LONG CANYON TRAIL – A New Pathway Opens Between Desert Hot Springs to Joshua Tree
By Jacqueline Guevara
“You’re going to hear a lot of LONG jokes today!” That was the warning Desert Hot Springs City Council member, Gary Gardner, gave as he began his speech at the Long Canyon Trail Dedication ceremony in early December. And he was right.
Long Canyon is, well, a LONG canyon that connects the Coachella Valley to Joshua Tree National Park and the Morongo Basin. It begins at the end of a dirt road just past the corner of Hacienda Avenue and Long Canyon Road in Desert Hot Springs and connects to the Long Canyon Trail Route. It goes a LONG way, approximately 9 miles through Joshua Tree National Park wilderness until it levels off at Long Canyon Peak in Yucca Valley. Be warned: The wilderness trail is not improved and can be quite strenuous. Not ready for a 10-mile jaunt? No worries. Shorter “out and back” hikes can be done as well.
The trail, which officially opened December 3, was realized by a LONG list of collaborators. The project was completed in partnership by the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, Friends of the Desert Mountains, and the City of Desert Hot Springs. CVMC funding from Propositions 12 and 68 and in-kind contributions from volunteers made the project possible. The Coachella Valley Conservation Commission owns the land on which the two parking lots and the Desert Hot Springs trailhead lie, while the Mojave Desert Land Trust owns the parcel on the opposite end of the trail known as Long Canyon Peak. Joshua Tree National Park intends to add minimal trail markings to its portion of the corridor, and MDLT has planned to create a trailhead and parking area of their own in Yucca Valley. In the meanwhile, please keep in mind that hikers will need to retrace their steps to the DHS trailhead along sometimes minimally marked routes. This is not an adventure for newbies.
Unfortunately, the area in which the new trailhead is located has LONG been known for illegal trash dumping and shooting. Many clean-up efforts have been undertaken over the years, but the problem persists. All the partners involved voiced their hopes that the increased activity of hikers enjoying the new trail and the amplified visibility of the area will help in minimizing these destructive uses. Indeed, Long Canyon is special to many hikers and nature enthusiasts already.
The first time I hiked Long Canyon Peak was right after I began working at the Mojave Desert Land Trust in late 2016. The property had just been acquired, and the entire office was excited to go check it out. I went along for the ride and hiked up to the peak, despite the fact that I was outfitted in a dress and heels. File that under what not to wear when hiking. It was a short climb on a well-established dirt road, and I was glad that I played along. Not only did it make for a great story, but the views from the top were breathtaking. I could make out a distant trail descending into the Coachella Valley, but needless to say, didn’t go on that particular adventure that day. How exciting to know that the trail is now official, and that it can be accessed any time.
With that being said, there are loads of times it should NOT be accessed. Please don’t hike in the dead of summer (it’s called the dead of summer for a reason); do not hike in inclement weather such as rain, wind, and even snow; do not hike at night (lots of wild animals like to hike at night) or anytime you are alone. Please DO hike with a buddy, when the weather is delightful (as it so frequently is), and when there is plenty of daylight to complete the hike you choose. If you are doing the entirety of the trail, please be sure to check the weather at both ends, as the elevation change will mean cooler weather at the top and warmer weather at the bottom. Please take at least 2 gallons of water per person, regardless of the season, and remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. A good rule of thumb is to drink before you get thirsty, and to turn around when your water is halfway gone. Be sure to wear a hat, sunscreen on the parts of you exposed to the sun, and for heaven’s sake, wear appropriate shoes. Not flip-flops, and not heels (don’t do as I do…). We want you to be around to hike for a LONG time.
About the author: Jacqueline Guevara is the Executive Director, Joshua Tree National Park Association and an honored member of Joshua Tree Voice’s Advisory Board.