The Palm Desert Cross hike is one of the best hikes in Palm Desert. Popular with locals and visitors alike, you’ll be sharing the trail with everyone from young families with a baby in a carrier to power walking retirees. Everyone is in a good mood, with a big smile on their faces with a friendly “hello” as you pass by.
The Palm Desert Cross is perched up high on a hill overlooking the citizens of Palm Desert. It’s a reasonably easy Palm Desert hike and the hike to the cross is very scenic, which is likely why it’s so popular.
The Palm Desert Cross hiking trail winds its way up and around some desert valleys along the side of a mountain at the southwest edge of Palm Desert. You’ll find nothing blocks the amazing views of Palm Desert down below as the hiking terrain is mostly rocks and small desert scrub plants.
The Palm Desert Cross hike is a loop, and you may also see this hike referred to as The Cross Trail Loop. You’ll need to leave the loop for a little bit near the top to see the cross. The spur trail to the Palm Desert Cross runs along the top of a ridge, affording you great views in two directions. Once at the top, there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the views.
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The Palm Desert Cross Hike Stats
Distance: The full round-trip distance of the Cross Trail Loop is 3.5 miles / 5.6km.
Elevation Gain: The Palm Desert Cross hike is a slow, steady climb up the slopes of a mountain. The total elevation gain on this hike is 775 feet / 237m.
Difficulty: We’d rate the Palm Desert Cross trail as ‘easy’. The elevation may be an issue for some who are not used to climbing hills, but people of all ages and abilities were out enjoying this hike.
Duration: It took us 2.25 hours to complete the loop (3 hours including breaks). This is a little faster than usual as our kids were having so much fun, they ran a decent amount of the hike.
The Palm Desert Cross Hike Trail Location
How to Get There: The hike to the cross in Palm Desert is accessed by driving through a suburb at the edge of town. There’s a large parking lot near the trailhead and even though the trail was very busy when we visited, the parking lot was still about half full.
The Palm Desert Cross Hike Highlights
Super-friendly locals and the views along this cityside mountain hike are what makes the Cross Trail really fun. The views from the top sitting under the Palm Desert Cross are amazing of course, but the views throughout the hike are very enjoyable too.
Hiking the Cross Trail with Kids
With so many active retirees on the trail, be prepared for your kids to be very popular. Nearly every group you pass will stop and talk to your kids, asking questions and giving praise and encouragement. It’s a very friendly and fun atmosphere and your kids will love the attention.
Here are a few other considerations for hiking the Cross Trail with kids:
- There is a washroom at the trailhead. Be sure that everyone goes here as the trail is very busy and there is nowhere to hide.
- There is also a water station (for humans and dogs!) by the trailhead. This is a desert hike, so fill up your water bladders at the trailhead. Bring more water than you think you’ll need.
- Your biggest risk on the Cross hike is sun exposure. Be sure your kids wear sun hats, have full sunscreen on and stop for frequent water breaks. If they are not asking to stop and pee, they haven’t had enough water.
- This trail is not stroller accessible, but it is very common in Palm Springs for parents to carry their little ones on their backs in a carrier – Osprey seemed to be the most popular brand.
- Plenty of people had their dogs on-leash on this trail.
- Kids love climbing on rocks. There are plenty of opportunities for kids to show off their monkey skills on this hike.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
The best place to stop for a lunch or snack break is at the top of the hike, beneath the Palm Desert Cross. It’s a large flat area with lots of good rocks to sit on to enjoy the 360-degree view, while eating and resting your legs.