon Road. It's easy to find the trailhead, there are typically lots of cars parked here.

If you've pre-parked a car here, then your 2.2 mile hike is over. If you need to walk back to your car at the Museum, go east on Ramon Road about 0.4 mile to the first left turn. Take Cahuilla Road north about 0.5 miles to Tahquitz Canyon Way. At this intersection you should see the Art Museum, but go left/west on Tahquitz a few steps, then turn right/north on Museum Drive back to your car.

Details: From the Palm Springs Art Museum parking lot to the picnic tables is 0.8 miles, to the trailhead at Ramon Road is 2.17 miles, to do the full loop was about 3.25 miles.

Fee: There is no fee for parking in the area, but do not park in the museum's lot. Park on Museum Drive or nearby.

If you're looking for another short, steep, challenging trail, hike the Bump N Grind trail in Palm Desert. If you want to hike the North Lykken trail, read about that here. Find more than 25 great hikes in the Coachella Valley here.

Directions: Google 110 North Museum Drive, Palm Springs, Calif. for directions. Or take Palm Canyon Drive south to Tahquitz Canyon Way and turn right/west. Drive 0.2 miles and turn right/north on Museum Drive. Go past the museum and find a parking space. You should see the museum's parking lot on the north side of the building. The trailhead is in the northwest corner of the parking lot.

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