South Lykken Trail, Palm Springs, CA

South Lykken Trail to Josie Johnson Vista Park (South approach)

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South Lykken Trail to Josie Johnson Vista Park (South approach)

  • Location: South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. From I-10, take the exit for highway 111 (which happens to be exit #111) and head southeast for 9.4 miles to downtown Palm Springs. Continue onto North Palm Canyon Drive for 3 miles and bear right onto South Palm Canyon Drive. The trail head is on the right side of the road in 1.7 miles. Park where available near the information board. Alternately, from the east, take I-10 to Bob Hope Drive (exit 130). Turn left on Bob Hope Drive and go 0.4 miles to Ramon Road. Turn right and follow Ramon for 6.7 miles to Sunrise Way. Turn left and go 2.3 miles (Sunrise Way becomes La Verne Way) to South Palm Canyon Drive. Turn left and follow South Palm Canyon 1.1 miles to the trail head, on the right side of the road.
  • Agency: City of Palm Springs
  • Distance: 5.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,100 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness)
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season:  October – April
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution during warm weather; rocky terrain may be difficult on paws)
  • Cell phone reception: Good at trail head, none for first mile, fair for the remainder of the hike
  • Water: none
  • Restrooms: none
  • Camping: none
  • More information: Trip description (entire route) here; Dog Trekker page here; Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 7

Like its northern counterpart, the South Lykken Trail (rhymes with chicken)  is named for Carl Lykken who served the Palm Springs community as postmaster and as a member of the library board, chamber of commerce and other capacities. The entire South Lykken Trail runs 4.5 miles and can be done as a long out-and-back or as a point-to-point. For those with limited time and without the means to set up a shuttle for a point-to-point hike, the Josie Johnson Vista Park picnic area is a popular destination. The picnic area can be reached with a 1.5 mile hike from the north, described here. The approach from the south, described below, offers a rigorous workout. The only drawback is traffic noise from the nearby city streets, but with the panoramic vistas this hike offers, it’s hard to complain.

From the trail head on South Palm Canyon Drive, follow the trail as it curves around the back of a gated community. After a not-very-inspiring third of a mile, the trail suddenly starts to feel more adventurous as it begins a steep climb up the wall of Oswit Canyon, gaining over 500 feet in two thirds of a mile. Your efforts bring you to the Simonetta Kennett picnic area where you can enjoy an aerial view of Palm Canyon, with Murray Hill dominating the landscape to the southeast and the street grid of Palm Springs to the northeast. (For hikers very short on time, this is a good turnaround point.)

The South Lykken Trail continues north, hugging the granite boulder and barrel cactus dotted eastern slope of San Jacinto Peak. After the stiff ascent of earlier, the level grade here is a welcome change, especially with the excellent views of the Coachella Valley. The trail descends slightly to a junction (1.5 miles) with another route heading down to Palm Canyon. At this point you begin the second major (but at a more moderate grade) ascent, picking up about 450 feet of elevation gain over the next mile.

At 2.9 miles, you reach the Josie Johnson Vista Park picnic area, a good turnaround point. Sit at one of the tables and enjoy the 180 degree panorama before you, including the Little San Bernardino Mountains, the Palm Springs Airport, Murray Hill and the Santa Rosa Mountains.

Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

South Lykken Trail, Palm Springs, CA
Beginning the ascent on the South Lykken Trail
South Lykken Trail, Palm Springs, CA
Granite outcrops on the South Lykken Trail
South Lykken Trail, Palm Springs, CA
Barrel cacti, South Lykken Trail
South Lykken Trail, Palm Springs, CA
Looking south into Palm Canyon
Lykken Trail, Palm Springs, CA
Simonetta Kennett Picnic Area
View from South Lykken Trail, Palm Springs, CA
Coachella Valley from the South Lykken Trail
South Lykken Trail, Palm Springs, CA
Little San Bernardino Mountains
Josie Johnson picnic area, South Lykken Trail, Palm Springs, CA
Josie Johnson Vista Park picnic area











Text and photography copyright 2017 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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