The D.V. Garstin Trail is situated not far from the famous Indian Canyon in Palm Springs. This challenging hike has provided us with both excitement and accomplishment. It’s far from an easy trek, particularly for novice hikers, and its seemingly innocent appearance can be deceiving.
Over the past few years, we’ve conquered the D.V. Garstin Trail several times. The initial stretch of the trail is unforgiving. It’s a continuous climb to the top, spanning approximately 1.5 miles. Along the way, you’ll spot beautiful homes, each more extravagant than the last. The trail features numerous switchbacks with sharp turns that demand your attention. Most of the time, you’ll find yourself scrambling over rocks and loose gravel without respite. The first hill or vista takes around 25 minutes to conquer. After that, the trail briefly levels out before transforming into a formidable climb. The incline becomes steeper and more imposing, standing before us like a giant. All we can do is hike one step at a time until we reach the summit. Midway up the hill, you can look back and admire the stunning views: the city in the distance, the Santa Rosa Mountain ahead, golf courses below in lush greenery, and the desert landscape surrounding us.
The key to conquering this hill is maintaining a steady pace, staying hydrated, and engaging in good conversation. As we hiked, we struck up a lively conversation that carried us through most of the trail, helping us conquer the climb. Our kids had no trouble keeping up; they always have fascinating conversations that make time fly by. Once we reached the second part of the climb, we looked back to see how far we had come. At this point, the summit is not too far ahead.
To the Top
The next section is relatively flat, and the endpoint is visible in the distance. The trail is well-designed but lengthy. After about 10 minutes of hiking, you’ll reach the largest pile of rocks you’ll encounter on this trail. Over the years, hikers, including locals, have gathered these rocks to create this pile, serving as a reminder that you’ve reached the top. Standing there, you’ll feel a sense of amazement at your success in conquering the hill against the odds. From this point, several trails branch out in different directions, including connections to the Frank Bogart Trail, Earl Henderson Trail, Clara Burgess Trail, and the Araby Trail. You can choose to return via one of these trails or take the same route back. After some relaxation time, it’s time to descend. Hikers reach this summit from all the connected trails. Once adequately rehydrated, we retraced our steps along the same trail.
Descending has its own set of challenges. While it’s downhill all the way, one must be cautious with each step to avoid slips or falls on the loose gravel, dust, and sand that often cover the trail. Recent hurricanes and rainfall in the area have left some damage on most of the trails, so precautions are necessary to prevent injuries. Our kids were eager to race downhill, and we allowed them to do so, but we soon noticed that they had tumbled several times before reaching the bottom. I had been teasing them about having enough bandages to cover their cuts, but fortunately, I hadn’t needed to use them yet.
The descent took us almost half the time it took to ascend, navigating the switchbacks and navigating over rocks and loose gravel. Along the way, we encountered fellow hikers struggling to climb up; some rested around the first vista, while others valiantly ascended the second hill, appearing as miniature figures from our vantage point at the base of the hill. The hike offers no shade, so it’s essential to bring a hat and plenty of water. Luckily, we embarked on a cooler day, so our water needs were not excessive. Wildlife sightings are not common on this hike, but on one previous excursion, we were pleasantly surprised to spot a solitary bighorn sheep along the trail.