Peak 4,359ft P750
Peak 4,331ft P500
Peak 4,449ft 3x P300
Bunker Mountain

Sat, Feb 4, 2023

With: Iris Ma

Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile
Peak 4,449ft later climbed Mon, Jan 30, 2023


TomB and I had done an enjoyable loop in the Little San Bernardino Mtns west of Joshua Tree NP the previous week. Iris and I were back to the same area near Little Morongo Canyon to do a bigger loop to two other nearby summits, that I expected to be even more fun. Afterwards we did a few bonus summits with the remaining time we had in the afternoon.

Peak 4,359ft - Peak 4,331ft

We followed the same BLM road out of Yucca Valley Tom and I had used the previous week. The route follows a utility line across the range, descending into Little Morongo Canyon. There are a great many vehicle wrecks littering the side canyons near the crest, likely none of them due to accidents, but rather young men fueled on alchohol. We parked off the utility road at the junction with a side canyon rising to the ESE, starting off shortly before 7:45a. A road used to go up this canyon, over a saddle and down to Desert Hot Springs via Long Canyon. One can still drive up to the saddle from the Long Canyon side, but the route up from Little Morongo Canyon is no longer driveable. It took about 45min to hike up the canyon, easy at first, but growing narrower towards the saddle. The rusting hull of a pickup was found in the steepest part, looking to be from the 1970s or thereabouts. Just past the truck, we reached the saddle and noticed the recent treads on the road going down the southeast side - this would make the easiest way to reach both Peak 4,359ft as well as Peak 4,100ft, just north of the saddle. We followed the saddle downhill, another easy grade, until we could jump on Peak 4,359ft's NE Ridge. Once up the initial steep part, the ridge becomes pleasant, much as expected, and just over two hours after starting out, we were on the summit. A wooden survey stick still stood from a far earlier visit. Much of this area had been survey by the Metropolitan Water District when the Colorado River Aqueduct was built around the southwest side of the range. A register had been placed in 2003 by Wayne Burt and Lin Snyder, and they made up most of the other entries in the booklet's six pages. Doug Bear had visited in 2008 from Black Rock CG, while Chuck Hodi had done an even more impressive loop out of Big Morongo Preserve in 2020. Ours wouldn't come close to matching either of these two outings.

Our perch atop Peak 4,359ft gave us views over the range, southwest to San Jacinto and west to San Gorgonio. After a brief stay, we turned our attention to the southwest and Peak 4,331ft, about a mile in that direction. The two peaks are connected by a ridgeline with a 500-foot drop and two intermediate bumps to go over. It made for more pleasant hiking, taking about an hour and a quarter between summits. A register on Peak 4,331ft was barely readable, having been waterlogged and then dried, it was brittle and rust-stained. The view of San Gorgonio is much better than the first peak, now that there was no intervening ridge or peak in the way. In order to make a loop of the outing, we descending off the NW Ridge and then into the drainage between our two peaks. Lower down, we climbed out of this drainage and into an adjacent one to the north where the first canyon turned south. This would save several miles of walking back up Little Morongo Canyon on the utility road. We eventually worked our way down to the utility road, where we had maybe a mile and a half to hike back up to our starting point. We were back by 1:45p, exactly six hours after starting out.

Peak 4,449ft

This was a repeat of one TomB and I did a week earlier on that same outing, on the drive back to Yucca Valley. A very steep road goes nearly to the top. Tom had driven his Jeep up with no problem, so I simply repeated the stunt in mine, this time. There is a turnaround/campsite at the end of the spur where we parked and walked the short distance to the summit. Nice views for little work, this one.

Bunker Mountain

This minor summit is located a few miles northeast of the town of Joshua Tree. It would have been better named as "Hill" rather than "Mountain", and lies in the middle of Coyote Valley between the larger Bartlett Mtns to the west and Copper Mtn to the east. We parked just below the summit on its southwest side where trash dumping is nearly as popular as the informal shooting ranges that populate the desert near scattered residences. It took all of 12 minutes to make our way to the summit with a bird's eye view looking about the Coyote Valley expanse. We finished up shortly after 3:30p and decided to call it a day. Indian Food in Joshua Tree tonight...


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