Plant Guide to Art Smith Trail (Rerouted 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 new (rerouted) section; a separate page gives the old 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, are 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 Taxa81100%

We found 11 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"

This guide takes advantage of the earlier work done using the old section of the trail; see Fieldwork Dates for the old trail.

We thank Erik Blume for help with the 12/30/06 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
0.03l22sppopcorn flowerCryptantha sp. /  
0.03l23 *redstem filareeErodium cicutarium5 / 259
0.03l24?baby chuparosa?Justicia californica? /  
0.03l25?baby California fan palm?Washingtonia filifera? /  
0.04l26 desert pinePeucephyllum schottii5 / 22
0.04r  Sign: "Trails closed in Dead Indian Canyon January 1 - September 30"
0.04   Bear right and stay in wash near base of levee
0.05r  Sign: "Trail [ahead]"
0.05l27sspapricot mallowSphaeralcea ambigua50 / 9 
0.06l  (*athel, Tamarix aphylla)
0.06l28 bur-ragweedAmbrosia acanthicarpa10 / 221
0.08r  (flat-topped buckwheat, Eriogonum deflexum var. deflexum)
0.09r29 *Oriental mustardSisymbrium orientale5 / 113
0.09l30 *athelTamarix aphylla30 / 32
0.10r31 *Russian thistleSalsola tragus3 / 128
0.11l32spann buckwheatEriogonum sp.1 / 1 
0.11l33 *giant reedArundo donax1 / 19
0.13l34?unk annual like monkeyflowerMimulus sp.?1 / 1 
0.18r35 baby blue palo verdeCercidium floridum ssp. floridum2 / 22
0.21l36~*prickly sow thistleSonchus asper ssp. asper1 / 132
0.22r  Trail turns left 90° near end of levee; sign: "Trail [left]"
0.27 37 Thurber's sandpaper-plantPetalonyx thurberi ssp. thurberi3 / 13
0.27l  (desert-willow, Chilopsis linearis ssp. arcuata)
0.33l38 plicate coldeniaTiquilia plicata1 / 13
0.33r  Trail turns right and leaves wash; sign: "Trail [ahead]"
0.34l  (narrow-leaf four-wing saltbush, Atriplex canescens ssp. linearis)
0.35   Trail turns left
0.35r39spannual grassgrass sp. /  
0.35r40 chuparosaJusticia californica30 / 96
0.36l41~Gander's chollaOpuntia ganderi50 / 98
0.36r42 California fagoniaFagonia laevis99 / 95
0.40r43 desert plantainPlantago ovata99 / 97
0.45l  (teddy-bear cholla, Opuntia bigelovii)
0.46   Switchback right
0.50r  (California barrel cactus, Ferocactus cylindraceus)
0.50   Switchback left
0.57l44~white rhatanyKrameria grayi+20 / 92
0.57r45 California barrel cactusFerocactus cylindraceus+30 / 97
0.58   Trail turns right 90°
0.59l  Sign: "Trail [both directions]"; trail turns right
0.60r  Sign (facing other way): "Canyon Trail"
0.61   Minor saddle; local high point
0.62r  Trail curves left; sign: "Trail [left]"
0.64l46 narrowleaf ditaxisDitaxis lanceolata5 / 55
0.64l47 Engelmann's hedgehog cactusEchinocereus engelmannii5 / 58
0.65l  (desert agave, Agave deserti
0.65l  (Nevada ephedra, Ephedra nevadensis)
0.65l48 fish-hook cactusMammillaria dioica2 / 23
0.66l  (beavertail cactus, Opuntia basilaris var. basilaris)
0.66   Local low point
0.68l  (woolly lipfern, Cheilanthes parryi)
0.68   Switchback right
0.68l49 sweetbushBebbia juncea var. aspera99 / 913
0.70   Saddle; minor local high point followed by minor local low point
0.71   Trail turns left
0.75l50 beavertail cactusOpuntia basilaris var. basilaris10 / 912
0.75   Trail turns left at ridge
0.76l51 woolly lipfernCheilanthes parryi20 / 94
0.77r  Trail turns left at ridge; water tank with camoflauge on one side
0.79   Trail turns left at ridge
0.82r  Jct. Canyon Trail; Sign: "Canyon Trail"
0.85   Trail turns right
0.85b52 rock hibiscusHibiscus denudatus5 / 34
0.89l  (California trixis, Trixis californica var. californica)
0.95   Minor saddle; local high point
1.00r53 California trixisTrixis californica var. californica10 / 56
1.03l54 desert agaveAgave deserti30 / 97
1.08l  (California barrel cactus, Ferocactus cylindraceus, fallen over, still growing from stem top)
1.18r  Jct. trail; sign: "Trail [ahead]"
1.23   Switchback right
1.24l55 San Felipe dogweedAdenophyllum porophylloides3 / 26
1.26r56~desert woolly-starEriastrum eremicum ssp. eremicum20 / 32
    The hillside beginning near here is covered with flowering annuals in wet years
1.31   Switchback left
1.31   Switchback right
1.34   Switchback left
1.35   Switchback right
1.37   Trail jogs left
1.42   Jct. Hopalong Cassidy Trail
1.44l57 arrow-leafPleurocoronis pluriseta5 / 32
1.48   Switchback left
1.54l  Jct. old trail; elevation 1640 feet (500 m)
    Species on old section, missing on reroute, with first occurrence later on trail that needs to be recorded:
  58 pencil chollaOpuntia ramosissima20 / 93
  59 desert-willowChilopsis linearis ssp. arcuata10 / 36
  60~*red bromeBromus madritensis ssp. rubens / 60
  61 thick-leaved ground cherryPhysalis crassifolia2 / 26
  62 chiaSalvia columbariae99 / 925
  63 *fountain grassPennisetum setaceum10 / 312
  64?pebble pincushion?Chaenactis carphoclinia? /  
