Art Smith Trail Guide
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||16.6 miles (26.7 km)|
|Other Options||6 miles roundtrip to first oasis|
|Hike Time||6-8 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||3,700 feet (1128m)|
|Highest Elevation||2,480 feet (756m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument|
|Weather & Forecast||Latest Conditions|
|Stay Safe||Copy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.|
The Art Smith Trail offers a skillfully routed hike through the desert foothills, making you feel like you are many miles away from civilization. Referenced to by the Forest Service as “truly one of the signature trails in the (Santa Rosa & San Jacinto) National Monument,” the Art Smith Trail features palm oases, dramatic rock formations, sweeping views, and unlike many other foothill hikes in the area, some solitude. There’s climbing, but it’s not too steep, and it’s spread over a more extended series of ups and downs, making it a good workout without extreme gradients.
Where is the Art Smith Trail?
There is a nice big parking lot for the Art Smith Trail located here:
Art Smith Trailhead, Roy Wilson Memorial Hwy, Palm Desert, CA 92260
There are no bathrooms or water fills at the trailhead or on the trail.
Gear For the Hike
This is a full-on desert hike. There is no shade. Prepare for the conditions and wear sun protection. In the warmer months, this trail is a non-starter. Bring at least 3L of water for the full hike. Trekking poles will be fine if you’re used to them, but otherwise, don’t go out of your way to use them. The slopes are pretty easy to go up and down without slipping.
Garmin InReach Mini 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI
Altra Lone Peak 6
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Terraventure 3 or Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon
Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 2022.
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
Art Smith Trail Maps
One thing to note is how cleverly built this trail is. For most of the route you are only a couple of miles away from the development in the Palm Desert Area, but because of how this trail is routed, you rarely see or hear it. It feels like you are much deeper into the desert than you actually are.
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Who is Art Smith?
In the beginning, the Desert Riders simply road wherever they wanted. But as the Coachella Valley became more developed, they realized the need for conservation and started collecting dues to build and maintain trails. It was one of the country’s earliest and most successful private trail development projects.
Art Smith, who was considered “trail boss” after 30 years at the club, founded the Desert Riders Trail Foundation in 1972. This nonprofit trust for trail preservation and building focused on making the trails accessible to not only horses, but also hikers. The Desert Riders have created 28 trails in total, many of them adaptations of native Cahuilla footways. Today, having laid the groundwork for this world-class trail system, the Desert Riders have bowed out of the trail building game and have left it up to the various local, state, and federal park and land organizations.
And if you look at the names of trails in the Palm Springs area, most of them bear names of Desert Rider club members like Clara Burgess, Earl Coffman, and Carl Lykken. This trail, which the Forest Service calls “one of the signature trails,” is named after the master trail-builder himself, Art Smith.
Art Smith Trail Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
The Art Smith Trail has a reputation as a good place to spot the local endangered peninsular bighorn sheep.
If you’re doing the shorter hike, you can enjoy the palms and just return back the way you came from here.
Dunn Road is named after Michael Dunn, who tried to skirt federal land to build a shortcut between Palm Spring and Rt 74. The bulldozer you see in ruins was his, abandoned after a long fight against the government and environmentalists.
This guide last updated on April 24, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.