Plant Guide to Art Smith Trail (old section), Santa Rosa Mountains

This is a working list, about which we make no guarantees at all until we officially release it. Use at your own risk!

Introduction and Explanation of Plant Trail Guides

Highlights of This Trail
Fieldwork Dates and Summary of List Changes With Time
Botanical Trip Reports
The Plant Guide
Comments On Specific Species


The Art Smith Trail is named for an individual unusual in these polarized days; Art Smith was a trailbuilder who desired all trails to be enjoyed by all that either walked, cycled or rode horses. It is a ~8 mile (one way) trail that stretches from SR74 above Palm Desert to Dunn Road above Cathedral City.

The trail begins at a signed trailhead with a large parking lot that is just a bit south of being directly across SR74 from the Visitor Center for the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. The parking lot is four miles from the bottom of SR74, and 12 miles farther down SR74 from the Sawmill parking lot.

There are two sections of the first 1.3 (old section) or 1.5 (new section) miles of trail. The trail splits just north of the parking lot, at mile 0.04. The old trail turns left and goes into Dead Indian Canyon for 0.4 miles before crossing the wash and ascending a scenic drainage. It meets the new trail at mile 1.3 of the old trail.

As a result, there are two separate guides to the trail. This page gives the guide using the old section; a separate page gives the new section.

The old trail section is closed nine months of the year, from January through September, in order to avoid disturbance to Bighorn Sheep using Dead Indian Canyon. The herd in this area has declined alarmingly; it is hoped that closing the area during this time will allow them to recover.

The new trail segment was constructed in 2006 to provide a year-round route for hikers. Unfortunately, the new trail cannot hold a candle to the old trail.

The old trail is stunningly beautiful, a classic trail like the alternate Borrego Palm Canyon Trail, an excellent trail going through an excellent area. In contrast, on the new trail, you first have to traipse along the base of an ugly levee, through either water, mud, or huge dried mud polygons, through the only large collection of non-native weeds in the area. You then steeply ascend a south-facing, almost-barren slope that dumps you in an area above homes, water tanks and a golf course. It meets a maze of side trails that remind one of off-road vehicle routes (I don't think they are, but it isn't a very pretty area compared to the old trail).

However, if it protects the Bighorn Sheep, this re-route is worth it. After 1.5 miles on the new trail, you join the old trail and soon forget about the problems of the new trail.

See Map, with the old trail segment shown in red. The map only shows the trail to mile 5.00, which is as far as I had GPS'd it at the time I made the map.

The trail is described in Ferranti and Koenig 100 Great Hikes in and near Palm Springs, pp. 52-53, but note that the elevation gain is incorrectly given there as "1200 feet".

To mile 4.00, the lowest elevation is ~1010 feet just below the trailhead, and the highest elevation is 2360 feet at mile 2.72, a difference of 1350 feet. There is another ~250 feet of up and down total on the roundtrip using the old trail, for a total elevation gain and loss of ~1600 feet for the roundtrip of 8.0 miles. Taking the new trail section adds another ~100 feet or so of elevation gain and loss for the roundtrip.

Going to mile 5.00 adds another ~450 feet of elevation gain and loss for the roundtrip, making the elevation gain and loss ~2050 feet for the 10.0 mile roundtrip using the old trail segment, and ~2150 feet using the new trail segment.

Highlights of This Trail

Some of the botanical highlights of this trail are:

Number of Unique Taxa On This Trail

The following histogram gives the number of trails in our database that contain each taxon on this trail. We had 99 trails in our database when this histogram was made; 1 of those trails, including this one, is in this area of Santa Rosa Mountain. A number of "1" means the taxon has only been found on this trail among the trails in our database; numbers of "1" or smaller may indicate taxa found only in this area of Santa Rosa Mountains.

Number of Trails
Containing A Taxon
Number Of Taxa
On This Trail
% of Taxa
On This Trail
Total Taxa77100%

We found 9 additional species not in the above table, since they have not been fully identified yet. The unidentified ones are marked with ? or sp in the id? column in the guide, and have no entries in the #all column.

Fieldwork Dates and Summary of List Changes With Time

The following table gives the dates the trail was walked and taxa recorded. After each visit, the table gives the total number of taxa on the list and the breakdown of the taxa without positive identification. See Explanation of Plant Trail Guides to understand the symbols below.

Visit DateVisit ## taxa# "?"# "sp"# "~"# "ssp"

The fieldwork on 12/15/06 was only to mile 2.72, on 12/21/06 to mile 4.00, and on 12/26/06 to mile 5.00.

There are two entries for 12/21/06; the first is to mile 2.72 to compare with the 12/15/06 fieldwork. Similarly, there are two entries for 12/26/06, the first to compare with the 12/21/06 fieldwork.

