Cahuilla Hills Park has a bathroom and some picnic areas, but primarily serves as the trailhead for a number of hikes in the mountains on the western border of the Palm Desert. While the trails that connect to Cahuilla Hills Park cover over eight miles of hiking, only three miles of these trails allow dogs. The trails that allow dogs are the Gabby Hayes Trail and Homestead Trail, and the section of the Hopalong Cassidy Trail that connects them.
The most popular dog-friendly hike in the area is the trail to "The Cross." This simple metal monument is rigged with electricity and high-wattage bulbs and can be seen from miles around when it's illuminated at night. To get there from Cahuilla Hills Park, take the Gabby Hayes Trail west to the Hopalong Cassady Trail, then take the Homestead Trail west at the intersection and continue to The Cross. The total route is 1.8 miles each way.
Note that at the point where the Hopalong Cassady Trail connects to the Gabby Hayes Trail, you can either head west to The Cross or east to Homme-Adams Park, which has a fenced area where dogs are allowed to run off-leash. To hike from Cahuilla Hills Park to Homme-Adams Park, take the Gabby Hayes Trail to the Homestead Trail and continue east and south. This hike is a total of 1.9 miles each way. While you can let your dog off of the leash at Homme-Adams Park, remember you must keep them on a leash on all trails.
These trails offer moderate inclines and a good but manageable challenge for a relatively fit hiker. They also feature great views of the mountains and desert valleys. At some lower points where the surrounding valleys drop out of view, the boulder-studded, ruddy hillsides might make you feel like you've landed on Mars. The sight of other two-legged and four-legged hikers trotting by will bring you out of your reverie and remind you that you're on a relatively popular hiking trail on Earth. It will also be harder to mistake the area for Mars in the spring, when the hills become carpeted in bright green grass and wildflowers burst into bloom.
There's more than one way to feel like you've entered another world. The beautiful natural scenery in the mountains of Palm Desert make them a perfect place for you and your pup to go to escape from the everyday hustle and return refreshed.