Eureka Peak 2x HPS / DS
Peak 5,540ft P500
Peak 5,282ft P300
Peak 5,141ft P300
Peak 4,540ft P300
Peak 5,354ft P300
Peak 5,352ft P500
Peak 4,980ft P300

Sat, Feb 5, 2022
Etymology
Eureka Peak
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile
Eureka Peak previously climbed Sun, Dec 12, 2010

Continued...

Day 3 of my Joshua Tree roadtrip had me actually inside Joshua Tree. I had been distracted for the first two days in the Bighorn Mtns northwest of Yucca Valley. Most of today's peak are located in the Little San Bernardino Mtns in the northwest corner of the park. Others were located on either side of Lower Covington Flat. Most of the day was spent on a 7mi trek starting from the end of Eureka Peak Rd. All of the day's hiking was no more than class 2. Windy conditions persisted for most of the day. I started with three layers in the early morning when it was near freezing. It would warm up some and I did have about half the day with just a tshirt, but I would often put layers on and take them off, depending if I was climbing uphill or descending, or if I was at the higher elevations on the main crest where the winds were strongest. For the second day in a row, it didn't break 50F for the day's high temperature.

Little San Bernardino Mountains

This was quite an enjoyable outing. It wasn't until after 7:30a that I arrived at the end of the dirt road. It's a long 15mi from SR62 in Yucca Valley, but the Park Service keeps it well-graded and any vehicle can easily navigate it. I had been here back in 2010 with Adam Jantz when we made a twilight visit to tag Eureka Peak because it was on the HPS list. I regretted ever since that I didn't tag the nearby higher summit, Peak 5,540ft with more than 600ft of prominence. This visit would let me right that wrong, as well as visit some off-the-beaten-path summits to the south of these two. I had enjoyed the drive from Yucca Valley so much that I had forgotten to eat my breakfast on the way. I would regret this before I was to return to the Jeep in the afternoon.

My first order of business was to take the trail out to Eureka Peak, repeated only because it was so close. It was nice to see the views in the daytime, stretching from the Coachella Valley to the south, San Jacinto to the southwest, San Gorgonio to the west - I would see similar views on the other peaks in this outing. I then made the 12min traverse to Peak 5,540ft which was none-too-special, and only slightly higher than Eureka Peak. After returning to the road, I headed south over Pt. 5,482ft on the California Riding Trail. This was the end of the well-visited spots.

Now for the fun part. The main crest of the range runs northwest to southeast. The northeast side is generally gentle terrain at elevations between 4,000ft and 5,000ft. The southwest side is anything but gentle. The range drops off dramatically in a dizzying array of steep ridgelines, gullies and washes, descending 4,000ft to the Coachella Valley. The other three peaks were all on this side. I dropped off the main crest to the south, into a gully that passes close to Peak 5,282ft's saddle its northeast side. It was nice to get out of the brunt of the cold wind and I enjoyed this descent for about 1/3mi. Most of the terrain was easy, with a single dry waterfall that had an easy bypass to the side. Once north of the saddle, I turned left to hike more easy terrain up to the saddle. The south side of the saddle stood in stark contrast - it dropped steeply to a deep wash on that side with treacherous slopes that would be dangerous to ascend or descend. I now turned right to climb steep slopes up to Peak 5,282ft. There was much sand, but decent footing, and I topped out at the summit by 8:40a. The wind was howling, so I sat on the leeward side to the west for a short break to take in the views, leave a register and catch my breath.

The next summit, Peak 5,141ft was another 3/4mi to the south, connected by a twisty and interesting ridgeline that I enjoyed very much, even with the winds. Despite the ruggedness of the terrain, I was finding the hiking much to my liking, without any serious obstacles. It took only 40min to get between the two peaks, and before 9:30a I was atop Peak 5,141ft. I had originally planned to return after this point, expect the terrain to be more difficult. Looking at other summits in the broader area, I noticed that Peak 4,540ft was only a mile and a quarter away as the crow flies to the southwest. It is connected to Peak 5,141ft by a convoluted ridgeline that goes over a number of intermediate points that are higher than Peak 4,540ft. It would add almost 2,000ft of gain to the outing, more than doubling what I had planned for. I had only a single 20oz Gatorade with me, which normally might make me hesitate, but the cold temps had kept sweating to almost nothing and I decided the 20z would suffice. After leaving a second register, off I went.

