“This singletrack is a tough climb through desert scenery, but is a gateway to great trails.”
— hugh mcgrath
Contrary to previous years, the Art Smith Trail is now open year round. Be advised, this trail leads above 2000' in elevation but that doesn't mean a significant decrease in temperature from the Coachella Valley. It is also just as dry in the mountains as it is on the valley floor. In order to complete this ride on a hot day, a gallon of water is recommended and that's more weight to bring up to elevation. This can make mountain biking very strenuous. Avoid this ride if it's hot.
The trail starts out from Highway 74 immediately south of Bighorn Country Club. Just south of the fence surrounding Bighorn Country Club, you'll encounter the signed trailhead on your right.
The first mile is a tough one, ascending switchbacks. There are a decent amount of hike-a-bike sections throughout the trail but the reward is lots and lots of singletrack and access to great trails like Hahns Buena Vista Trail
. You'll pass very close to a few palm oases, and the trail spends very little time in dry washes. There is a really nice downhill section about six miles in where you'll descend into a canyon.
From there, you'll climb back out and spend a little time in a dry wash before climbing out again and coming to Mike Dunn's "rest area" on Dunn Road which is also the trailhead for the Hahns Buena Vista Trail
The trail is well marked and suffers from very little erosion and is in great condition. Take lots of water, and be ready with tweezers to remove cactus needles from your tires and/or your appendages. The Cholla cactii are all along the trail, and you'll get a lot of them trying to hitch a ride.
The Hopalong Cassidy
Trail also starts at an intersection a mile or two from the beginning of Art Smith. That section of Hopalong Cassidy
has a few significant hike-a-bike sections and tough climbs until you get to the Palm Desert. Cross if you were looking to connect to other trails in the Palm Desert/Cahuilla Hills area.
You can use this trail to make loops or shuttle rides depending on the weather and your endurance. If you were to ride onward and do Hahns Buena Vista Trail
to Dunn Road Trail
to Cathedral Canyon Trail
you would be looking at a 26-mile loop riding Highway 111 and Highway 74 back to the Art Smith Trailhead.