Text and photography copyright 2011 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Most people who have driven from L.A. to Palm Springs on the 60 freeway have noticed the giant “M” on the hills above Moreno Valley. What most people probably don’t know is that there’s a trail that leads to it. The “M” trail actually joins a fire road just above the “M”, meaning that from the hiker’s vantage point, it ends up looking more like a “W”.
The “M” trail offers a good workout with excellent views, including up-close looks at San Gorgonio and San Bernardino, and as you climb higher, San Jacinto, Old Saddleback and the San Gabriels. There’s also some interesting geology and nice spring flowers to be seen. Unfortunately, being as close to civilization as it is, it never really escapes the noise of the nearby roads, and there’s also a lot of graffiti.
From the lower parking lot, walk to the upper lot and pick up the trail on the opposite side of the fence. Soon, a sign directs you left onto the “M” trail while the Hidden Springs trail goes straight. The trail ascends a few switchbacks (note that soil erosion–and people who have cut across the switchbacks–make things visually a little confusing, but keep in mind that while the trail maintains a steady grade, if it ever seems TOO steep, chances are you’re on the wrong route).
After about 400 feet of elevation gain, the trail reaches a saddle and dips a little bit before reaching a “Y” split. (There are only a few short downhill or level stretches on the trail). Head right, clinging to the side of the hill, and make a few more switchbacks. Soon after, you get your first look at the M, and the antennas above it. You also get a nice view of the Santa Ana Mountains on the left, and of the San Bernardinos on the right. The trail climbs a ridge, makes a few more switchbacks and then meets up with the fire road.
If you want to look at the “M” from above, head left just before the fire road and walk around the antenna. Here, you can see the “M” and enjoy a nice view of the surrounding area. You can also extend your hike on the fire road, which leads deeper into the park.