Peak 3,540ft P300
Peak 3,740ft P300
Peak 3,719ft
Cerro de la Silla P300
Peak 3,500ft
Peak 4,032ft P300

Sat, Jan 28, 2023

With: Patrick O'Neill
Iris Ma

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profiles: 1 2


Patrick and I had spent the night camped in a wash off Quail Springs Rd, just south of the town of Joshua Tree. Iris joined us in the morning, driving in from Orange County. The main objective was a five peak tour around the Desert View Conservation Area, sandwiched between the town and national park. Afterwards, we had enough time and (barely enough) energy for a last bonus peak.

Desert View Conservation Area

The conservation area covers Section 6 on the topo map, roughly a square mile that borders Joshua Tree NP. It is managed by the San Bernardino Parks Dept, and from what we could see, is done very well. The entrance on the west side is gated, open 7a-5p. It was dutifully opened at 7:03a by a county employee, who promptly turned his truck around and left. There is ample parking, a nice outhouse and an information pavilion. We left our three vehicles here and headed out on a 4.5mi loop starting at 7:45a. It would take us more than five and a half hours to complete the loop, owing to the difficulty of the terrain. The summits are challenging Joshua Tree terrain, jumbled granite rocks and boulders piled haphazardly to make a scrambling playground. It was great fun, but gets tiring after a few hours' effort. After climbing each summit, we would return to the basin below, or nearly so, then scramble up the next one in turn. The only easy parts were the short stints of sandy wash or road/trail between summits. The first two summits were inside the conservation area, the third, Peak 3,719ft was just inside the national park. The last two were just south of the conservation area, bordering scattered residences in this part of the county. We left three registers on the summits with the most prominence. Between Peak 3,719ft and Cerro de la Silla, we passed by an unusual structure on the slopes below us. The long, rectangular building looked to be walled by reflective stainless steel. Air-conditioners and solar panels were arrayed on the roof. It's purpose was unclear, but we did observe a van pull up and five folks got out for a tour inside. Patrick suspected it was a cult initiation activity. Iris and I were unable to prove him wrong. We steered clear of other residences on the way between Cerro de la Silla and the last summit, Peak 3,500ft, but otherwise had the place mostly to ourselves. We were back to the vehicles by 1:30p, having felt like we'd had a full day, but still plenty of daylight.

Peak 4,032ft

This summit is found just outside the west entrance to Joshua Tree NP. It lies in another conservation area, this time in Section 17, but is not developed for visitors like the previous one. Signage prohibits vehicles, hunting and shooting, but foot traffic is welcome. We found no access gates where we parked at the end of Uphill Rd, northwest of the summit, so we had to go over or under the fencing. We made a beeline to the southeast for the summit, finding easy walking up a wash for the first half, then uphill to the summit. With the exception of the summit area, the terrain was not as bouldery as the morning's hike, making for a nice change. It took us about 50min to make our way to the summit where views stretch over the highest regions in the park to the south and southwest. We left a register here before deciding on a way down. I figured we didn't have enough energy for another summit, but we still had some daylight to burn. So I suggested we head off the south side of the peak and go the long way back via Quail Wash. This worked out quite nicely, no hidden surprises and no brushy conditions anywhere in the wash. We followed the wash system west and north, back across the park boundary and to the Jeep by 4:20p. We were all ready to be done by the time we got back. Patrick would head home while Iris and I went off to shower and then into town for Indian food - which was surprisingly good. We ended up camping on the north side of SR62, in a wash near the corner of Vine St and Sunset Rd. Nice and quiet, away from the highway and most people. We would use this spot the following night as well...


Andy comments on 02/03/23:
Hah, wow. I just saw that steel building (known as the "Invisible House") being promoted on Airbnb. You can rent it:
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