It was a grand time, taking just over an hour to traverse to Peak 4,540ft. The further I got from the main crest, the more remote the feeling, and I was in my element. I had only the weakest of animal trails in places to help me out - sheep seem to be the only mammals that play around in these hills - but it mattered little. Nothing scary, mostly good footing (though I did have to slog up a few slopes that were a bit too sandy). I had only carried two registers with me and left them on the previous summits - this one felt like it deserved one for its remoteness. I had my closest views of the day to Coachella Valley and San Jacinto. It was fairly clear and I could see Palm Springs, the windmill farms, and other features.

The return went better than I expected and I still had some Gatorade left by the time I got back. I found a neat shortcut that let me bypass climbing back over Peak 5,141ft, a more direct route back to Peak 5,282ft (this one I couldn't avoid revisiting). When I got back to the gully/wash on the northeast side of Peak 5,282ft, I found a bighorn ram skull with spine and ribs still attached, a cool find. Oddly, I had passed within a few feet of it earlier in the day and never noticed it. I took a few pics and left if for the next adventurer to find. It was 1:30p when I got back to the Jeep, plenty of time left in the day (and in my tank) for a few more peaks.

Peak 5,354ft

This is the highpoint separating Upper and Lower Covington Flats. It is only about half a mile from Eureka Peak Rd. I had to park at the edge of the roadway since there was no turnouts anywhere in the vicinity. The hike is an easy one, steep towards the end. It took just over 20min to make it to the summit where there is an unlabeled benchmark and a register left by Richard Carey. Chris Kerth had also visited this - seems it is regularly done with Eureka Peak and Peak 5,540ft (by the peak-obsessed, anyway). Nice views of the Flats on either side. Eureka Peak and Peak 5,540ft look flattish and unremarkable to the west. To the east rises Peak 5,352ft across Lower Covington Flat, my next stop.

Peak 5,352ft

I parked at the turnaround at the end of Lower Covington Rd where a picnic site is located. A popular loop trail starts here that covers both Lower and Upper Covington Flats in about 4-5hrs. I headed east cross-country, another half mile hike, but with more elevation gain than the last one. It took over half an hour to find my way to the rocky top. There are four points vying for highpoint honors, all closely-spaced. I visited all four, deciding the southernmost was highest (not the LoJ point). Very fine views of Lower Covington Flat looking southwest and northwest.

Peak 4,980ft

It was nearly 4p when I got back to the Jeep. With a little over an hour before sunset, I made haste for this last summit. It is located about 4.5mi northwest of the previous summit, on the northeast side of Lower Covington Flat. There is a telecom installation at the summit with a road going to the top. Unfortunately, it is gated and locked, no public vehicle access. There is a turnout for 2-3 vehicles just north of the junction with Lower Covington Rd. It's about 2/3mi to the summit as the crow flies, more than twice this if you follow the road as it winds its way up the mountain. I followed the road to start as far as a second gate where the road makes a U-turn. I left the road here to follow a gully steeply uphill to a saddle where the summit and towers come into view. Conveniently, the road appears just on the other side of the saddle and I followed it for a second time for about 1/3mi. Where it starts to make another detour to go around the back side of the summit ridge, I made a second shortcut by heading directly to the summit - I spent a litte over 30min on the ascent. The towers are nicely located below the summit, but they easily rise well above it. The route worked so nicely that I followed it for the return as well.

It was 5p when I finished up, only minutes from the sun setting over the hills the west. I took a quick shower, blasted the Jeep's heater to warm me up, and headed off to Yucca Valley for dinner...

Continued...


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