Hike the Wilderness Loop Trail at the Living Desert

While visiting one of the countries best zoos, The Living Desert, you can access The Wilderness Loop Trail to see views of the Coachella Valley and the San Andreas Fault from high up on the mountains. The San Andreas Fault is the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American plate. There is also a great view of San Gorgonio Peak, the highest peak in Southern California at 11,503 feet.


  • This trail starts inside The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens

  • Wilderness Loop Trail: 5 miles

  • Elevation gain: 793 feet

  • This is NOT a free trail, you must pay the $25 entry fee (per adult) to The Living Desert (Zoo). Plan well and make a day of doing both the trail and exploring the zoo to make it well worth it.

When to Go

The best time to do this hike is September - May (Summer is too hot!)

Wilderness Loop Trail

Start the trail at the northeast corner of the zoo. You’ll see signs to the trail entrance. There are 3 trails as you can see in the sign above. They are the half mile Discovery Loop, the 1.5 mile Adventure Loop, and the longest Wilderness Loop which the one we chose. It’s challenging but really beautiful!

The trail starts on a flat path leading into the mountains. When you get to the fork keep left to take the loop clockwise. This way, you start the trail heading upward and end it walking through a river wash.

The first part of this hike you walk through a desert mountain range of boulders and sand.

As you get higher you start to see all the layers of desert landscape, rocky boulders, lush palm trees, and snow dusted mountains beyond (we did this hike in December).

From up top, the mountains look an array of purples and blues against the vibrant sky.

Below is a view of the The Vintage (Golf) Club. There are around 124 golf courses in the Coachella Valley.

My favorite thing on this hike is the great view of San Gorgonio Peak, the highest peak in Southern California at 11,503 feet. If you go to Palm Springs you can take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of this peak. There are several hikes you can do up there, but keep an eye on the weather. These hikes are probably best done in the Spring or Fall since in the winter it’s capped in snow.

Keep your eyes peeled for any mountain goats along the way. We didn’t see any on this trip, but there are frequent sightings. If you don’t see them out on the trail, you can get a good look at some back at the zoo.

The last mile or so of this hike you are going through a river wash. There are many boulders and soft sand so be careful to not roll an ankle. This part of the trail isn’t well marked, but if you just continue to walk between the mountains instead of up any paths you’ll eventually see where the trail picks back up. With Mount San Gorgonio well in view, it shouldn’t be hard to orient yourself.

When you arrive back on trail, keep left on the trails until you arrive back at The Living Desert.

I hope you enjoy this trail as much as I did! If you have any comments or recommendations please leave them in the comments below.

Athletic Apparel Featured Is By Vuori Clothing.

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