Botanical Trip Reports

The Plant Guide

The mileages in the guide have been fit to an incomplete GPS'ing of the trail, and hence may be off by as much as 0.10 mile in places. The relative mileages should be accurate to 0.01-0.02 miles most of the time.

Version for printing, without lines and other text on this page: html (7 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (2 double-sided pages). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options)

MileS#id?Common NameLatin Name#here#all
0.00   Begin guide at end of parking lot pavement; elevation 1020 feet (310 m)
0.00b1 brittlebushEncelia farinosa99 / 910
0.00b2 cheesebushHymenoclea salsola var. salsola99 / 97
0.00l3 smoke treePsorothamnus spinosus10 / 34
0.00   Cross between short wood posts
0.00r  Sign: "Dogs prohibited to protect bighorn sheep"
0.00r  Sign: "Art Smith Trail" with map
0.00l4 small-seeded spurgeChamaesyce polycarpa99 / 917
0.01l5 wire-lettuceStephanomeria pauciflora var. pauciflora30 / 910
0.01r6~*London rocketSisymbrium irio / 13
0.01r  (catclaw, Acacia greggii)
0.01r7 indigo bushPsorothamnus schottii99 / 98
0.01r8 creosote bushLarrea tridentata99 / 97
0.02l9 burroweedAmbrosia dumosa99 / 99
0.02r10 sacred daturaDatura wrightii1 / 120
0.02   Cross wash
0.02l  (*fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum; desert tobacco, Nicotiana obtusifolia)
0.03b11 desert star-vineBrandegea bigelovii20 / 91
0.03l12 *Asian mustardBrassica tournefortii10 / 18
0.03l13 desert trumpetEriogonum inflatum99 / 94
0.03l14 Emory's rock-daisyPerityle emoryi+50 / 55
0.03l15 fringed amaranthAmaranthus fimbriatus3 / 27
0.03l16 desert needlePalafoxia arida var. arida2 / 23
0.03l17 desert lavenderHyptis emoryi99 / 96
0.03l18?caulanthus?Caulanthus?1 / 1 
0.03r19 *Mediterranean schismusSchismus barbatus1 / 126
0.03r20 baby catclawAcacia greggii50 / 98
0.03l21 *sorghumSorghum bicolor1 / 11
0.03r  (in distance: *giant reed, Arundo donax)
0.03l22sppopcorn flowerCryptantha sp. /  
0.03l23 *redstem filareeErodium cicutarium5 / 159
0.03l24?baby jojoba?Simmondsia chinensis? /  
0.03l25?baby California fan palm?Washingtonia filifera? /  
0.04r  Sign: "Trails closed in Dead Indian Canyon January 1 - September 30"
0.04l26 desert pinePeucephyllum schottii5 / 22
0.04   Trail leaves wash to left
0.04b27 desert plantainPlantago ovata99 / 97
0.04l  (pencil cholla, Opuntia ramosissima)
0.05l ~(white rhatany, Krameria grayi+)
0.05l28 pencil chollaOpuntia ramosissima20 / 93
0.05r  (*athel, Tamarix aphylla)
0.05l29?annual grassgrass sp. /  
0.06l30 California fagoniaFagonia laevis99 / 95
0.07   Trail curves left at ridge
0.11r ~(Gander's cholla, Opuntia ganderi)
0.12b  Jct. bulldozed road
0.12l31~Gander's chollaOpuntia ganderi50 / 98
0.13   Cross small drainage
0.18r  (beavertail cactus, Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris; desert agave, Agave deserti)
0.20   Cross side wash on small rock bridge
0.23   Local high point
0.23l  (blue palo verde, Cercidium floridum ssp. floridum)
0.24   Cross side wash
0.24l  (rock hibiscus, Hibiscus denudatus)
0.25l32 narrowleaf ditaxisDitaxis lanceolata5 / 55
0.26   Local low point
0.26l33 Thurber's sandpaper-plantPetalonyx thurberi ssp. thurberi20 / 53
0.26l34 sweetbushBebbia juncea var. aspera99 / 913
0.27l35~narrowleaf goldenbushEricameria linearifolia1 / 17
0.29r36 desert-willowChilopsis linearis ssp. arcuata10 / 36
0.31r  Sign: "Trails closed January 1 - September 30"; go through gate in fence (open only October - December); otherwise, turn around.
0.32   Trail curves left and hugs canyon wall with many desert pine, Peucephyllum schottii
0.33l37~*red bromeBromus madritensis ssp. rubens / 60
0.33l38 flat-topped buckwheatEriogonum deflexum var. deflexum2 / 22
0.33l39 thick-leaved ground cherryPhysalis crassifolia2 / 26
0.33l40 chiaSalvia columbariae99 / 925
0.33l41~wishbone plantMirabilis bigelovii var. retrorsa1 / 15
0.34l42 *fountain grassPennisetum setaceum10 / 312
0.34l43 chuparosaJusticia californica10 / 56
