After more than 25 years of looking at the mountains surrounding Palm Springs, it’s really fun to hike them. The North Lykken Trail takes hikers some 850 feet above the city and along a four mile stretch of the mountain slope from Ramon Road to Vista Chino.
Hikers can start the trail at either end, but I recommend leaving a vehicle at the north end of the trail (near Vista Chino) and starting on the south end at Ramon Road (directions below).
At the Ramon Road trailhead, check out the sign. It warns hikers that while you’re starting at 500 feet above sea level, you’ll be hiking up to 1,400, back down to 650, up to 875, down a bit, then up to 1,050 before dropping back down to 800 feet at the upper trailhead. I’m not a fan of hikes that go up and down several times, but it was worth it to do this hike and see this area.
From Ramon Road, walk north over a wash. While the dirt path veers right, the trail you want actually turns left at a sign for the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. Take a deep breath and get ready to climb. The trail gains about 850 feet in the next 1.3 miles. That means a lot of hiking uphill.
The trail starts with a series of several switchbacks. Switchbacks are trails that go back and forth across a mountain instead of straight up. As you hike, you may notice white dots on the rocks, those were put there to help hikers follow the initial trail. As you climb, check out the rock formations along the trail and up the hillside. Bring a camera and you can take a photo whenever you need a break.
About 0.45 miles from the trailhead, the trail crests a hill and comes into a small valley. Here you’ll get to take a few steps on a flat plateau. You’ll also pass a brown pole with sign that says Lykken. A second sign featured a Bob Marley quote, but the sign looked like it might change occasionally.
After a short walk on this plateau, it was time to climb again. After another 60 feet of elevation gain, we arrived at a second valley/plateau with a short drop. But it didn’t last long before we were climbing again.
Soon the trail winds its way to the edge of the valley with views that stretch for miles east. When you need a break, look for the airport to the east, the wind turbines to the north, the large Marilyn Monroe statue on Palm Canyon Drive below you and maybe your hotel, if you’re staying in the area. The views up here are impressive.
Eventually you’ll reach the third valley – you’re just about to hit the high point of the trail. When you see a large pile of rocks (a cairn) and a sign that talks about the hiking clib volunteers who worked on the trail, you’ve pretty much hit the high point. You may notice a three-way trail split here. You can turn left here and stay on the Lykken Trail (a few feet away, it passes the Long Valley Trail to the top of the Tram mountain), but I suggest a detour here. Take the trail going east – that’s the Museum Trail. The trail goes over a hill and drops down to five picnic tables. The picnic tables are a nice spot to take a break and enjoy the views.
When you’re ready to continue on, go to the highest table and took for a trail going north. This trail will take you around the hill, past a plaque, back to the Lykken Trail. When you get there, turn right and start heading down hill. The trail drops steeply here.
About a half mile from the picnic tables (and a 500 foot drop in elevation), you’ll come to a split. Turn left here. You’ll want to go west and north, staying on the mountain slope.
After another half mile or so, about 2.6 miles from the trailhead, the trail bottoms out. You should see a brown sign with an arrow pointing you left. A few feet away I spotted an almost cave-like area, but since there was a blanket nearby, I decided not to go exploring as I didn’t want to run into anyone who might be living here.
As you wind through the rocks here, you may spot a couple brown trail signs. Continue north and slightly west following the trail. You may notice a slight uphill as you walk – that’s because you’ll be gaining about 400 feet over the next 1.5 miles. Enjoy the desert views to your west and the neighborhood views to your east. You may occasionally hear traffic noise in this area.
At the top of the next hill, there are more picnic tables if you’d like to take a break. I especially liked this spot because I could see for miles in the distance and I could see my Jeep on the road below. When you’re ready to finish the hike, it’s about 0.2 miles and a drop of 250 feet to your vehicle below.
Looking for more hikes, check out this list.
Details: The hike from the Ramon Road trailhead to the north trailhead on Cielo Road is about 4.3 miles with about 1,400 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: The north trailhead is off Vista Chino Road. From Indian Canyon Drive and Vista Chino, take Vista Chino west. Pass Palm Canyon Drive, and take the first right – Via Norte. Take the first left – Chino Canyon Road. At the next street, turn left on Panorama Road. It bends right. At the next road split, veer left on Cielo Road. Take Cielo Road to the circle drive at the end. Go around the circle and on your way back down the road, take the first right turn. It looks like someone’s driveway, but in that circle you should see the trailhead. There’s only parking for 2-3 vehicles here. If it’s full, go back down to Cielo and find a place to pull over the pavement and park.
The south trailhead is on the corner of Ramon Road and La Mirada Drive. From Ramon Road and Palm Canyon Drive, go west on Ramon Road a half mile to the trailhead where Ramon Road ends.