Guide to Desert Hiking in the Coachella Valley

As an avid hiker, I was excited to visit the Coachella Valley in California and do some desert hiking for the very first time. What I wasn’t prepared for was how different and technical it would be compared to the hiking trails in Ontario, Canada.

I am excited to share some tips I learned for desert hiking in the Coachella Valley to help you make the most of your desert hiking experience.

I love creating valuable content for you, my reader. However, there is a cost to maintaining a website. There may be affiliate links scattered throughout this site to help differ costs. By clicking on a link I may earn a small commission, BUT there will be no additional cost to you.

The Coachella Valley is located in Southern California and is surrounded by the San Jacinto Mountains and the Santa Rosa Mountains and on the north and east by the Little San Bernardino Mountains. The highest peaks in the surrounding mountains are Mt. San Jacinto (10,804′) and Mt. San Gorgonio (11,499′).

The Coachella Valley is located in the Sonoran Desert which extends from California through Arizona. The portion of the Sonoran Desert where the Coachella Valley lies is known as the Colorado Desert, which encompasses approximately 7 million acres. The vastness of the Colorado Desert should tell you why it’s so important to pay attention to safety when hiking in the desert.

Read Next: Best Day Hikes Around the World

A guide containing safety tips for hiking the Colorado Desert which is over 7 million acres

There are 26 hiking trails in the Coachella Valley that weave through the desert and the mountains. The trails range from easy to difficult. However, it’s important to note that if you’ve never hiked desert trails before, you will find them to be on the moderate to difficult side.

Preparing and Packing for a Desert Hike in the Sonora Desert

Preparing and packing for a desert hike isn’t a lot different than preparing and packing for a regular hikes, except that more needs to be taken into consideration.

Choose Your Trail Wisely

When choosing which desert trail to hike, keep in mind that the trails are more strenuous and a lot more technical. It is important to keep your physical capabilities in mind when deciding which desert trail to hike

Read Next: Lost at Rattlesnake Point

The desert trails in the Colorado Desert are narrow and can be dangerous
When desert hiking, yield to hikers climbing in elevation

Check the Conditions of the Trail

Before leaving for your hike make sure that the trail you’ve chosen is open and safe enough to hike. With desert hiking, there are more possibilities of flash flooding and avalanches.

Print Your Desert Trail Map

It is quite possible when hiking in the desert that you won’t have cell service or sporadic cell service. It is recommended to print a map or download an off-line map.

Pack Your Day Hike Essentials

Pack up all of the usual hiking essentials with an emphasis on additional water, sunscreen and a hat. You are in the desert and there is very little, if any, shaded spots to escape the sun.

If you will be hiking in the desert during the early morning hours or later in the evening, pack a light jacket as the temperatures tend to be on the cooler side.

Read Next: What to Pack for your Day Hike Essentials

Pack all of your day hike essentials and be prepared when hiking in the desert.

I also suggest that if you have hiking poles, use them. There is a lot of loose rock on the trails and variations in elevation. The poles will help to keep you steady and take the stress off your knees.

First Aid Kit

It is no secret that more things can go wrong when hiking in the desert than regular hiking. It is important to have a well put together first aid kit, which should include:

  • bandaids, gauze and tape
  • tweezers
  • polysporin
  • rubbing alcohol
  • tenser bandage

Safety Tips for Hiking the Desert Trails in the Coachella Valley

Avoid Desert Hiking during the heat of the day

The number one safety concern when hiking in the desert is sun/heat stroke and dehydration. In order to avoid this, I recommend hiking at 6 or 7 in the morning before the sun reaches its peak, or take a sunset hike which will also allow you to see some nocturnal creatures. It is also safer to hike the desert during the Winter months of January to April, which temperatures range from 50 to 70 degrees. During the Summer months the temperatures soar to over 100 degrees.



Get all the tips, tricks, and inspiration you need to travel alone with Just One Passport

Wear Proper Footwear

I can’t stress enough how important wearing the proper footwear is. The desert is dry and has an abundance of lose gravel and rocks. One wrong step and you’re going down. Wear proper hiking shoes or trail shoes that have a solid grip. Avoid sandals and flip flops at all costs!

Bring LOTS of Water

Even if you chose to hike the desert tails during the Winter months, the UV rays can still be quite high. In order to stay hydrated throughout your hike, bring extra water. I recommend bringing one bottle of water for every hour you plan on hiking.

Dress Appropriately

Wear light, breathable, loose clothing when hiking in the desert. I recommend white or light coloured clothing, with a long sleep top to protect you from the sun and bugs.

Stay on the Trails

Unlike hiking in a forest, it’s extremely easy to get turned around and even lost when hiking in the desert. The landscape all looks the same and you won’t find natural markers. Stay on the trail and don’t explore.

