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blueBlack Art Smith Trail to Cathedral Canyon

  4.5 ( 4 ) Favorite


12.0 mile 19.4 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 2,262' 690 m
Descent: -2,575' -785 m
High: 2,450' 747 m
Low: 717' 219 m


Avg Grade: 8% (4°)
Max Grade: 35% (19°)


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Trail shared by Mitch Moldenhauer

A hike from Palm Desert to Cathedral City via the Art Smith Trail, Dunn Road, and Cathedral Canyon Trail.

Mitch Moldenhauer

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This route goes from the Art Smith Trailhead off of Highway 74 in Palm Desert to Dunn Road (a dirt road), to Cathedral Canyon Trail which ends at the top of the Cathedral City Cove. Most of the climbing is at the beginning of the hike when you are fresh; after the initial climb, this trail isn't as hard as the mileage might suggest. It is a very nice, remote route that offers solitude most of the way. You may encounter other hikers at the beginning and end of the trail who are just hiking short distances up and back.

Need to Know

It is important to bring enough water as there are no water sources along the trail or at the trailheads. The region has very low humidity which can surprise some. There is no shade along the trail. Cell phone service is intermittent, but available at viewpoints and the intersection of Dunn Road and the Art Smith Trail.


The hike begins at the parking lot west of the Santa Rosa Mountains Visitor Center in south Palm Desert off Highway 74.

From there you follow the levee 2,000 feet north before turning left for perhaps 1,000 feet. There is a sign to the right that says "Art Smith Trail". Follow this trail as you begin your climb. After a mile and a half of climbing, you'll reach the intersection of the Art Smith Trail and the Hopalong Cassidy Trail. From here, make sure you stay left to follow the Art Smith Trail.

The trail climbs for another mile or so, and then begins a series of more gentle ups and downs as you meander through the desert mountains. Cell phone service is available at some of the viewpoints along the way, but is unavailable anywhere the trail dips below surrounding terrain. It may be beneficial to share your progress with someone when cell phone service is available as this is not a busy trail. After about 8.2 miles, the Art Smith Trail ends where several tables are located adjacent to Dunn Road; this is a great spot to take a break, eat a meal, and rest up for the final 4 miles which are mostly downhill.

From here it is a 2-3 mile downhill hike along Dunn Road that is mostly used by mountain bikers and, perhaps off road vehicles. As far as road hiking goes, this is very good, as it really is nothing more than a wide trail. After 2-3 miles you'll see the intersection of the Cathedral Canyon Trail to the right. Take this to head down to the top of the Cathedral City cove via a sometimes narrow, sometimes steep trail that can be slippery due to pebbles on top of larger rocks below. It is advisable to slow your downhill pace to reduce the chance of any slipping.

There is no designated parking at the top of the cove, but it is possible to park on the street if you make this hike with two cars.

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Apr 8, 2019
Ralph Saldana
Mar 31, 2019
Eduardo Hernandez
Mar 31, 2018
Craig Briscoe

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 4 votes


  4.5 from 4 votes
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