Hike Distance: 6.4 miles
The Art Smith trail is approximately 8.2 miles running from Palm Desert to the intersection of Dunn Road and the Cathedral Canyon trail head. This is one of the signature trails in the National Monument, offering scenic views across the Coachella Valley and Santa Rosa mountains. It's easy to escape the sights and sounds of the cities along the Art Smith. The trail climbs through canyons and alongside lush palm oases but you need to stay on the trail to avoid disturbing desert animals that depend on these vital habitats.
Despite the fact we hiked this trail in 2019, its worth hiking numerous time and the trail head is only a 15 minute drive from the condo. In addition, the trail is a well-known location to spot Bighorn Sheep. Since Dave didn't see any up close last year we were hoping for to get lucky today. If you're interested, click on the link to navigate to the 2019 Art Smith Hike blog.
The trail starts along Highway 74 or from the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument Visitor's Center where The Friends of the Desert Mountains volunteers operate a gift shop and bookstore and also offer group hikes, lectures, and host classroom programs and projects.
It's a quick and steady 500-600 foot climb once you reach the trail head, but it's also the start of some great views.
It doesn't take long before you get incredible view of the surrounding mountains.
The first oasis on the trail is struggling to survive.
Healthy plants along the trail. Since I set up an account on the iNaturalist app (the FODM introduced me to this app), I'm taking more plant and wildlife pictures to identify and track my observations as we hike. For more information on the app click on the link iNaturalist App.
Gander Cholla Cactus
California 'Dave' Barrel Cactus
The second oasis was in much better shape than the first oasis.
After more than 3.2 miles we turned around not having seen any Bighorn Sheep but were still hoping to spot a few on the way back.
A few miles after turning around, we spotted several Bighorn Sheep grazing on a hill side.
Within minutes a dozen more sheep joined them.
It was then that we spotted several lambs that were traveling with the herd. We were respectful and kept our distance so as not to spook the lambs. It was great getting a chance to observe these beautiful desert creatures.
After I posted these observations on iNaturalist, the curators from the 'California Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species Group' and the 'US Federally Threatened and Endangered Species Organization' both added my observations to their site. Not bad for a rookie.
We arrived back to the car very satisfied. We had started the day hoping to see some Bighorn Sheep on the trail and ended up hitting the jackpot. What a great way to start our winter hiking season in CA.