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 Distance2.4 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.

Wildcat Small

My Goto Hiking Footwear: La Sportiva Wildcat
If you hike a lot or just want the best (but not the most durable) hiking footwear, the Wildcat trail runner is your best move.  It’s fast and light on trails, the sole gives me good grip off-trail or scrambling, and they dry quickly.
Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Rei Flash 22 Yellow

Best Budget Day Pack: REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack
Bang for the buck, you can’t go wrong with this pack. It’s super-lightweight and big enough to carry everything for a day hike, including a water bladder. Every year REI improves this pack and after a few years, it’s really solid in every way. I pack mine in a carry-on when I travel to do hikes on trips. And if you’re into ultralight backpacking, this is also a solid choice.
Latest PricesREI 

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.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated January 2021.

My January 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 offset website expenses. 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 Map

Download the Hike GPX FileView a Printable PDF Hike Map

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). You can also use most smartphones. Check out my navigation recommendations and resources on my top gear picks page for options at all budget levels.

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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

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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!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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