Situated at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains in the Santa Rosa-San Jacinto Mountains National Monument (Monument), this trail will take you from an urban adjacent area through a beautiful desert landscape. Regardless of the time of year, you are likely to see life that may include lizards on sunny days, wildflowers during blooming periods, jackrabbits at all times, and for those that get lucky enough you might spot desert bighorn sheep. While the trail is generally accessible year-round, it is best enjoyed in spring to see more wildflowers and to beat the heat that the desert offers in other parts of the year.
The Monument was established by Congress on October 24, 2000 in an effort to “preserve the nationally significant biological, cultural, recreational, geological, educational, and scientific values found in the…mountains”. Arguably, a large portion of the biological and cultural values protected includes the desert bighorn sheep which are state and federally listed as endangered. The population of bighorn sheep were close to the brink of extinction with population estimates of 400 individuals in 2000. As the population has been increasing, odds may be in a visitor’s favor to spot one of these magnificent creatures.
To start the trail, you begin your journey at the La Quinta Cove Trailhead at the edge of the town in La Quinta, CA. You will reach the first of two forks on the trailhead after about 0.6 mile, keep left to continue. After about 0.4 mile, you will reach another fork. You will want to continue right at this junction. This will be the last of the junctions you will need to be aware of.
You will remain on this trail for 2.3 miles until you reach your destination, the 135-acre lake that is the key feature of the Lake Cahuilla Veterans Regional Park, a 710-acre park that is surrounded by the captivating Santa Rosa Mountains and the rest of the Coachella Valley.
Once you have arrived, the lake serves as a great break or lunch spot as there are picnic features such as tables in the park. Once you are ready to head back, your return trip will remain the same. For those looking for a bit longer of an adventure, you can alternately begin at the Bear Creek Oasis Trail (also happens to be one end of the Bear Creek Trail), which would add approximately 1.6 miles roundtrip.
Trail name and general Location: Morrow Trail (also referred to as The Cove to Lake Trail or La Quinta Cove to Lake Cahuilla Trail) in the Santa Rosa-San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.
Trail Rating: Moderate, primarily due to sun exposure and sandy trail conditions; distance may be slightly modified if interested to elongate the hike.
Trail mileage: Round trip is approximately 6.6 miles. One can additionally start at a different trailhead (Bear Creek Oasis Trail), to add approximately 1.6 miles roundtrip.
Hike Description: Regular trail, approximately 3.5 hours; alternate trailhead start, approximately 5 hours.
Directions: Located in Coachella Valley, about 135 miles east of Los Angeles, CA. Park at The Cove/ Cove to Lake Trailhead that is located at the end of Calle Tecate (street name) in La Quinta, CA.
Land Acknowledgement: This public land and trail are ancestral lands and traditional territories of the Cahuilla people.
Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.