The Living Desert Nature Preserve consists of 1,080 sonoran desert acres situated just above the zoo. From The Living Desert, a hiker can select one of three trails to suit their desired experience of the real undisturbed desert. The nature trails take you through various Sonoran Desert biological communities and habitats including desert riparian woodland with smoketree, palo verde and desert willow, and desert scrub of creosote bush and white bursage in the canyon and on the ridge. The number of animals that you might see along the nature trail or wild on the developed grounds is extensive. Lists are available upon request from the Information Center.
1. The Inner Loop is a flat, sandy trail through a palo verde and smoketree desert riparian woodland. Graphic signs along the path will help you interpret the desert world. This quarter-mile trail is a brief fifteen minute interlude.
2. The Middle Loop extends you out a bit further with the same desert riparian woodland and then onto a rocky desert mountain slope or bajada. You will also experience a desert wash or arroyo and can visit the interpretive exhibit of the San Andreas Fault with broad views highlighting key features along the faultline along the northern edge of the Coachella Valley. This trail is about one mile long on a smooth dirt path, and includes interpretive signage. Excepting the dip into the wash, it is a very gentle rise and fall as you travel the loop.
3. The Wilderness Loop is for the adventurous or those ready to be adventurous. This trail traverses a very rocky desert canyon if you travel the loop in a counter clockwise manner, or a desert mountain ridge if you travel in a clockwise manner. Either way you peak at a covered picnic area at 1,000 feet elevation and can clearly see Eisenhower Peak at 1,952 feet. The path is narrow, but well marked. You will climb over, scramble around, or jump from one boulder to another in the canyon. This desert experience is intimate, the opportunities for wildlife viewing exceptional and the views of the Coachella Valley at the top are spectacular. The trail is 3.5 miles long from the junction with the Middle Loop or 5 miles from the trailhead. Expect to spend three to five hours on this loop.
CAUTION: Do not start this trail after 12 noon, the park may be closed upon your return (5:00 p.m.). This loop is closed during the summer; too hot. Do not hike this trail alone. It is not patrolled.