The stark Colorado Desert, with its agave, ocotillo, and creosote, rises up boulder-strewn and eroded canyons to chaparral, juniper, and pine-covered ridges. Elevations change drastically from just above sea level to over 7,000 feet. Seemingly desolate and inhospitable, the Santa Rosa Mountains are laced with deep washes and shallow drainages. Several riparian streams flow year-round. Blistering summer heat is sometimes relieved by thunderstorms that send torrents of water down the sandy washes. Many of these regions are important lambing sites for bighorn sheep; in fact, the mountains support the largest herd of rare peninsular bighorn sheep in the United States. Coniferous forests high in these mountains provide habitat for mule deer, while the desert below houses numerous reptiles including the desert slender salamander. Great horned owls soar in the night skies, and falcons and eagles nest and forage throughout the Wilderness. The primary access into the Wilderness is the 9.5-mile Cactus Spring Trail.

25 days ago

Hiked this yesterday. Unfortunately, I followed some footsteps and cairns into the valley instead of up the ridge line (where the real trail goes). Ended up doing some scrambling and bouldering until I reached the crest -- where my path intersected with the real trail. I was able to eventually take the trail all the way down from the summit, which was much easier.

It was colder and windier than I had expected (even mid-February) and wish I had brought a windbreaker, gloves, and a cap. Great hike nevertheless, with beautiful views 360º.

Great trail for all ages and levels.

1 month ago

Hiked it a couple days ago and the trail is in pretty good shape if you can call it a trail :) Not for the feint of heart. Start early and bring lots of water.

1 month ago

Rocks, rocks, rocks, and more rocks. This one will put some miles on your hiking boots. The views are amazing. I watched the last sunset of 2017 from the peak. Good times!

This trail is one of the most challenging, difficult, and mentally exhausting expeditions you will find yourself attempting. It is also one of the most rewarding. It should be reinstated that, if you are wanting anything less than a wicked adventure and like easy-to-follow trails, then pick a different hike. Do not attempt this as a day hike, and have an understanding and respect for the mountains, the desert terrain, and the unpredictability of the two. Navigation skills are essential. The sunset and sunrise on Rabbit are not to be missed!

1 month ago

I went counter clockwise on the trail. The beginning was busy and was in a wash so very soft, but as soon as I got into the mountains it was beautiful and great walking. The last part of the trail was all in a wash, and you could actually have parked much closer. I wanted distance, but given that the end of the trail was not very nice walking, I would do clockwise next time and drive in. I had my dog with me and he enjoyed it, but I should have put hiking booties on him, he's a very fit Jack Russell/Beagle Mix and he wore down his paw pads on the granite. The last few miles were hard on the poor guy because of this. As soon as you get passed all the people at the beginning it is quiet and I only saw a couple of mountain bikers and two small groups hiking. I had a picnic at the top and enjoyed some lovely quite and the views.

Great short trail. Great place to see desert life. a must if you are from the Coachella Valley

This is a very strenuous up and down hike over sand, rock and scree. The trail up to Villager is easy to follow, even at night with flashlights. It gets fainter but exists up to Rabbit. We backpacked up to the turn off to Mile-High and day hiked to Rabbit and back. The next morning we hiked over to Mile-High and back, and then descended the mountain. The views from Villager and Mile-High were awesome.

We hiked this fun trail with our 5 year old and she didn’t complain at all. Use the trail guide from the visitor’s center to have information to share at each number post as you hike. Lots of cool cacti and beautiful views on this family-friendly loop trail.

2 months ago

Hiked the 2 mile loop today, about 75 degrees so not bad. I was impressed with how many and how diverse the hikers were that I saw on this trail. People of all ages and activity levels. Starts out level and then climbs up to a lovely view. Going back you walk through some small canyons that remind me of exploring as a kid. Only downside, you can hear and see the Hwy for much the hike, but not a deal breaker.

trail running
2 months ago

I started in the dark with a headlamp. Overall the trail is pretty easy to see and maneuver. Somehow I got lucky and my timing lined up with the sunrise as I reached the summit. The cholla cactus looked like they were waiting for the sun to rise. It was magical. I ran this trail and some aspects of the area beat me up a little...deep sand about 1/4 of the time, and I underestimated the last climb.

