Day Hikes in Palm Desert Area

Day Hikes in Palm Desert Area Claimed

3 Days | January 2021 | Couples | Active

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Trip Overview

A quick getaway to Palm Desert with friends where we did a wonderful hike each day.

Full Itinerary

Palm Desert in winter is a great time to get out and discover some of the terrific hiking in the area! As we were there during the pandemic, we didn’t have the ‘distractions’ of things like restaurants, shopping, and golf which allowed us to do a hike each day without any FOMO regarding other activities – and it was fantastic!

Here are three hikes to do in the Palm Desert area – one is a very popular local spot and the other two are a bit further away (but both within an hour drive) and they were spectacular.

Hike 1: Bump and Grind

The very popular ‘bump and grind’ trail is right in the heart of Palm Desert. Park on Parkview Drive right behind the Target in the Desert Crossing Shopping Center. The hill ends right at the street, so just park and then start on up the hill!

This 4 mile loop is filled with lots of walkers and runners and is a great way to get your heart pumping and still have plenty of time left in your day for other activities. It’s recommended as best from October through May, given the desert heat, has 1105 elevation gain and allows for views over downtown Palm Desert.

It took about 1 hour 15 minutes. Don’t forget your water.

Hike 2: Ladder Canyon and Painted Canyon Trail in Mecca Hills Wilderness

This hike was AWESOME – one of my favorite I’ve done in ages. The huge walled canyon you walk through, the ladders to climb up the slots, the feeling like you’ve ‘discovered’ it when you get to the end of the dirt road and find it.

Unlike the ‘commercial’ (but stunning!) slot canyons of Arizona where you buy a ticket, have a guide and are ushered through in groups…here you feel like it’s just you who have discovered this beautiful place. The slots aren’t as dramatic as those in Arizona, but here you are hiking, not on a tour.

We missed the dirt road turn off when driving to the area (not great cell service), but the 10 or so extra miles we drove was through such spectacular desert scenery (plus some very ‘Breaking Bad’ looking campers parked in random places) that we were so happy for the error! Once we got on the dirt road there are a few areas for hiking but we continued to the end where the ‘ladders hike’ is.

There is a 4.9 mile loop that apparently can normally be heavily trafficked, but on our day we saw maybe 5 other groups. After you park you will see the sign indicating where the entry is to the trail. You will start walking between two canyon walls on either side of you. You can either continue on this trail for a few miles or…this is key…after you have walked about 100 yards you will be a big arrow made out of rocks in the trail. The rock arrow points left to where the entrance to the ‘ladders’ are. Enter and you will see where people have brought in ladders that allow you to climb up between the slots – there are about 3-4 ladders you climb to get to the top. Then you can continue the loop hike (great views of the nearby Salton Sea), coming back down a couple other ladders (easier ones) on the way back. If you don’t want to do the ladders just keep going straight up between the canyon walls for a beautiful moderate hike!

Afterwards, continue your adventures to the Salton Sea, or head on back to PS. Don’t forget water! No restroom facilities at this trailhead although there are some at other trailheads en route to this one that you’ll pass as you drive.

Hike 3: Joshua TreeJoshua Tree is usually a trip in and of itself, but we decided to do an early morning hike and be back in PS by early afternoon.

Leaving Palm Desert by about 6:30 we were in the North Entrance (by Visitors Center just past Yucca Valley) to the park by 7:30 and on the trail by 8.

There are different entries to the Park but we decided to use the main North Entrance, hike up and back to Ryan Mountain, a summit that allows one to have a great view of the Park, and then leave via the Oasis Visitor Center exit at Twentynine Palms. This allowed us to see a lot of cool stuff the park has to offer (the big amazing rock formations, the Joshua Trees, a view of the park from the summit) in an efficient way. We did not make it to the south end of the park this trip.

The Ryan Mountain trail is short (3 mile out and back) but steep (1069’ elevation gain) so it is a good workout. We went early so had few other people on the trail, and it was a bit windy at the top, but the views are terrific. It took us about 1.5 hours and was a great way to start the day! There are lots of areas to stop and look at things both before and after the trailhead, so be sure to leave time for more exploring and amazing photo ops of the wonderfully unique landscape and rocks such as Skull Rock and the Jumbo Rocks.

We continued our drive around the loop to exit via the Oasis Visitor Center at Twentynine Palms. Happy Trails!



Time of year


Type of Trip



quick getaway/weekend

Who Went

Couple, Friends (45-65 yr old)

Accommodation Type



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