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Hiking in Palm Springs: The Museum Trail

The Museum Trailhead
The Museum Trailhead
Deb Stanley

If you want a quick hike or a fast workout with good views, it's time to tackle the short, steep Museum Trail.

Museum Trail, Palm Springs
Deb Stanley

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 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 -- the destination for this hike! While many articles have different distances for this hike, my GPS agreed with the sign at the trailhead, the hike was just 0.8 miles each way with about 900 feet of elevation gain.

At the picnic tables, it's decision time -- return the way you came, or continue up the trail to the intersection with the Lykken & Skyline Trails. The Lyyken Trail goes south, ending at Ramon Road. The Skyline Trail goes north, ending at the top of the mountain at the Tram (10 miles, 8,000 feet of elevation gain).

Details: From the Palm Springs Art Museum parking lot to the picnic tables was 1.6 miles roundtrip with 900 feet of elevation gain.

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.

In the Palm Springs area, don't miss: Mission Creek Preserve, Whitewater Preserve, Thousand Palms Preserve, Morongo Canyon Preserve, Morongo Canyon Preserve to Desert Hot Springs, Ladder Canyon, Lost Horse Mine (Joshua Tree National Park), Barker Dam (JTNP), Wall Street Mill (JTNP), Lost Palms Oasis (JTNP), Lower Cottonwood wash (JTNP), Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon, Edom Hill and more listed below. Check out this list of more than two dozen hikes in the Coachella Valley.

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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