3 months ago

After about a mile and a half the trail is nice up to around mile 6, then it turns into a wash, dirt road, paved road, and flat trail next to a golf course.

good starter exercise walking trail well marked. traffic noise first 1/2, not too scenic.

3 months ago

Hike only accessible when gate is open between October 1-December 31.
Easy hike in soft sand up to first palm tree.
Moderate hike up to waterfalls and outlook.
Hard hike if you are adventurous enough to scale waterfalls. I have heard path past waterfall on the left path at the Y doesn’t go far. But if you can get past waterfall with big rock on the right path at the Y it goes further into an oasis. Oasis can be seen from the outlook at top of left hand path.

It's a pretty mellow hike good for all ages. I took my parents on this hike and I recieved minimal complaining from them. Definitely easier than moderate, elevation gain is minimal. It was nicely marked and easy follow.

I agree with earlier comment that this is a fairly easy hike and quite pleasant. About 3/4 mile in, the trail splits (i.e., this is the loop area). Going right is sandier, wider, and a more gentle climb. Going left (having come down that way) is considerably steeper, much narrower and rockier so just come back the other way if you're not up for that.
There is no longer any access to the view from the top over the mountain towards Palm Desert as further use of that trail is prohibited (i.e., by the Big Horn warning sign). But the view back towards the climb was still pretty good.

4 months ago

Hiked from Alternate Parking; beyond the almost worn off trail sign there is no trail per se for the first mile or so as you head towards the mountains. I simply followed all the footprints through the sand and scrub. The fun begins when you finally get to the canyon because it rises at a fairly gentle rate for most of the trek interspersed with many rocks including a half dozen 5-7 foot mini rock climbs that require some agility. The largest one (10-12 feet) comes just before the overlook. Easier to climb over than it was to get down. There were several other hikers and I noticed that some required assistance climbing down but it's definitely doable if you can handle modest climbing. The reward is the overlook which provides views up and down the waterfall area (of course,dry at this time of year). It was my first canyon hike and with he mountainsides looming next to you on both sides it made a totally difference experience than my typical trailside hikes.

6 months ago

Got it back in the spring with Rabbit on an overnight trip. Tough hike with great views. Don't get stucca by yucca.

trail running
8 months ago

Elevation first half. There is a little resting bench half way for a nice view and breather. For a beginner it's a good little challenge. Coyote dens and lots of birding. Beautiful views of the valley at the top! Tons of ant hills, don't stand still. This was only my 2nd hike ever so please note my review is from the eyes of a complete beginner. It took me an hour and a half to complete!

10 months ago

Started the hike at 4am to beat the heat. The city lights looked amazing from the top. Thanks, Jon P!

Love this rolling ridge in early spring, gorgeous views.

Loved it except the part where I ran into a Cholla cactus! That hurt

Monday, February 27, 2017

This hike is TOUGH. Did it as an overnight. Camped out on Rabbit. Saw some other people who camped at Villager. Either way, you're gonna be sore. Views abound, lotsa wind. My new pick for most difficult San Diego hike for sure. Truly satisfying.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Great easy hike. Beautiful and safe.

If you're looking for a starter hike this is it

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Such a beautiful trail! It offers a bit of everything, views of the desert, beautiful flowers, inclines and declines.

trail running
Tuesday, February 07, 2017

perfect running trail!!!!! its easy and the trail is built so you won't get lost!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Super easy and super enjoyable! Most of the hiking in the Palm Desert area is going up a large rock mountain. In comparison, the Henderson Trail is more like a nature hike. This trail gives you opportunity to see a lot of naturally occurring desert vegetation and cacti. Also great for bike riding because it is not crowded and has large paths.

Only downside is that they block off a large part of the summit to protect the Big Horns. Therefore you miss seeing the panoramic vistas.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Go up trail and veer right around the lower mountain. 6 miles. Not out and back. Out and around!

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Easy hike with some elevation gain giving you a good glimpse of some amazing ground level dessert landscape filled with unique plants and rocks as well as a good vista of you get all the way to the top and back down. Very accessible, easy free parking. Restrooms and water is available at the visitors center. Highly recommend if you want to stay close to the city.

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