A Palm Springs fat-tire challenge

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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A Palm Springs fat-tire challenge
Question: I am going to be in the Palm Springs area this February (we'll be waist-deep in snow at home), and I'm wondering if any good mountain biking exists in the surrounding area? I'm an intermediate/advanced rider looking for fairly challenging rides. Any suggestions?

Keith E.
Edmonton, Alberta
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: You bet there are plenty of good rides in the area. Problem is, many of the best ones--most of which are at higher elevations--will be snow-covered themselves, which means you'll need to sacrifice the climbs and stick to the lowlands if you want to avoid the powder. A good place to start is a 34-mile there-and-back ride along Dunn Road, which will take you from the high desert of the Santa Rosa Mountains to the lowlands of the Coachella Valley.

If you're like me, Keith, and like to get your climbing out of the way first, do the ride in reverse, starting from Cathedral City and pedaling southwest to the intersection of Palm Canyon Drive and California 74. Steel yourself for a long uphill grind from 1,150 feet in Cathedral City to 4,265-foot Palm Canyon. Many people do this ride as a one-way downhill cruise, a 17-mile spin from Palm Canyon to Cathedral City that requires an extra car and a high tolerance for unearned fun. If you have an extra car and don't want to retrace your route but still want a rewarding climb, start the ride from the intersection of Carroll and Channel Drives in Cathedral City, off California 111. You'll finish on Palm Canyon Drive, just off California 74, near the entrance to Atajo Alpine Village.

Even though this is best ridden from fall through spring, you'll need to bring plenty of warm clothing: It'll get progressively cooler as you pedal up into the high desert. For more details on the Dunn Road ride and other choice trails in the area, stop by Desert Cyclery (619-321-2453) on California 111 south of town in Rancho Mirage for maps, advice, and a copy of the Coachella Valley Mountain Bike Guide.

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