0.35r44 desert tobaccoNicotiana obtusifolia1 / 13
0.38l45 Wright's buckwheatEriogonum wrightii var. nodosum5 / 55
0.42   Ascend out of wash to left on zigzag path, then trail turns right 90°
0.42r46?pebble pincushion?Chaenactis carphoclinia? /  
0.44l47 desert mistletoe (on Acacia greggii)Phoradendron californicum20 / 53
0.55r48 beavertail cactusOpuntia basilaris var. basilaris10 / 912
0.58l  (narrow-leaf four-wing saltbush, Atriplex canescens ssp. linearis)
0.63   Leave sandy flat and begin to cross main wash
0.64l sp(ann or per buckwheat, Eriogonum sp. with lateral invols)
0.65   Cross middle of wash and go up side wash on other side
0.67r  Sign: "Trail [ahead]; Dogs prohibited to protect Bighorn Sheet"
0.73r  (teddy-bear cholla, Opuntia bigelovii)
0.76r  Sign with Trail Map showing Art Smith Trail and two Schey Trails; sign: "Warning: Trails are subject to erosion, etc."; leave side wash
0.80l49~white rhatanyKrameria grayi+10 / 92
0.82b50 teddy-bear chollaOpuntia bigelovii15 / 35
0.84l51 rock hibiscusHibiscus denudatus5 / 34
0.86r52 California barrel cactusFerocactus cylindraceus+30 / 97
0.91r53~trailing townulaSarcostemma hirtellum2 / 22
0.91   Cross small wash
0.91r  Switchback left; sign: "Art Smith Trail 1977"
0.93   Switchback right
0.94   Switchback left
0.96   Switchback right
0.97   Switchback left
0.98r54spdead annual MentzeliaMentzelia sp.1 / 1 
1.00r55 fish-hook cactusMammillaria dioica2 / 23
1.03   Trail curves left at small drainage; elevation 1500 feet (457 m)
1.04   Switchback right
1.06   Switchback left
1.07 56 ocotilloFouquieria splendens ssp. splendens1 / 17
1.08   Switchback right at ridge
1.09   Trail turns left 90°
1.14   Trail jogs right
1.16   Trail turns left 90°
1.21   Trail zigzags
1.23r  Jct. Schey Trail
1.24r  Sign: "Art Smith Trail"
1.24l  (Nevada ephedra, Ephedra nevadensis)
1.26r57 desert agaveAgave deserti30 / 97
1.26l58 California trixisTrixis californica var. californica10 / 56
1.27r59 Nevada ephedraEphedra nevadensis50 / 93
1.28r  (jojoba, Simmondsia chinensis)
1.28   Trail curves left at ridge
1.29   T-jct with old trail; go left; elevation 1640 feet (500 m)
1.29l  Sign (facing other direction): "Trail closed ..."
1.29l  (matchweed, Gutierrezia sarothrae)
1.29r60 Parish's viguieraViguiera parishii30 / 96
1.29l61sspapricot mallowSphaeralcea ambigua50 / 9 
1.29l62 woolly lipfernCheilanthes parryi10 / 54
1.30l63 San Felipe dogweedAdenophyllum porophylloides3 / 26
1.36   Trail zigzags up ridge
1.38l  (white-stemmed milkweed, Asclepias albicans)
1.40r  Check if this dead smallish (annual?) is a different species
1.41   Local high point
1.41l64 jojobaSimmondsia chinensis20 / 95
1.41   Minor local low point; cross small wash
1.43l65 star-flowered bedstrawGalium stellatum var. eremicum5 / 23
1.43l66~pellitoryParietaria hespera var. hespera1 / 17
1.43l67 white-stemmed milkweedAsclepias albicans2 / 21
1.45   Trail now on flattish top of ridge; local high point; elevation ~1760 feet (536 m)
1.46r68 desert apricotPrunus fremontii+20 / 96
1.54   Minor local low point; trail curves left
1.55   Switchback left
1.56   Trail curves right 90°
1.61   Local high point
1.65   Local low point
1.70   Local high point
1.73 69 California fan palmWashingtonia filifera10 / 24
1.73   Cross wash; elevation 1800 feet (549 m)
1.73l  (desert baccharis, Baccharis sergiloides; arrow-weed, Pluchea sericea)
1.73r  (Anderson's desert-thorn, Lycium andersonii)
1.75l70~Anderson's desert-thornLycium andersonii5 / 23
1.75r  Sign: "Trail"; trail leaves wash to left
1.76l71 arrow-leafPleurocoronis pluriseta5 / 32
1.78l  California barrel cactus, Ferocactus cylindraceus, uprooted and fallen over, regrowing from stem tops
1.80   Trail joins wash
1.88r  Trail leaves wash to right; sign "Trail"
1.93l  (Engelmann's hedgehog cactus, Echinocereus engelmannii)
1.98   Cross small wash
2.04   Switchback left at side wash
2.06   Switchback right
2.08l  Switchback left
2.13   Switchback right
