Peak 5,764ft P300
Peak 5,932ft P300
Peak 5,740ft
Black Lava Butte
Flat Top
Peak 4,485ft P300
Sawtooths East P300
Pierson BM P300
North Park Peak

Feb 4, 2022
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX


I was on the east side of the San Bernardino Mtns, doing some peaks in the Bighorn Mtns Wilderness, and others summits around Pioneertown and Yucca Valley. Sleeping above 5,000ft, it got very cold, and I was buried in my sleeping bag inside the Jeep most of the night. In the morning I found it was 23F, far too cold to sleep comfortably with the cloth sleeping bag I use. There was very little wind, luckily, but it would be cold for the first three peaks of the day. It would remain chilly most of the day, never reaching even 50F. All the day's hikes were short, less than a mile each way, all class 2 except where I went looking for something harder.

Peak 5,764ft

This peak is located not far from where I spent the night at the junction of Viscera Spring Rd and Mound Spring Rd. There is a BLM cabin on the southwest flank of the mountain (identified on Google Maps) with a rough road leading to it. I was able to drive another few hundred feet up the slope behind this old ranching homestead (it's in terrible shape and you probably wouldn't want to sleep in it). It made for a short 1/4mi hike to the summit. Nice early morning views from the summit, clear today, unlike the windy/dusty conditions yesterday. There is a great view of Tip Top Mtn to the southwest.

Peak 5,932ft

This was the highest summit of the day, found just inside the Wilderness. After driving back down to better roads, I visited the Vaughn Springs Windmill and Rattlesnake Cabin (both ID'd on Google Maps) for a few quick pics. The best part was the drive down Rattlesnake Canyon to get to my starting point. This BLM route cuts through the Wilderness all the way north to Johnson Valley. I drove only a few miles, enjoying the challenges. High-clearance needed for the obstacles, 4WD for the sand. This was the longest hike of the day, a little over 2mi roundtrip, going steeply up from the wash to get on the SE Ridge an onto the summit. There is a fine view looking north into Johnson Valley and across the expanse of the Mojave Desert. I left a register before descending via nearly the same route.

Peak 5,740ft

Also found just inside the Wilderness, this one rises above Rattlesnake Canyon a few miles south of the previous peak. I drove back up the canyon for about a mile, then made the steep half mile ascent from the east. Two points vie for the highpoint. LoJ has the northern one as highest, but they looked similar and I visited both.

Black Lava Butte

I spent the next hour driving back out of the higher hills, through the small community of Rimrock, then down paved Pipes Rd. The next three summits are all flat-topped volcanic buttes on either side of Pipes Rd. Black Lava Butte is a short but steep hike up from the south of dirt Boulder View Dr. There are residences on the south side of the road, but the north side is all BLM. Parking is limited. The flanks of the butte are quite steep. Once on the butte, the terrain is pretty flat, making for a not-so-interesting hike looking for the highpoint. I would repeat this on the next two summits. Best I could do was locate the LoJ point and call it good as it's impossible to discern an actual highest point.

Flat Top

I approached this one from the south too. There is a short BLM route off Pipes Rd requiring high-clearance to get you a little higher for starting. The climb was longer, but similar to that for Black Lava Butte. I chose a different way down that was awful - loose gravel atop firmpack, and I landed on my butt three times before I got down. Nasty stuff. As the name suggests, the top is flat and the actual highpoint ellusive.

Peak 4,485ft

The shortest route to this is from the north along Pipes Rd, but access is blocked by homesteads and ranches on the south side of the road. Instead, I used Joshua Canyon Rd (conveniently, directly across Pipes Rd from the BLM route I used for Flat Top, then west up sandy Pipes Wash that passes on the south side of Peak 4,485ft. 4WD needed for heavy sand. The climb was similar to the previous two, I only landed on my ass once on the way down. The highpoint is somewhere on the southern rim, so at least there is no march across flatness on a fool's errand.

Sawtooths East

Back at the Jeep, I continued west up Pipes Wash, eventually exiting on through a neighborhood and onto Pipes Rd. I drove back to the junction with Rimrock/Pioneertown Rd and took that to Pioneertown. I turned south onto Roy Rogers Rd and followed it to its end at a water tank on the north side of Sawtooths East. The Sawtooths area looks more like something you'd find in Joshua Tree, a granite jumble of boulder and blocks mixed with much sand. The hike was only about 1/3mi each way, but it seemed to take longer than any of the others. There is a decent use trail up from the water tank, but it doesn't seem to go to the summit, leaving one to find their own way. There is an easy class 3 summit block at the highpoint, with neat views looking around the Sawtooths area. Pioneertown is laid out in neat rows to the north. I used a variation off the summit that had me scrambling down large rounded boulders, easy class 3 and a bit of fun.

Pierson BM

I went back to Pioneertown Rd and followed it out to Yucca Valley and SR62. A few miles west on SR62 got me to Pinon Dr. I followed this up, northwest and west, eventually branching onto a dirt road that goes west from the last vestiges of civilization. There are numerous properties out here, only one has anything built on it. There are some nice pads overlooking the highway almost 800ft below, that look like they might make nice camp spots. I parked south of Pierson BM at an empty lot and went up from there on foot. Lots of granite boulders and rock here too, not of particularly good quality, but decent footing. Animal trails helped navigate past two intermediate points to reach the highpoint about 1/2mi away. Someone fashioned a cross from the survey stakes and wire left at the summit by the USGS 90yrs earlier. I found one of the reference marks, but the benchmark appears buried under a large cairn beneath the cross. Great view looking north to the Sawtooths and the rugged canyons between them.

North Park Peak

This last summit is found a few miles east of Pierson BM. It's sister peak is South Park Peak to the southeast, on the south side of Yucca Valley. The topo map shows a picnic area on the east side of North Park Peak with a looping trail going to the summit. My intent was to use this trail, but I ended up at the end of a dirt spur road on the southeast side of the peak, somewhat accidentally. I went up from there, making the top in about 15min, finding a view bench, the remains of what looks like something to hold a register, and a well-used trail. On the way down I followed this trail nearly to the bottom, leaving it to traverse south into the adjacent canyon where my Jeep was located. It looks like the public is still welcome to use the trail, but access is not as shown on the topo - better to use the satellite view to find the series of turns to get you there. New developments over the years have changed the access route.

It was after 5p and very close to sunset when I finished up. I showered where I was parked, then headed to Yucca Valley for gas and dinner. Tomorrow I may actually get to Joshua Tree as originally planned...


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