  65 desert mistletoe (on Acacia greggii)Phoradendron californicum20 / 53
  66 teddy-bear chollaOpuntia bigelovii15 / 35
  67~trailing townulaSarcostemma hirtellum2 / 22
  68 Nevada ephedraEphedra nevadensis50 / 93
  69 Wright's buckwheatEriogonum wrightii var. nodosum5 / 55
  70 flat-topped buckwheatEriogonum deflexum var. deflexum2 / 22
1.54l  Sign (facing other direction): "Trail closed ..."
1.54l  (matchweed, Gutierrezia sarothrae)
1.54r71 Parish's viguieraViguiera parishii30 / 96
1.61   Trail zigzags up ridge
1.63l  (white-stemmed milkweed, Asclepias albicans)
1.65r  Check if this dead smallish (annual?) is a different species
1.66   Local high point
1.66l72 jojobaSimmondsia chinensis20 / 95
1.66   Minor local low point; cross small wash
1.68l73 star-flowered bedstrawGalium stellatum var. eremicum5 / 23
1.68l74~pellitoryParietaria hespera var. hespera1 / 17
1.68l75 white-stemmed milkweedAsclepias albicans2 / 21
1.70   Trail now on flattish top of ridge; local high point; elevation ~1760 feet (536 m)
1.71r76 desert apricotPrunus fremontii+20 / 96
1.79   Minor local low point; trail curves left
1.80   Switchback left
1.81   Trail curves right 90°
1.86   Local high point
1.90   Local low point
1.95   Local high point
1.98b77 California fan palmWashingtonia filifera10 / 24
1.98   Cross wash; elevation 1800 feet (549 m)
1.98l  (desert baccharis, Baccharis sergiloides; arrow-weed, Pluchea sericea)
1.98r  (Anderson's desert-thorn, Lycium andersonii)
2.00l78~Anderson's desert-thornLycium andersonii5 / 23
2.00r  Sign: "Trail"; trail leaves wash to left
2.03l  California barrel cactus, Ferocactus cylindraceus, uprooted and fallen over, regrowing from stem tops
2.05   Trail joins wash
2.13r  Trail leaves wash to right; sign "Trail"
2.23   Cross small wash
2.29   Switchback left at side wash
2.31   Switchback right
2.33l  Switchback left
2.38   Switchback right
2.39   Trail turns right
2.40   Trail curves left 90°
2.44   Minor saddle; local high point
2.45l ~(short-leaved baccharis, Baccharis brachyphylla)
2.48   Local low point
2.50   Minor local high point; then minor local low point
2.53   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)
2.57   Trail curves left
2.61l  (Tall palms); local high point immediately followed by local low point
2.64   Trail again on lip of drainage to left briefly; many tamarisk still present there
2.75   Switchback right
2.81   Switchback left
2.83   Trail begins series of minor local high and low points
2.93b79 Mohave yuccaYucca schidigera10 / 910
2.97l  Local high point; elevation 2240 feet (683 m); trail continues with series of minor local high and low points
3.08r  Jct. Schey Trail
3.19   Trail turns left 90°
3.23   Switchback left
3.26   Local high point
3.28   Trail zigzags right then left
3.30   Trail crosses wash and turns right 90°
3.40l  Cross wash; sign: "Trail [to right]"
3.41b80 California buckwheatEriogonum fasciculatum var. polifolium10 / 322
3.57r  (desert lotus, Lotus rigidus)
3.58   Cross wash; trail turns right 90°
3.60   Trail turns left 90°
3.70l81spannual phaceliaPhacelia sp.2 / 1 
3.71l82 goldenheadAcamptopappus sphaerocephalus var. sphaerocephalus1 / 11
3.74l83 desert dudleyaDudleya saxosa ssp. aloides3 / 34
3.81   Local high point
3.89r  Cross major drainage; sign: "Trail [ahead]"
3.97   Cross side wash
4.00   Saddle; local high point; elevation 2360 feet (719 m)
4.07r84 Vasey's sageSalvia vaseyi3 / 35
4.16l85 linear-leaved stillingiaStillingia linearifolia1 / 14
4.41   Cross wash; elevation ~2190 feet (668 m)
4.43   Trail turns left 90°, then turns right 90°
4.46l86 desert spike-mossSelaginella eremophila99 / 93
4.49   Local high point
4.59   Switchback right at drainage, then trail turns left 90°
4.65   Local high point at saddle between minor side drainages; elevation 2220 feet (677 m)
4.68l  desert mistletoe, Phoradendron californicum, on white-stemmed milkweed, Asclepias albicans
4.74   Switchback left at ridge; trail then switchbacks down the slope
4.77l87~California spear-leaved brickelliaBrickellia arguta var. arguta5 / 13
4.85l88 desert baccharisBaccharis sergiloides3 / 14
4.85b89~*ditch beard grassPolypogon interruptus20 / 12
4.85r90 mountain California-fuchsiaEpilobium canum ssp. latifolium1 / 17
4.85l  Check for different annual Asteraceae 2.5 feet tall
4.85   Cross Cat Creek; local low point; elevation ~2078 feet (633 m)
4.85l91 *saltcedarTamarix ramosissima1 / 15
4.85r  Sign: "Trail [ascends to left]"
4.88   Cross wash and gradually switchback left
4.92   Switchback right and trail turns left 90°
5.01   Switchback left at ridge
5.04   Trail turns right 90°
5.10   Switchback right and trail curves left 90°
5.25   Local high point; elevation 2320 feet (707 m)
5.25   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.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to us at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 19 February 2007.