2.14   Trail turns right
2.15   Trail curves left 90°
2.19   Minor saddle; local high point
2.20l ~(short-leaved baccharis, Baccharis brachyphylla)
2.23   Local low point
2.25   Minor local high point; then minor local low point
2.28   Overlook of drainage to left, which has many cut tamarisk branches and big palm trees up drainage; trail curves right 90°; elevation 2120 feet (646 m)
2.32   Trail curves left
2.36l  (Tall palms); local high point immediately followed by local low point
2.39   Trail again on lip of drainage to left briefly; many tamarisk still present there
2.50   Switchback right
2.56   Switchback left
2.58   Trail begins series of minor local high and low points
2.68b72 Mohave yuccaYucca schidigera10 / 910
2.72l  Local high point; elevation 2240 feet (683 m); trail continues with series of minor local high and low points
2.74r73 Engelmann's hedgehog cactusEchinocereus engelmannii5 / 58
2.83r  Jct. Schey Trail
2.94   Trail turns left 90°
2.98   Switchback left
3.01   Local high point
3.03   Trail zigzags right then left
3.05   Trail crosses wash and turns right 90°
3.15l  Cross wash; sign: "Trail [to right]"
3.16b74 California buckwheatEriogonum fasciculatum var. polifolium10 / 322
3.32r  (desert lotus, Lotus rigidus)
3.33   Cross wash; trail turns right 90°
3.35   Trail turns left 90°
3.45l75spannual phaceliaPhacelia sp.2 / 1 
3.46l76 goldenheadAcamptopappus sphaerocephalus var. sphaerocephalus1 / 11
3.49l77 desert dudleyaDudleya saxosa ssp. aloides3 / 34
3.56   Local high point
3.57l78~desert woolly-starEriastrum eremicum ssp. eremicum20 / 32
3.64r  Cross major drainage; sign: "Trail [ahead]"
3.72   Cross side wash
3.75   Saddle; local high point; elevation 2360 feet (719 m)
3.82r79 Vasey's sageSalvia vaseyi3 / 35
3.91l80 linear-leaved stillingiaStillingia linearifolia1 / 14
4.16   Cross wash; elevation ~2190 feet (668 m)
4.18   Trail turns left 90°, then turns right 90°
4.21l81 desert spike-mossSelaginella eremophila99 / 93
4.24   Local high point
4.34   Switchback right at drainage, then trail turns left 90°
4.40   Local high point at saddle between minor side drainages; elevation 2220 feet (677 m)
4.43l  desert mistletoe, Phoradendron californicum, on white-stemmed milkweed, Asclepias albicans
4.49   Switchback left at ridge; trail then switchbacks down the slope
4.52l82~California spear-leaved brickelliaBrickellia arguta var. arguta5 / 13
4.60l83 desert baccharisBaccharis sergiloides3 / 14
4.60b84~*ditch beard grassPolypogon interruptus20 / 12
4.60r85 mountain California-fuchsiaEpilobium canum ssp. latifolium1 / 17
4.60l  Check for different annual Asteraceae 2.5 feet tall
4.60   Cross Cat Creek; local low point; elevation ~2078 feet (633 m)
4.60l86 *saltcedarTamarix ramosissima1 / 15
4.60r  Sign: "Trail [ascends to left]"
4.63   Cross wash and gradually switchback left
4.67   Switchback right and trail turns left 90°
4.76   Switchback left at ridge
4.79   Trail turns right 90°
4.85   Switchback right and trail curves left 90°
5.00   Local high point; elevation 2320 feet (707 m)
5.00   End plant guide

Comments On Specific Species

Perityle emoryi. The first occurrence only had dead plants when surveyed, but live specimens are found a short distance away.

Krameria grayi. The determination was confirmed from fruit at mile 2.00. K. erecta may be present here as well, but needs to be confirmed from flowers or fruit.

Ferocactus cylindraceus. The varieties are not recognized in the Flora of North America treatment.

Prunus fremontii. Most of the specimens on the trail did not have leaves when surveyed, and hence some specimens could be the very similar Ziziphus parryi. However, Ziegler only found Z. parryi at higher elevation in the neighboring Deep Canyon.

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Copyright © 2006-2007 by Tom Chester and Jim Adams.
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Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 19 February 2007.