The Luxurious Desert: Hiking Rancho Mirage
Over 3.5 million people visit the Coachella Valley each year to drink in its sunshine and unique, austere, and luxurious desert beauty.
One of the best ways to see, taste, and touch the wonders of this region is to get out and walk – or hike – through it. Rancho Mirage – one of nine cities in the valley – offers great hiking trails for both the novice and advanced hiker.
Here are some of the best options for hiking in and around Rancho Mirage.
Bighorn Overlook Trail
Smooth dirt trails and great scenery make this a popular hike. But it’s not an easy stroll; there are steep areas on the trail and a sharp drop-off on one side. The trail is less than a quarter of a mile, and at the top is a picnic shelter and spectacular panoramic view. The trailhead can be found right at the foot of the Rancho Mirage City Hall.
Butler Abrams Trail
This quiet, three-mile trail parallels the Whitewater Wash – dipping down and then out of it – and offers great views of lush, green golf courses and the spectacular mountains in the area. It is an easy asphalt trail, and it actually splits into two trails – one for walking, running, and biking, and another for horseback riding. There is no shade along the trail. It is accessible from Michael S. Wolfson Park.
At about two miles with a moderate up-and-down incline – about 400 feet of elevation gain – this is a relatively easy hike. It’s mainly a dirt-and-rock trail, with about a half-mile section on the road, and you’ll see mountains and wildlife along with nice views of Cathedral City and the high-priced real estate of Rancho Mirage. The entrance is near the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and parking is permitted in the upper lot of City Hall.
Jack Rabbit Trail
This lightly traveled 1.4-mile trail starts at the east end of Cancer Survivor Park and has an elevation gain of 190 feet. It goes through several switchbacks, passes Bighorn Overlook, and continues on toward Frank Sinatra Drive, eventually merging with the Roadrunner Trail.
This easy trail begins just past the grassy area in front of the Villas of Mirada fountain. The views from the trail itself aren’t spectacular, but it’s a great trail for a morning or evening workout. It joins both the Bighorn Overlook Trail and Roadrunner Trail for a longer hike/workout.
Magnesia Springs Canyon
Start at Mirage Road in the southeast part of town and take an out-and-back hike (five miles one way) into the desert. This is definitely a more challenging hike than the ones within the city limits, as it includes a 1100+ foot elevation gain, but you’ll really feel like you’re in the wilderness.
You’ll start off on dirt roads, but then you’ll find yourself within the narrow, twisting canyon. You will have to climb up or around a few dry stone waterfalls, but the palm groves and colorful canyon walls are well worth the effort. Thanks to the steep canyon walls, there is plenty of shade along the hike. Wear good hiking shoes and travel lightly so you can keep your hands free to grab onto rocks. Give yourself a few hours for this hike. It’s officially open from October 1-December 31.
Bump and Grind Trail
The last trail on our list isn’t in Rancho Mirage, but it’s a very popular trail for both locals and tourists. In the Santa Rosa foothills above Palm Desert, this trail is intermediate in difficulty and offers beautiful views of the wildflowers and desert scenery. The trailhead for the three-mile loop is behind the Target shopping center on Painter’s Path. You might see a bighorn sheep or two as you hike this trail, and at one point you can look down into Porcupine Creek, Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison’s 240-acre ultra-luxury estate. There is no shade on this trail, and the “grind” section – the most challenging part of the trail – takes about ten minutes to get through.
Be a Smart Hiker
Remember that the Coachella Valley is very much a desert environment, and daytime temperatures can sizzle past 100 degrees. So it is absolutely essential to bring enough water with you when hiking trails in and around Rancho Mirage. Wear proper clothing – it’s best to dress in layers – and be sure you have comfortable and durable hiking boots with good traction. Hike early in the morning or in the evening, especially during summer months, and bring food, sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, a flashlight, Chapstick, and toilet paper.
And be sure to check the weather forecast before setting out. This may seem like overkill, but if you venture outside of the city, the desert can quickly become a harsh and inhospitable place if you aren’t prepared for it.