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)
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.