Hike Cathedral Canyon Loop: Apr 2020

Updated: Jan 16

Hike Distance: 11.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,392 feet over 4.7 miles


I had hiked a small portion of the Cathedral Canyon trail as part of the Citizens Science projects with Friends of the Desert Mountains and wanted to experience the entire loop trail. So we started out early on the morning of April 3rd from the entrance in the Cathedral Canyon neighborhood.


The trail started out with a reminder that it is all uphill for the first 4.7 miles until we reach the Hahn Point trailhead.

Cathedral Canyon trailhead in the Cathedral Cove neighborhood
Cathedral Canyon trailhead in the Cathedral Cove neighborhood

After a 700-800 foot climb, you have views over the Cathedral City Cove neighborhood.

Hiking Cathedral Canyon Loop Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains
Cathedral Cove neighborhood at foot of Cathedral Canyon trailhead

We reached a narrow plateau with views of the surrounding hills.

Northern Santa Rosa foothills in Cathedral City

The pyramid peak in the distance (right of center) is Murray Hill, a hike we completed back in Feb 2020. Here's a link to that hike and blog.

Murray Hill peak from Cathedral Canyon trail

We began to climb again but at least the views were worth it. Despite starting out in the neighborhood, it wasn't long before we had that 'isolated' sensation.

Hiking Cathedral Canyon Loop Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains

The hills and mountains of the National Monument surrounded us.

Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains viewed from Cathedral Canyon trail
Hiking Cathedral Canyon Loop Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains

There were lots of flowering cacti in the wash. This strawberry hedgehog cactus or Engelmann's hedgehog cactus is common in desert areas of the southwestern US. It usually grows in clusters, sometimes up to 20 or more stems. It has bright magenta flowers that bloom in April. Perfect timing for us.

Flowering Engelmann's hedgehog cactus
Flowering Engelmann's hedgehog cactus

In addition there were plenty of flowering beaver tail cactus. These cactus can grow to include hundreds of fleshy, flattened blue-gray pads. They are typically spineless, but have many small barbed bristles that can easily penetrate the skin. Beaver tail cactus have pink to red flowers and bloom from spring to early summer.

Flowering Beaver Tail cactus

Dave was obsessed with taking pictures of the these flowers.

Hiker photographing flowering Beaver Tail cactus

But his obsession paid off with some great pictures.

Bright fuchsia colored flowering Beaver Tail cactus

We entered a large wash and followed it until the trail intersected with Dunn Road. We took the Dunn Road branch and would need to follow it for 2 miles. The trail/road weaves through the foothills of the northern Santa Rosa Mountains.

Hiking Dunn Road on the Cathedral Canyon Loop in the foothills of Santa Rosa Mountains

In the early 1970s, desert entrepreneur Michael Dunn of Rancho Mirage bulldozed a dirt road (Dunn Road) with the hope that it would lead to a mountainside hotel. The hotel never materialized and the dirt road remained Dunn Road, which he often had to restore after canyon floods. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Land Management did not agree that Dunn had the right to build this road. The Bureau locked off that part of the road which touches public land, thereby rendering the road unusable and with it destroying Dunn's dreams.

Hiking Dunn Road on the Cathedral Canyon Loop in the foothills of Santa Rosa Mountains

Murry Hill dominated the view looking back at Cathedral City and Palm Springs. You can see how Dunn Road cuts through the hills.

Murray Hill peak from Dunn Road in the Cathedral Canyon trail

Isolated patches of wild flowers lined the trail including these rosy apricot mallow.

After one mile we encountered the first of the abandoned road construction vehicles that were used by Dunn.

Abandoned road construction vehicles on Dunn Road

One mile later we found more abandoned construction equipment and a multi trail crossroads with picnic tables. Here is the spot where Dunn Rd connects to the Art Smith Trail and Hahn Vista Trail.

Abandoned road construction vehicles on Dunn Road at junction with Art Smith Trail

We've hiked Art Smith multiple times (click here) but for today we'll take the Hahn Vista Trail which joins up with the Cathedral Canyon Loop.

Hiking the Hahn Vista Trail on the Cathedral Canyon Loop

Lots of plant lined the path.

Hiking the Hahn Vista Trail on the Cathedral Canyon Loop
Cactus on the Hahn Vista Trail on the Cathedral Canyon Loop

We climb quickly leaving Dunn Road in the distance.

Dunn Road from the Hahn Vista Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains

We saw this amazing plant called a Panamint Liveforever growing out of a rock wall. This perennial succulent desert plant is native to the rocky slopes of the many Southern California and Arizona mountain ranges.

Flowering Panamint Liveforever growing out of a rock wall on the Hahn Vista Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains

When these flowers open they will have yellow petals

Flowering Panamint Liveforever growing out of a rock wall on the Hahn Vista Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains

Beautiful views of the San Jacinto range.

Snowy peaks of San Jacinto Mountains viewed from the Hahn Vista Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains

We climbed quickly leaving Dunn Road in the distance. The yellow bulldozer is still visible on the road (far right of center).

Dunn Road from the Hahn Vista Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains

The trail continued to follow the ridge line. We were heading NW back toward our starting point for this hike but still had about 5 miles to travel.

Hiking the Hahn Vista Trail on the Cathedral Canyon Loop

They call it the Hahn Vista Trail for a reason with great views across the valley.

Hahn Vista Trail sign in the Santa Rosa Mountains

From here it was mostly downhill through the hills of the National Monument.

Hiking the Hahn Vista Trail on the Cathedral Canyon Loop
Hiking the Hahn Vista Trail on the Cathedral Canyon Loop
San Jacinto peaks from Hahn Vista Trail on Cathedral Canyon Loop

People wonder if we get bored when we begin the second half of a loop trail since it's often the same or similar terrain that we're crossing. The answer is easy - NO!' It may be the same terrain but it's also different views and angles. For me this scenery never gets old. Sometimes it's easy to see the beauty.

Agave plant on the Hahn Vista Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains
Peaks of San Jacinto Mountains viewed from the Hahn Vista Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains

Sometimes you need to get closer to the ground to see why.

Hiker photographing flowering Beaver Tail cactus
Wildflowers along Cathedral Canyon Loop Trail in Santa Rosa Mountains
Creosote bush along the Hahn Vista Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains

Sometimes you need to look quickly or you'll miss the opportunity.

Desert Jack Rabbit along the Hahn Vista Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains
Side-blotched lizard along the Hahn Vista Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains

Sometimes you need to look up.

Turkey vulture along the Hahn Vista Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains

My rule of thumb - be patient and look all around. There is so much more to see than different shades of brown.

Northern Santa Rosa foothills along Cathedral Canyon Loop Trail

Over the course of an hour we gradually made our way back onto the flats. We needed to reach Dunn Road which is barely visible (upper far right) in this picture.

Hiking Northern Santa Rosa foothills along Cathedral Canyon Loop Trail

We crossed the intersection with Dunn Road and rejoined the Cathedral trail.

Dunn Road trail junction on Cathedral Canyon Loop trail

On the last leg of the trail as it runs parallel to Cathedral Canyon.

Hiking Cathedral Canyon Loop Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains
Northern Santa Rosa foothills in Cathedral City

Soon the neighborhoods were in sight and so was our car.

Hiking Cathedral Canyon Loop Trail in the Santa Rosa Mountains
Cathedral Cove neighborhood at foot of Cathedral Canyon trailhead

Here's the hike from the MapMyRun app.


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