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|
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.
Altra Lone Peak 5
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 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. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
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Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.
Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up to 40% off here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated July 2021.
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?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.
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 May 4, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
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