Read Next: Safety Tips for the Solo Hiker

There are 7 species of rattlesnakes in the Coachella Valley

Creepy Crawlers

The Sonoran Desert is well know for its various types of creepy crawlers. Depending on the time of the year you’re hiking in the desert, it is possible that you’ll come across:

  • Rattlesnakes. The Sonoran Desert is home to 7 different species of rattlesnakes
  • Scorpions. Scorpions are know to adapt to any climate, so it wouldn’t be unusual to see them out as early as March. It’s important to note that the Bark Scorpion found in the Coachella Valley is venemous.
  • Tarantula. There are two different species of Tarantula’s found in the Coachella Valley. Despite what many people think, Tarantulas are typically afraid of humans and avoid them.
  • Black Widow Spiders. There are two species of Black Widow Spikers that live in the Coachella Valley which can be harmful to those who have underlying conditions.
Scorpions can also be found when hiking the Colorado Desert

Larger Animals

While it is typically the smaller creepy crawlers that you might encounter when hiking in the desert, it is important to note that there are also larger animals, such as mountain goats, cougars, bears, mountain lions and bobcats. It is important to keep your eyes open for these creatures and give them the space they need. Under no circumstances should any of these animals be approached.

Desert Trail Etiquette

It is important not to leave your trail etiquette at home when hiking in the desert. The following hiking protocol should be followed at all times:

Do not venture off the desert trails as it's easy to get lost when hiking in the desert

Stay on the Trail

I know when we’re hiking, we are tempted to leave the trail to explore the surrounding area. Do not do this when hiking in the desert. Firstly, you will get lost, but secondly, we don’t want the vegetation ruined as many animals depend on it for their food and shelter.

Do Not Disturb or Touch the Desert Vegetation

Do not touch or disturb any of the vegetation. It’s beautiful to look at and take pictures of, but it could be poisonous and again, the animals count of this for their shelter and/or food.

Don't disturb the vegetation that grows in the Coloarado Desert

Yield to Fellow Hikers

Desert trails are extremely narrow and often run along the edge of a steep drop off. Trail protocol dictates that hikers going down yield the right of way to the hikers coming up the trail.

Leave No Trace

As always, it’s important for us as responsible hikers to carry out any items that we carry in. There are no garbage bins scattered throughout the desert and garbage should be stored in your backpack.

Is it Safe to Hike Alone in the Colorado Desert?

As an advocate for solo travel and solo hiking, I would love to tell you that yes it’s safe to hike solo in the Colorado Desert. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Unless you are already extremely familiar with the trails, I would advise not to hike the desert on your own.

Just because you’re travelling alone doesn’t mean that you can’t experience desert hiking. Palm Springs Hiking Tours offers guided hikes, bicycle tours, mountain bike tours and Jeep and SUV Tours.

Read Next: Benefits of Hiking Alone

Desert hiking is not safe to do solo.  Join a guided tour if you want to do some desert hiking.

Top Desert Trails to Hike in the Coachella Valley

With over 26 desert trails in the Coachella Valley, you will have no shortage of hiking trails to choose from. Trip Advisor has named the following trails as the top desert trails in the Coachella Valley:

  1. Indian Canyon Hiking Trails
  2. Bump and Grind Trail
  3. Murray Canyon Trail
  4. Palm Desert Cross Trail
  5. Palm Canyon Trail
  6. North Lykken Trail
  7. Palm Springs Museum Trail
  8. Art Smith Trail
  9. Araby Trail
  10. Randall Henderson Loop Trail

I have hiked a portion of the Indian Canyon Trail, Bump and Grind Trail, Art Smith Trail, Randall Henderson Loop Trail, and the Palm Desert Cross Trail. I can verify that each trail is unique in its own way and each offer challenges of their own.

Read Next: Best Trails in Waterloo Region for Beginner Hikers

Hiking the mountains provide beautiful views over the Coachella Valley

Complete Guide to Desert Hiking in the Coachella Valley

I hope this complete guide to desert hiking has provided some insight as to what to expect when hiking the desert in the Coachella Valley. It truly is an experience for all avid hikers to try. I would love to know if you’ve done any desert hiking and if you have anything that should be added.

Happy Hiking 🙂

Kelly xo

Are you ready to travel solo like a pro?


♥  CheapOair and WayAway offer flights at a resonable rate. Let CheapOair or WayAway find the cheapest and best flight for your destination


♥  I use to book all of my accommodations, both domestically and internationally


♥  Get Your Guide and Viator are the absolute best sites to plan and book any adventures, activities, and all things fun


♥ will find the best prices for bicycles, motocyles, and scooter rentals any place in the world.


♥  Economy Bookings will provide rental prices worldwide, which making it a one stop shop for the most reasonable car rentals


♥  Kiwitaxi is who you want to contact for transportation from the airport or train station.  Why not arrange for a PRIVATE CITY TOUR with Kiwitaxi at the same time.


♥  Cruise Critic not only provides reviews and answers questions, it also offers great cruise deals. If your a cruise lover (like me), I highly recommend that you check it out!


