Peak 4,353ft
Peak 4,627ft P300
Peak 5,396ft P300
Peak 5,748ft

Sun, Feb 5, 2023

With: Iris Ma

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2


Today was spent mostly inside Joshua Tree National Park. Iris and I did a small two peak loop off pave Park Blvd in the early morning. Afterwards we drove to Yucca Valley where we hoped to climb Sawtooths West on the north side of SR62. The rough dirt access road we attempted proved more than I was willing to risk and we stopped short, still more than 3mi from the peak. Iris had to head back to civilization, so I was on my own for a larger two peak outing out of the Covington Flat area.

Peak 4,353ft - Peak 4,627ft

We drove about 3mi inside the park's NW entrance, parking off the roadway on the northwest side of Peak 4,353ft. The two peaks are found on the NE side of the road. Our starting point was very close to the one we used the previous afternoon for the 3 summit loop on the SE side of the road. Peak 4,353ft would be our first stop, less than half a mile from the Jeep. It's a small summit, a typical pile of Joshua Tree granite blocks and boulders. It took less than 20min to reach the top, all class 2. It was cold and windy, so we hung out on the leeward side to avoid the brunt of it, taking a break and leaving a register. The weather would improve nicely soon after leaving the summit as the sun began to warm the air, ground, and ourselves. We dropped off the NE side of the summit and made a beeline for Peak 4,627ft, just under a mile to the NNE. This was a pleasant hike across the shallow drainage between them. Peak 4,627ft had more sand and less rock, making for an easier climb than the first summit. We spent about 50min getting between them. This higher summit had better views overlooking the northern part of the park. We left a second register here. On our way back down from the summit, we stopped at an interesting pinnacle to scramble up it, in turn. Class 5 from the direction we approached it, we found a stiff class 3 route on the back side that worked nicely. We were back about 2.5hrs after starting out, roughly 2.5mi and barely 800ft of gain.

Peak 5,396ft - Peak 5,748ft

After Iris headed back to Ontario, I headed to the trailhead in Upper Covington Flat. This was my first visit to this TH and I enjoyed the outing very much. The entire 6.5mi loop was above 4,700ft, some of the highest elevations in the park. There are plenty of joshua trees and small junipers, and more brush than most of the park. Still, the cross-country was not difficult and I managed the outing in three and three quarter hours. The California Riding & Hiking Trail goes through this TH, a well-maintained route through the northern part of the park, part of which I would use on the return. I headed first to Peak 5,396ft, the highpoint of the ridge separating Upper and Lower Covington Flats. The summit is found about a mile and a quarter SE of the TH. I followed the trail only a short distance before striking off cross-country, heading southeast towards the peak. The terrain through the flats is dominated by Joshua Trees and fairly easy, only mildly brushy. The trail shown on the topo map heading this direction no longer exists, though I think I managed to find vestiges of it that looked somewhat trail-like. The latter half of the distance to the peak goes through more complicated terrain, rockier and brushier, and with various side drainages to go across or around. The summit comes into view shortly after cresting a small rise, making it easier for me to pick out a route for the remaining distance. The summit is blockier but still no more than class 2. It took an hour and a quarter to find my way to the top. There are remnants of a survey stake that once stood here (I gave it a temporary return to the rocks from whence it had fallen). Nice views to Coachella Valley and San Jacinto to the south, but winds blowing through San Gorgonio Pass were kicking up dust and sand, reducing visibility into the valley.

There was more rocky terrain in descending Peak 5,396ft to the northeast, down to Lower Covington Flat. Once in the flats, the rest of the outing was over easy terrain. I crossed over the Riding and Hiking Trail on my way across Lower Covington Flat, then ascended Peak 5,748ft up the South Ridge. This had none of the rocky terrain of the first summit, and though somewhat steep, it had good footing and no real difficulties. There are two closely-spaced rock outcrops vying for highpoint honors at the summit. They appear nearly the same height, but I left a register on the western one that LoJ has marked as the highpoint. Nice view to Quail Mountain to the southeast. I wandered northwest across the small summit plateau, then descended an alternate ridge off the west side, picking up the trail at a signed trail junction in the middle of Lower Covington Flat. The last mile and a half were on this nice trail, gently ascending to Upper Covington Flat and back to the TH by 4p. This was easily the more enjoyable of the two routes, but both were fun.


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