Hiking in Southern California isn’t always easy. It’s mostly desert, which means very few trees. That can make for some very hot hikes. Fortunately, it can also make for some gorgeous vistas if you can get up high enough.
This is a beautiful hike that takes you up on a ridge in the Santa Rosa mountains. At the top, you can look down towards the West, and see over Highway 74 to Thomas Mountain, or down towards the East, over Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. It’s a very comfortable 2.2 miles one-way, but more than half of that is on the side of the mountain with little shade. Still, if you have enough water and sun protection, you can make it to the beautifully windy ridge at the top for some lovely views.
We checked out the maps in the Idyllwild ranger’s station, and spotted this beautiful little squiggle on our way home. The trailhead is marked “Cedar Springs”
Right at the trailhead, there’s nowhere to park. We drove a little further down the road to where the gravel shoulder widened out a bit and left our car there. Here’s the first gate:
The first half mile is directly in the baking sun, but the next ~1.2 miles wander through tall brush and trees that shade the trail nicely. The trail goes through 4 gates and past one more. Here’s the first gate you go through:
A bit later you’ll pass by this sign. We were very curious about who would use those picnic tables!
This lower part of the trail went past a stream bed, winding through trees and meadows. It was very pleasant. We passed a group of deer that bolted at our presence, and a little tub of water they were probably drinking from. This gate was held closed by barbed wire:
1.5 miles to go! Not pictured: The sign warning about hazardous conditions beyond this point.
Maybe .25 miles beyond that sign, we went up a steep section of the trail and emerged into the direct sunlight. It was very hot from this point on with almost no chances of shade.
The remaining stretch to the top was just endless switch-backs heading up the mountain. Even though we were in direct sunlight the whole time, the constantly-improving views and deliciously cool breezes made for a lovely hike.
There’s a shady tree right at the top, with a little makeshift bench under it. We sat there for a few minutes, reapplying sunscreen before continuing a few 100 yards south on the PCT to find a spot for lunch. Looking south and slightly East. We could see Salton Sea in that direction:
The PCT continues South along this ridge:
And North along this one, but this section has been closed for a while recovering from a forest fire:
When we got back to the car, we discovered that our Adventure Pass hangtag had melted in the sun!
We estimated that our total hike had been around 5 miles round trip. I drank 3 liters of water, and none of us got sunburned! All in all a lovely hike. I highly recommend it!
Two panoramic views:
Length: ~4.4 miles round-trip to the shady tree at the top. Hikers could continue on down the PCT to the South, but the other trails (to Cedar Springs or North on the PCT) are closed to recover from a forest fire.
Difficulty: Easy trailwise, but challenging conditions, so better for more experienced hikers.