♥  Travel insurance these times of natural disasters, travel interruption and baggage loss is no longer a place where you can cut costs. essentials.  It has become an essential part of travel. Visitors Coverage will take care of all of your insurance needs.


37 thoughts on “Guide to Desert Hiking in the Coachella Valley

  1. Pingback: Guide to Visiting The Coachella Valley – JUST ONE PASSPORT

    1. kwarren29

      This is a great guide to hiking in the Coachella Valley and important desert hiking tips. I do have to respectfully disagree about solo desert hiking. With the right preparation, solid backcountry hiking skills, conservative choices on routes, and a good backup plan, hiking solo in the desert can be safe, even in unfamiliar terrain. I have done it often and find the solitude of the desert to be magical.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Just One Passport

        I don’t 100% disagree with you, but I wouldn’t recommend it for beginner hikers and even more experienced like you said have to make a lot of preparation and research of the area (especially when backpacking)


      2. kwarren29

        Yes, I agree that beginning hikers should get more skills before desert solo hiking. And experienced hikers need good prep. But it’s worth it.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Just One Passport

        I do a lot of solo hiking here in Canada (no deserts here). I’m sure I’ get use to solo hiking in the desert once I’ve done it more often. I completely agree that there’s nothing like being alone and one with nature.


  2. Josy A

    Really great tips! I am very used to hiking, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the technical aspects, but it is really good to hear about all the desert specific hiking tips! It is soooo different to Canada eh!?

    Hiking early in the morning to avoid the heat has to be the best tip! I would not be used to the heat!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Melanie

    Desert hiking can be really tough due to the challenges you’ve noted here (exposure, lack of water, flash floods, etc.), and as you say it’s so important to be prepared. There’s often some great views that make it worth it, though! Thanks for including points about the fragility of desert vegetation and the importance of staying on the trail.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Just One Passport

      It was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. I hike a lot in Ontario but the desert is so different than our flat Province. The desert vegetation is absolutely gorgeous and it makes me SO mad anytime I see hikers leaving garbage, ruining the vegetation, etc.


  4. Barry

    A fabulous list of hints and advice. the list of dangerous animals/ insects etc was rather terrifying as I had never thought of that and I have a snake-phobia, so something to overcome for me.
    The landscape reminds me a lot of the Atlas mountains of Morocco or those of Lebanon. This would be a definite read for me if I am ever going to take on these trails and despite being a solo traveller, I totally get your advice to not do this alone.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. BlondeAroundTheWorld

    How nice it is to read a detailed and knowledgeable guide. I think it is extremely important to have these kinds of informative posts that actually contain valuable content. A lot of people go hiking without having the slightest idea of what they are doing and not always everything goes well because they have not been informed beforehand. Congratulations also for the environmental protection awareness alert.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Carolin | Solo Travel Story (@SoloTravelStory)

    This was a helpful list of considerations before you tackle a hike in a desert. As a solo traveller we tend to tackle most adventures alone, but this one, as you’ve also pointed out, would be best to explore as part of a group. You mentioned you hiked a few of the trails in the Coachella area and I’d like to hear your recommendations for first time hikers (ideally easy to moderate). Thanks!

    Carolin | Solo Travel Story

    Liked by 1 person

  7. thedctraveler9b7e4f7d4d

    26 trails in one valley?! That seems crazy to me haha. I’ve never been hiking in the desert before but with all the info you provided (and AllTrails of course haha) I feel like I’d be able to do a few hikes! It would definitely be different than hiking in the woods in PA haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Emma

    You lost me at tarantulas!! Haha. Oh boy, this would be fun but very different. I’ve done some desert hiking here in canada, although it would be very different here. Avoiding the hot part of the day, having extra water are two really important tips. The first time I hear rattle snakes on a hike I kind of panicked but sounds like there’s a lot more interesting wildlife here

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ryan Biddulph

    Carefully choosing trails is important Kelly. Technical hikes challenge even highly experienced hikers. Desert hikes, with some rough terrain, need serious respect. Weather conditions can be brutal. We hiked during gorgeous 70 degree weather in the Oman desert but the nearly 11 UV sun rays meant being burned in 3-5 minutes; not kidding! Covering up entirely with block slathered onto neck was the only solution.


    Liked by 1 person

  10. awakenedvoyages

    I loved your previous Coachella Valley article and was excited about adding hiking there to my list until I got to the creepy crawlers, bears and cougars bit lol. It’s good to know you can do this hike with tours though and the gorgeous scenery makes it worthwile. Great advise and suggestions about preparing safely for a hike in the desert!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail in San Diego, California - Beyond The Moments

  12. Pingback: Best Hiking Quotes - Hiking in Big Sur

  13. Pingback: Best Trails In The Waterloo Region For Beginner Hikers – JUST ONE PASSPORT

  14. Pingback: 7 Life Changing Benefits of Hiking Solo – JUST ONE PASSPORT

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.