This is my favorite trail mainly because it is close to home and I always see something different. The start of the trail is close to Highway 74 yet you can get lost in the desert hills of the Santa Rosa Mountain wilderness.
Be warned that summer temperatures are routinely in the 100 degree area - carry more water than you think you need!
The Art Smith Trail parking lot is off of Highway 74 about three miles south of the intersection of Highway 111 and Highway 74 in Palm Desert California.
Park your car and look north. You will see two trails. One goes west into Dead Indian Canyon and the other is north and is a switchback going up the north side of the hill.
The original trail is found via Dead Indian Canyon. It is the trail used by Art Smith to move horses from Palm Springs to Anza to escape the summer heat. If you are fortunate enough to take this trail follow the wash for about a half-mile and you will see the trail going up a canyon to the north. Continue another half mile and you will see the Art Smith Trail trail sign - the real trail.
Dead Indian Canyon is closed nine of twelve months each year by a fence and gate. If the gate is locked use the switchback trail known by locals as Developers Trail because the trail and fence was built by developer money - developers who built the Big Horn Country Club. Some sort of land and most likely money swap with the BLM and the development was in play.
Developers trail will take you up to the Canyon Trail and the Schey's Trail. You will not know this because there is very little signage. There has been a concentrated effort to obliterate the Canyon and Scheys Trails. The Canyon and the Schey's trails only have remnants of their original greatness because of the developments. About 1.5 miles up Developers Trail you will get on the Art Smith Trail.
Start to finish the Art Smith Trail is roughly 8 miles and ends at Dunn Road. There is a nice picnic area at the intersection of Dunn Road. After that eight mile hike you will most likely need a good rest.
You will then have three choices.
1. Turn around and go back the way you came - another eight miles.
2. Cross Dunn Road and take the Hanna Buena Vista Trail to Palm Springs - maybe another eight miles.
3. Turn right on Dunn Road and follow Dunn Road down to Cathedral City - about another 5 miles.
Most people do not get to Dunn Road.
I've heard that the Art Smith Trail is not for the 'faint of heart or body' but what do I know. If I listened to everything I hear I'd probably stay home and watch TV.
Be prepared and have fun.
Take a look at our Photo Gallery.
See if you can see Squirrel Rock and or Gorilla Rock?
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