Haystack Mountain P300
Terri Peak P500
Bernasconi Hills South P750
Coney Hill

Fri, Mar 1, 2019
Haystack Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 Profiles: 1 2 3


It was almost time for me to leave the desert as I was due to meet up with my wife in Orange County later in the afternoon. I made one last hike in the area before leaving Coachella Valley, then a few more short hikes around Perris Reservoir in Morena Valley near Riverside on my way west towards the coast.

Haystack Mountain

This modest desert summit is located in the Santa Rosa Mtns southwest of Palm Desert. Unpaved Dunn Rd passes within a mile of the summit to the west, but this road is open to foot, bike and equestrian traffic only, making an ascent by that way around 8mi each way. The shorter route is to start from SR74, the Pines to Palms Highway. The Art Smith Trail can be used to cover 2/3 of the distance to the peak, about 9mi roundtrip with almost 3,000ft of gain. I spent the night camped at the trailhead but can't recommend it. For some reason there were folks coming in occasionally until almost midnight and there's road noise from the nearby highway as well. In the morning I was up early and starting off by 6:10a, having the popular trail to myself. There are various branches of this trail, I came to find, and I would explore a few of these on my way up and down. The original trail that starts up Dead Indian Wash,a is closed for six months of the year, so I had to use the bypass route which goes along a levee to the north side of the wash before starting up into the hills. Overcast skies had left things a bit cooler today, a welcome change, and though there was some chance of rainfall today, none fell. The trail winds its way up through the desert landscape, past several palm groves, some looking healthier than others. Haystack Mtn comes into view after the first hour, still some distance to the west. There's no obvious place to leave the trail to start the cross-country and it seems many options will work. There are also a number of ribs on the east side of Haystack that can be used to reach the summit plateau. I simply aimed for the southermost one that was the most direct route to the highpoint. This scrambling was a bit rocky but only mildly brushy and fairly pleasant going. After a couple of false summits along the rib, I reached the highpoint by 8:40a where I found a cairn with a few sticks and a busy register. Avery Wear had been the last person to summit a few months earlier. The benchmark is located a short distance southeast of the highpoint and I visited this before heading back down. Dust was already blowing down in Coachella Valley obscuring views there, but those to the higher regions to the west were clearer, snowy San Jacinto and San Gorgonio both visible to the northwest. Once back on the trail, I passed by more than a dozen parties making their way along the trail in both directions. Poppies and other flowers were beginning to bloom in profusion, and it was easy to see why folks flock here to take in the scenes. It would take me until 11a to return to the TH at SR78, making for a roundtrip time of almost 5hrs. As I was hiking back along the levee near the end I passed by a scantily clad young woman in the middle of a photoshoot, using the Santa Rosa Mtns as a backdrop. Only in Southern California, I thought.

Terri Peak

I spent much of the next two hours driving west on various freeways and byways to reach Perris Reservoir. Terri Peak, a summit I knew Barbara Lilley had climbed in 2014, was my main objective in the area with almost 750ft of prominence. An old dirt road, not open to vehicles, conveniently goes to the summit. One can access the road from the State Recreation Area to the south via the Fork Trail, but this requires one pay the entrance fee. Alternatively, the same road can be accessed from Via Del Lago at the edge of a neighborhood to the northeast, just outside the State Park. This is the route I used, decent enough except for the fact that you have to initially walk on a bridal path along a row of backyards, with an annoying number of barking dogs. The path leads to a water tank where you have to go under or around an unsigned gate blocking vehicles. In contrast to the Palm Springs Area, the hills here were quite lush with very tall grass and an abundance of flowers. The dirt road meanders a bit to gain elevation, eventually reaching the summit rocks in about 45min's time. Some clown has spray painted several red arrows along the way, and then "Finish" at the highest rock, all so terribly unhelpful. The view overlooking the reservoir is nice and it was here that I discovered some other summits I might do since I had extra time. I'd already been to the two P1Ks in the area - Mt. Russell on the LPC list to the northeast and Bernasconi Hills HP to the southeast, but there were two others with more than 700ft of prominence. I return back the same way, going over nearby PB-only Pt. 2,413ft as an easy bonus. Near the end, the dogs were no less eager to protect their backyards on my second pass as they were when I first went by.

Bernasconi Hills South

Lying at the southern end of the reservoir, Bernasconi Hills South sits somewhat diconnected from the other hills in the area, having more than 800ft of prominence. It lies in a part of the recreation area that does not seem to be open to the public, though I saw no signs or fencing to keep one out. West of the peak, Rider Street offers convenient parking on the east side of the Ramona Expy. From there, it's a steep, all cross-country scramble up to the summit, about half a mile each way. It took me 25min to reach the top where I found the views deteriorating with the coming weather system. There is a benchmark marked "Bobbie" left by the state of California in 1961. The return went much faster as I finished up by 3:30p.

Coney Hill

This last summit lies outside the recreation area to the west of the reservoir, surrounded by neighborhoods on three sides. One can access it from an empty field to the north, just south of Ramona Expy. A use trail goes up the northwest side which I used, though from the satellite view one can see trails on other sides as well. The summit rocks are covered in graffiti, undoubtedly the work of several generations of busy neighborhood teenagers. It was not a very inviting place overlooking the surrounding developments, to be honest. After returning back down to the jeep, I packed away my stuff and prepared for the rest of the drive into Anaheim, not far from the Happiest Place on Earth, if you believe the marketing...

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