Take a Walk on the Wild Side of Palm Springs

McKinney is the author of hiking books and a regular contributor to The Times.

Palm Springs today is a curious sight--a chain of sparkling green islands on the desert sand. For a good overview of the resort, hikers can take Museum and Lykken trails.

This hike in the hills begins at the Palm Springs Desert Museum, where natural-science exhibits recreate the unique ecology of Palm Springs and the surrounding Colorado Desert. Displays interpret the astonishing variety of plant and animal life in addition to the powerful geological forces that shaped this desert land. The museum also has exhibits portraying the original inhabitants of the Coachella Valley, who managed to live in what seems to be a harsh and unforgiving land.

The steep Museum Trail ascends the western base of Mt. San Jacinto. Letters painted on the rocks suggest that this was once a nature trail. After a mile climb, Museum Trail junctions with Lykken Trail. This trail, formerly known as Skyline Trail, winds through the Palm Springs hills north to Tramway Road and south to Ramon Road.

Skyline Trail was renamed Lykken Trail in 1972 in honor of Carl Lykken, Palm Springs pioneer and the town's first postmaster. Lykken, who arrived in 1913, owned a general merchandise store and later a department/hardware store.

Early Palm Springs social life consisted of stopping at the Desert Inn to check if any new and interesting guests had arrived, then dropping by Carl Lykken's store to pick up the mail, make a phone call (Lykken had the first telephone) and catch up on all the gossip.

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 111 (Palm Canyon Drive) in the middle of downtown Palm Springs, turn west on Tahquitz-McCallum Way, then right on Museum Drive. Park in Palm Springs Desert Museum's north lot.

The trail begins behind the museum, between the museum and an administration building, near a plaque honoring Carl Lykken. During the hot summer months, the trail is closed for health reasons (yours), but it is thoroughly enjoyable during cooler months.

The Hike: The trail ascends the rocky slope above the museum. Soon you'll intersect a private road, jog left, then resume the trail walking up the mountainside. As you rapidly gain elevation, the view widens from the Desert Fashion Plaza to the outskirts of Palm Springs to the wide-open spaces of the Coachella Valley.

A mile's ascent brings you to a picnic area built by the Desert Riders, local equestrians whose membership included Carl Lykken. One of the Desert Riders, former Palm Springs Mayor Frank Bogert, is a real trail enthusiast whose efforts have contributed much to the state's trail system.

The Carl Lykken trail's north leg goes to Tramway Road; it's not too exciting. Instead, bear left (south) on Lykken Trail, which travels the hills above town before descending to Ramon Road near the mouth of Tahquitz Canyon. You can follow Ramon Road to downtown Palm Springs or return the way you came.

Lykken Trail

Palm Springs Desert Museum to Desert Riders Overlook

2 miles round trip; 800-foot elevation gain

Palm Springs Desert Museum to Ramon Drive

4 miles round trip; 800-foot elevation gain

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