San Bernardino Mountains, Desert Peaks (East)

A 3-day outing to hike Black Mountain, Chaparrosa Peak, Bighorn Mountain, Meeks Mountain with John, Jack, Frank and Ilian.

Day 1:
We drove to the trailhead for the Black Mtn. hike via Yucca Valley and Pioneertown. Where the drivable roads ended we put on boots and set out on foot cross-country towards our goal. We ended up with a bit of a loop hike (3.8 miles, 1,100 ft elevation gain) since we discovered a cairned route leading us back to the vehicles from the peak. Once back at the vehicles we had a quick lunch and drove over to the Pioneertown Mountains Preserve.

The preserve was our starting point for the hike to Chaparrosa Peak. This hike was on a very nicely maintained trail (5.9 miles, 1,280 ft elevation gain). As on Black it was windy on the top and exposed ridges. We made it back to the parking area with just under an hour of daylight left. Now it was time to find a camping spot. We hadn’t seen any good sites driving up to the preserve so we decided to just stay where we were sleeping in our vehicles. Temperatures dropped rapidly and there was a slight wind. With these conditions we just had a quick dinner standing around our stoves before crawling into our warm sleeping bags.

Day 2:
After a little breakfast, we walked up the wash past the visitor center in the preserve to find the petroglyphs we had heard about. After a pleasant stroll with a little stream crossing we soon found the petroglyphs.

We left the preserve for Hwy 247 and drove north to a dirt road that would take us towards Bighorn and Meeks mountain. This area is open to vehicles and we encountered a maze of roads. The main road (RC 2330) was in great shape and we took it in towards our mountains. Eventually we turned on to some other roads to get close to Bighorn Mountain. The road continued but was mostly suitable to Jeeps and more capable off-road vehicles. So we parked and continued on foot. With the network of roads it became an easy road hike (5 miles, 730 ft elevation gain).

After the hike we drove over to the starting point of the hike up Meeks Mountain. This was a short, but steeper, hike. When I arrived on top I saw a “big” animal depart over the edge on the other side of the peak. I only saw it briefly, but it looked like a bighorn sheep. With this hike we made our goal of hiking these four desert peaks. We drove back towards Hwy. 247. A few miles before reaching pavement, in a nicely sheltered spot between some hills, Jack and I stopped to make camp for another night. The others continued on home.

The evening conditions on this day were much more comfortable than the day before. With no wind at all and a big open space we got out our fire pan, got a campfire started, and settled in with some beers. There was no moon and the sky was totally clear so we could enjoy the stars in the sky. We could have sat there a lot longer chatting and enjoying the campfire had we not run out of beer 😉

Day 3:
Before driving back home we decided to check out a couple of peaks in the north-west corner of Joshua Tree NP. We drove to Yucca Valley, headed east for a bit and then followed the dirt road into JTNP towards Covingtion Flat and from there up to Eureka Peak. Arriving at the parking spot a great view of the San Jacinto, San Gorgonio and the Coachella Valley opened up. Worth the drive. We walked over to the peak and endured a strong wind for some great views. On the way back we stopped close to the Blackrock Camp area of JTNP to walk up South Park Peak (just outside the border of the park). We found that area to be very busy with people and did not stay long.

Another great outing with good friends.

(click on any image to enlarge/start slide show)

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