The Cross Hike Palm Desert

The Cross Hike (Palm Desert)

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions to The Cross
  • Parking For The Cross Hike in Palm Desert
  • Insider Tips and Recommendations for the Hike
Total Distance (?)2.4 miles (3.9 km)
Hike Time1-2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)770 feet (235m)
Highest Elevation1,050 feet (320m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Palm Desert Parks & Recreation
Park Phone760-776-6481

The Cross Hike in Palm Desert is a great out-and-back hike for all levels. You’ll hike through classic desert hill terrain to reach the cross, standing 30 feet tall on the hilltop, a religious experience for some and a fun destination for all. Whatever you believe, the views from the top are great, and the workout is a good one. This hike is a local favorite for a quick hiking fix.

The Cross Hike Palm Desert Address

There’s plenty of free parking at the trailhead in Cap Homme and Ralph Adams Park. Use this address:
72500 Thrush Rd, Palm Desert, CA 92260

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When you get to the park entrance and sign, make the right and drive down to the parking area.
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The parking lot is big. Park towards the end, which is where the trail starts.

Gear for the Hike

You don’t need any special gear to do the Cross Hike, and fitness gear works well. Good footwear and trekking poles will help on the steep sections. The main thing here is the desert environment – bring at least 1L of water and avoid the day and year’s hotter times. There is no shade on the hike. There is no shade on the hike.

Lone Peak 5

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 ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

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.

My July 2021 Top Gear Picks

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.

Palm Desert Cross Trail Maps

The nice thing about this hike is that you can see the cross for most of the way, making navigating straightforward. You’ll be starting on the Homestead Trail, and then heading onto the Hopalong Cassidy Trail. I’ll show you how to do it later, but for now, here are the trail maps.

Click Here To View

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.

Fenix 6 Pro

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.

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There are handy trail signs along the way. Look for “The Cross Loop.”

Elevation Profile

Palm Desert Cross Hike Elevation
There’s a few dips, but otherwise it’s a straight up and straight down affair. Also note that there is no shade on the hike.

3D Map

Palm Desert Cross Hike 3d Map
From the park you’ll climb up along the ridge to reach the cross.

What Is The Cross in Palm Desert?

The Cross Hike Directions

It’s easy to say thank you for this guide!

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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn by Turn Directions

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Look for the gap in the fence at the far end of the parking lot, and walk straight through along the well-worn path to the hillside.
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On the far right you’ll notice a pavilion and interpretive display. The display has the Hopalong’s Creed on it. We’ll be hiking on the Hopalong Trail later.
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Here’s the pavilion and water fountain.
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Otherwise go straight and you’ll see the trail climbing up ahead to the right.
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As you get closer you’ll see a sign for the Homestead Trail. Hike uphill to the right.
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Start hiking uphill.
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Soon you’ll reach a shaded pavilion. The trail continues to the left.
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From the pavilion there are some short, steep switchbacks to climb.
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And then you reach the ridge and can see the trail stretch out in front of you.
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Avoid the side trails to the left and keep heading up toward the cross.
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You’ll be able to see the cross up to your left as you hike.
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At the intersection, bear left to continue to the cross. You’re now on the Hopalong Cassidy Trail.

Hopalong Cassidy was a fictional cowboy character that first came to life in 1904 through short stories, then on films, and then on a popular television show in the 1950s. The television character was played by William Boyd, who retired to Palm Desert. His widow and the city named the trail after him and his famous character.

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The trail briefly twists away from the cross.
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And then crests a ridge and turns back to the left towards the cross. You’ll see the trail stretch in front of you.
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The last section to the cross is uphill but not so steep.
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And soon you’ll see the cross in front of you.
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Because it’s so tall, you can’t really get a photo of the cross with the valley in the background, but it’s easy enough to get pictures straight up at it.
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The base of the cross is filled with prayers and remembrances written on stones.
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There are great views into the valley and surrounding mountains.
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When you’re done at the cross, just head back down the way you came up!

This guide last updated on January 11, 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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