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Hopalong Cassidy Trail - California, United States

by Cobber99  
with a Garmin eTrex Vista Cx
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Opened in 2006 as a connector trail to the Art Smith and Bump and Grind trails, the Hopalong Cassidy trail (named for famed American movie and television cowboy icon of the same name), is one of my favorite 1/2 day hikes of the Lower Santa Rosa complex.  It features a lot of variety, beginning with the short meadow trek to the trailhead.  To get there, drive south on Highway 74 from Palm Desert.  The parking area (1,039 ft.) is located on the right hand side about 1/4 mile after you pass Bighorn Country Club. After parking, follow the signs to the Art Smith trailhead (you start up Art Smith).

The trail begins with a pretty standard ascent for these low desert treks.  You get an increasingly nice view of Dead Indian Creek (I know) to the south as you meander up.  We hit this a week before the blooming season.  There were a great deal of flowers out, but lots of blooms almost ready to give way.  Once up this first climb, you will begin to see a lot of reddish and often rounded boulders.  Some stacked in mounds quite high and just amazing to see geologically.  Upon getting to this top (1,327 feet), you will come to the beginning of the Hopalong Cassidy Trail, parting to the right and visibly continuing north; while the Art Smith continues west toward the wonders of the Indian Canyons.  The trail has officially begun and you are afforded your first glimpse of the city of Palm Desert to your north-northeast.

The trail now works it's way north with The Canyons at Bighorn below and red rocks above.  Good elevation flirts up and down and really a nice plateau from the ascent.  You will get to a highpoint for this section at 1,435 ft. and set your view of the later rise you will have to switchback out of Cat Creek ahead. 

Be advised that once you are in Cat Creek, it is difficult to spot the trail continuing up in a series of switchbacks to the north.  Spot it as you come down into the creek, and you will be fine.

Coming out of the Cat Creek involves many switchbacks and a few 30-degree inclines.  Upon reaching the top, Eisenhower peak is clearly visible to the east.   The trek through this area is a real treat with stunning flora and beautiful blooms (huge barrel cacti), not to mention a good variety of rock as well.  Now, getting down from this section?  Not so simple.  I recorded as much as a 32% down-slope through there.

Once down, you will be afforded your first view of another golf course, this time the Mountains at Bighorn.  The trail meanders around the course, and this is odd.  You continue around this until you reach where you cross a cart entrance along the S.E. border of the course.  There, you see a sign welcoming you to the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument and indicating that, the monument, is just through that privatly owned, locked, iron gate.  I wonder if the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep golf.

Now you wind your way up to the cross over Palm Desert.  We found a geocache near it's base and saw new views for the first time to the north.  We could now see to the Palm Desert Mall.  Heading practically north (for the duration of the hike), we passed a number of unmarked trail junctions, first with Homestead Trail trail, then a poorly marked juncture with the Gabby Hayes Trail and then a trail labeled by the City of Palm Desert as the Connector trail.  It's practically all downhill from the cross to the terminus of the Hopalong Cassidy.  There are lovely "desert meadows" in the stretch from the Connector to the junction with the Herb Jeffries and we noted a few joggers in here, now just at dusk.  Lovely cool down in both serenity and blue-green color at this hour.  I recommend hiking this toward dusk quite highly for the effect (also practically, the sun sets behind the range above you early so you can avoid too much intense sunlight).

You will come to the Herb Jeffries Trail here.  Toward the west and up, it works toward the Mirage (a.k.a. "Bump-n-Grind" trail).  Toward the east, it empties toward the wash below, just as the trails you encountered since departing the cross.  Down you go on a gradual 10% slope downward (a 151 ft. drop over 0.3 mi.), until you are behind Target®.
Hopalong Cassidy was portrayed by Palm Desert resident William Boyd.  Mr. Boyd was known for giving his “Hoppy” wooden nickels to children, and teaching them his tips on good citizenship (known as “Hoppy’s Creed”).  The Trail was dedicated on January 31, 2004 by his widow, Grace Bradley Boyd, who said that “Hoppy and Topper would have loved the trail and encouraged everyone to enjoy it and practice trail safety.”  It later opened in 2006.
Photos: See all pictures and videos from Hopalong Cassidy Trail
Comments (4)
I made an attempt to ride this on my mountain bike today....it had rained in the previous months and there were a lot of areas where the trail has been eroded and rutted and some rockslides across the trail.

I Bailed at Cat Canyon and didn't complete it, mostly due to my lack of energy, and disillusionment with carrying my bike. Would be no problem without it. It was about 50% hike-a-bike for me.

So Cobber99 are you RUNNING the trails you review??!! The times are much shorter than mere mortals or mountain bikers can do...


This would be a great 4 or 5 hour hike for me at 9 miles. Rewarding views, very cool rocks and desert. Lots of Daisys flowering.
by daveadams on Jan 02, 2014
Yes, thanks Cobber99 for all the trails you've recorded here. Did part of this trail as part of a quick hike from what you refer to as the Mountains at Bighorn golf course. However, is it possible that the Hopalong Cassidy goes both ways round the golf course? I see another trail on Google Maps that goes the opposite way to the way that you went. No matter. Just an alternative.
by jobowo on Feb 22, 2013
A woman definitely wrote this.
by joswoops on Dec 27, 2012
I am going to try this when it cools off here. Thanks for the effort.
by makeitso on Aug 25, 2010
Trip Info
March 15, 2010
Trip Location: Palm Desert, California, United States
Length: 9.3 miles
Duration: 1 hour
Activity: Hiking
Trip viewed 19,517 times
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