Sometimes you just need a fresh perspective. And getting up high to see things from a different view does the trick! At 3.6-miles (round-trip) the zigzagging Garstin Trail at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument satisfies with mind-expanding vistas of the Coachella Valley and a wealth of craggy desert peaks. The trail offers close-up charms, too: Multitudes of chubby round barrel cactus line the hillside, and side-blotched lizards perform push-ups on rocks. Garstin Trail takes off from a ritzy cul-de-sac, then climbs high above 5,000-square-foot homes as it ascends 900 feet up Smoke Tree Mountain. At 1.5 miles, you’ll reach a small plateau and a junction with Shannon and Henderson trails.
Continue uphill for another 100 feet to a massive rock pile providing a 360-degree view. Mighty Mount San Jacinto dominates the scene to the west, but there’s also pointy Murray Hill and the Santa Rosa Mountains to the south. To return, backtrack to the Shannon/Henderson junction, hang a right on Shannon, connect to Henderson, and circle back to your car.
Drive south on S. Palm Canyon Dr. to Bogert Trail. Turn left, drive 0.9 mile, and turn left on Barona Rd. Park in the cul-de-sac. Additional info at Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center. No dogs.