Peak 5,658ft P300
East Table Mountain P300
Peak 5,114ft P300 PD
Phelan BM P300 PD
Peak 4,970ft P300 PD
Peak 4,954ft PD
Baldy Mesa PD

Apr 27, 2023
Baldy Mesa
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX

My wife was heading to Columbus, Ohio for volleyball just as a heat wave was descending on California. Deserts were certainly out, and the Sierra wasn't so inviting with record snows, so I ended up traveling to Southern California to do some peaks in the San Bernardino Mtns. Others would be joining me starting Friday, but today I was on my own. I had gotten up at 5a so that I could have a full afternoon for the effort. I found some stuff to do around Wrightwood and then other parts to the east. Much of it was Jeeping around, which was fine since the temps were in the high 70s all afternoon.

Peak 5,658ft

This summit located off SR2, before one gets to Wrightwood if driving from SR138. Paved Desert Front Road goes through a rural/desert community, getting within 1/4mi of the summit on its south side. There is an empty lot on that side that provides a convenient starting point. Though the distance is very short, it's terribly steep and loose, not dangerous but tedious, especially with the warm temps. The steep route up from the south eventually joined a use trail that follows the East Ridge. Finding the start of this would certainly make the effort easier. There is a view bench and a flag at the summit, no doubt maintained by one of the locals. There are wide views of Antelope Valley to the north, and the snow-covered higher summits of the San Gabriels to the southwest.

East Table Mountain

Table Mtn rises above the north side of Wrightwood. I had been to the higher west summit back in 2011, but today's effort was to East Table Mtn about five miles to the southeast. I used a track off PB provided by Mike Teeples, starting at the junction of SR2 and Sheep Creek, and providing an all-public route. It's about a mile each way, the longest outing of the afternoon. There had been heavy runoff in the creek due to the high snow volume this year, and one can see a lot of work done in the wash to bulldoze a channel and build up the banks. There was some water flowing in the creek on my visit, but it was easy to get across with the aid of a large rock at the midway point of the stream. There is an old use trail going up the ridge, mostly used by deer now, eventually joining an old road that comes up from Wrightwood. This road (Valley View Rd on Google Maps) can be followed all the way to the summit, making it all class 1. Others have used this road starting from SR2, but there may be trespassing issues in doing so. At over 6,000ft, it was easily the highest summit of the day. I was happy to find no snow and the ground dry. This would bode well for the weekend plans in the San Bernardino Mtns. Portions of the lower route were burned in a fire the previous season, but the upper mountain was spared. Views overlook Wrightwood to the south, framed by the higher summits of Blue Ridge behind it. I spent about an hour and a quarter on this one.

Desert Front

Desert Front is the long connecting crest between the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mtns. It starts at the SR2/SR138 junction and goes for about 10mi to Cajon Pass. There are various Forest Service roads throughout the area, including ones along the very crest. I would be following this to a series of summits along the way. All of these summits have open views with no trees an minimal brush - more desert than forest here. A mile and a half east of the SR2/SR138 junction, an unsigned Forest road forks off SR138. This leads up to the saddle between Peak 5,114ft and Peak 4,970ft. Any high-clearance vehicle can drive this, as well as the continuing road along the crest to Cajon Pass. Going west from the saddle requires 4WD. Those without should probably hike to Peak 5,114ft and Phelan BM (less than a mile to Phelan BM from the saddle). I managed to drive the jeep up to the top of Peak 5,114ft, but balked at the prospect of continuing to Phelan BM. I could certainly have gotten down to the saddle between the two, but I'm not sure I could have driven up to Phelan BM, or made it back up to Peak 5,114ft. It's only half a mile between the two, so the walk isn't bad, but it's quite steep and sandy. The terrain all around here has been scarred by hundreds of motorcycle tracks using it as an off-road area, despite the USFS's attempts to keep motor vehicles to the designated roadways. Phelan's summit features a large wooden cross and superb views. The benchmark was removed to make a base for the cross, but I found one of the nearby reference marks. Once back to the original saddle, the road continues east on a meandering path along the north side of the crest. A motorcycle route goes directly along the crest, so that makes the next two summits, Peak 4,970ft and Peak 4,954ft, easier on a motorcycle (with some decent skills, too, I might add). The wider vehicle road gets close to both summits, so these are only short hikes to reach their highpoints. Nothing special about either, but good leg stretchers. Baldy Mesa doesn't have much prominence, but one can drive right to the top. There is a nice view of the SR138/I-15 junction - a very busy one. I had originally planned a retreat back to the highway after Baldy BM, but noticed that Cajon BM was on PB. So I continued another 5-6mi to the east along the crest for the short hike to the benchmark overlooking Interstate 15. The USFS road terminates at the brake check area at Cajon Pass, filled with trucks parked there (probably trying to nap at the higher elevation to beat the heat). I decided I had enough time and energy (I hadn't really worn myself out at all) for one more.

Mormon Rocks

This collection of sandstone and conglomerate rock is found near the junction of SR138 and Interstate 15. I'd seen them on numerous occasions on my drives through the area, and thought them interesting enough to deserve a visit, even if none of the points have more than 300ft of prominence. Someone added the highpoint to PB, so that was good enough to entice for this last outing. It was the nicest of the day, both because it had some fun scrambling and route-finding, as well as it had the coolest temps of the day in the late afternoon. There is a large parking area across SR138 from the Mormon Rocks Ranger Station, less than half a mile from the highpoint. One can even drive a high-clearance vehicle closer, utilizing jeep trails in the wash between the parking lot and the rock features. The highpoint is located at the west end of the main ridgeline and requires nothing more than class 2 to reach it. The more interesting point is to the southeast, atop one of the larger rock features. I enjoyed the hike/scramble between the two points along the connecting ridgeline. Lots of cool views of the rocks, but not much of a Wilderness experience with road noise from the two main highways in the area, in addition to the trains that run just east of Mormon Rocks. I would end up spending the night in the wash on the south side of Mormon Rocks, a decent camp location.


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