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Cactus Spring to Horsethief Creek
  • Sawmill
  • Pinyon, CA 92561

Nature lovers find their own piece of paradise — and get to experience some Greater Palm Springs history — on the hike from Cactus Spring to Horsethief Creek. The 4.6-mile out-and-back trail begins more than 4,000 feet above sea level, just off Highway 74 near Pinyon Flats, and descends into the wild backcountry of the Southern Santa Rosa Mountains. The path, which travels mostly downhill except for a few ups and downs, leads horseback riders and hikers with leashed pups to a crystal-clear, spring-fed creek, passing by a defunct dolomite mine and a historic corral along the way (whether it was used by horse thieves or cattle rangers is a mystery). The chaparral-strewn landscape gives way to a shaded oasis of cottonwood, juniper, and /pine once you approach the water, where many turn back and return — mostly uphill — via the same route. To access the trail, park at the Sawmill Trailhead and walk along the dirt road until reaching the Cactus Spring and Sawmill paths. Take a left toward Cactus Spring, where you’ll need to register at the sign-in box before continuing along the route.

Total Distance: 4.6 miles

Level: Moderate

Hiking Features
  • Distance (mi): 4.6
  • Distance (km): 7.4
  • Difficulty Score: 17
  • Route Type: Out and back
  • Elevation at Trailhead: 4054
  • Elevation Gain (+): 1434
  • Elevation Loss (-): 1434
  • Net Elev +/- (ft): 1434
  • Net Elev +/- (m): 437
  • Minimum Elevation: 3436
  • Maximum Elevation: 4047
  • Elevation Change-lowest point to highest point ft: 611
  • Parking Type: Paved Lot
  • Location: Southern Santa Rosa Mountains
  • Sub-Location: Pinyon Flats/Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument
  • Dogs Allowed:
  • Horses Allowed:
  • Historic Sites:
  • 6 - 10 Miles:
  • Free:
Trail Length
  • 6 - 10 Miles:
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