On my way home from family vacationing in La Quinta, I decided to pay a visit
to Little Morongo Canyon in the Little San Bernardino Mtns. Most of the canyon
is on BLM lands, but the entrance at the south end is on DWP lands where
the Colorado River Aqueduct tunnels through the base of the range. The utility
road is gated here, and there are large boulders arrayed in a line on either
side to keep unauthorized vehicles out. This is a bit of a shame, since one can
legally gain access to the canyon from the north and drive down to the gate on
the BLM road -
but you'd have to turn around and drive back out to the north.
Unless you have a Jeep (or similar). It seems at the far left (west) side of
the line of boulders, one can drive the embankment to get around the boulders.
I don't even know if this is illegal, as there were no signs indicating No
Trespassing or the like.
Peak 3,350ft - Peak 3,466ft - Peak 3,429ft
In any event, I found myself in Little Morongo Canyon near the Riverside -
San Bernardino county line to climb a trio of unnamed summits on
the west side of the canyon. The terrain is all class 2, though
steep and rugged in many places. There is much sand, too, making for
sometimes tedious ascents and easy descents. I went up Peak 3,350ft's
ESE Ridge, finding a cholla garden to dodge my way through near
the top of the intial ascent. After this, the cholla all but disappears and
the going becomes quite pleasant, reaching each of the three peaks in
turn, connected by ridgelines around the drainage I encircled. I spent
just over an hour in reaching Peak 3,350ft, then about 45min to reach
the highest summit, Peak 3,466ft, with more than 700ft of prominence.
This summit lies to the north of the other two, with views west and
north into Morongo Valley. It took only half an hour to reach the third summit,
Peak 3,429ft. None of the peaks had registers, just the dilapidated
remains of the wooden stakes used by surveyors for the spot elevation
measurements decades ago. I descended to the east off this last summit,
dropping back down to the canyon floor, then following the
road for a mile back south to where I'd parked - a bit over three hours
for the 5.5mi loop with 2,500ft of gain.
I drove a couple miles up the canyon, parking on the east side of Peak 3,106ft.
This is a short but steep hike up from the BLM road, taking just
under 20min. The summits I'd visited earlier could be seen a few miles to
the southwest. I left a register here before
returning the same way.
I continued up the utility road until it exits at the southwest end of Yucca
Valley. There is a network of OHV roads in these parts that appear
popular with the locals. Peak 4,449ft can be driven nearly to the top, but I
balked at the last steep portion, figuring the extra workout on my
legs would be less wear and tear than the Jeep might experience (and the terror
it might inflict on me). It took all of 8min to reach the rocky top just off the
road that passes by on the north side. The summit offers views of Morongo Valley
to the west and Yucca Valley to the north and east.
This last summit is found a few miles east of the previous one, just
outside the northern boundary of Joshua Tree NP. A sandy OHV road runs up to a
saddle on the southwest side of the summit where I parked. From there,
it's a short hike of less than half a mile to the top. The area has
been burned in a relatively recent fire, leaving the slopes barren,
save for a few hardy survivors and the slow regrowth of ground-hugging
plants. I was back from Peak 4,603ft by 12:40p, ready to call it a day.
I still had a number of hours of driving as I made my way back home to San