“A tough but rewarding tour of the best trails in the desert.”
— hugh mcgrath
All of the trails are open year round to mountain biking.
While this ride ventures above 2000' in elevation, that doesn't mean a significant decrease in summer temperatures. To complete this ride, a gallon of water is advised and that is more weight to bring up to elevation. This can make mountain biking very strenuous; avoid this ride when it's hot.
Mountain biking outside of established trails is prohibited in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.
The Desert Riders is an equestrian club responsible for blazing many of the trails in the Coachella Valley. The group was formally founded in 1931 and many of the trails in the area are named after Desert Riders members (Lykken, Hoff, Burgess, Hahn, Smith, and Schuler to name a few).
In 1972, one of their members, Art Smith, established The Desert Riders Trail Foundation. He was known as "The Trail Boss."
The Desert Riders created a total of 28 trails in the area, many of them utilizing the original ancient trails of the Cahuilla Indians. The group is still active and many of the trails are open to mountain biking and hiking. The trails are all in great condition.
The Art Smith Trail
is a tough but very rewarding way to access the Hahns Buena Vista Trail
and other trails in the area. All of the trails that enter the Agua Caliente Reservation are off limits to mountain biking. There is plenty of scenery, and the route is very secluded. The terrain varies from switchbacks to rolling high desert to sandy washes which are infrequent.
There are a couple of sections on the Art Smith Trail
where intermediate to advanced riders will need to push the bike.
Need to Know
The route is well signed. Whenever you enter a dry wash on the Art Smith Trail
and at the end of Hahns Buena Vista Trail
, look for signs and foot traffic to find your way out. You'll also need to remove cactus needles from your tires occasionally along the way. Keep in mind that every trail used in this ride has climbing sections.
The ride mapped on this page is a point-to-point, shuttle ride, utilizing a car at the parking spot near the Bighorn Country Club and the parking lot off Hwy 111 (see the parking symbol).
The ride begins just south of Bighorn Country Club on Highway 74 in Palm Desert. You'll be traveling in a very remote area and need to take plenty of water and be ready for repairs. At the midway point of the ride, you'll be 8 miles away from civilization of any sort so plan accordingly. Once you have finished Art Smith Trail
, cross Dunn Road and start Hahns Buena Vista Trail
After a very short climb, you'll be at Hahns Peak at over 2,500 feet and will have a great view of Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Desert. To the south, you'll be looking at the Santa Rosa Mountains and the Palm Canyon trail area.
After you descend Hahns Buena Vista Trail
, watch for signs for Dunn Rd. and also "Trading Post". Once you enter into a wash, you'll intersect with Dunn Road Trail
which climbs out of the wash on the right. Follow Dunn Road Trail
on a roller-coaster ride through many smaller washes until you intersect Dunn Rd. At this point, those who are very fit and adventurous could make a right and climb southeast on Dunn Rd. and ride in a loop taking Art Smith back to Hwy 74 in Palm Desert. But, for the 15-mile point-to-point ride mapped on this page, you would simply cross Dunn Rd and hop on Cathedral Canyon Trail
The trail climbs a bit and then steeply descends to the Cathedral City residential cove. Cathedral Canyon Trail
suffers from erosion and is not an easy way down, but it is a fun place to work on your technical skills.