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.
- Location: Desert Divide, southeastern San Jacinto Mountains. From Mountain Center, take highway 74 southeast for 8.6 miles and turn left on Morris Ranch Road (look for mile marker 67.75). Drive 3.7 miles to the signed Cedar Springs trialhead on the right. From Palm Springs, take highway 74 for 28 miles and turn right on Morris Ranch Road.
- Agency: San Bernardino National Forest/Idyllwild Ranger Station
- Distance: 6.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,700 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (Elevation gain, steepness)
- Suggested time: 3.5 hours
- Best season: Year-round (depending on conditions)
- USGS topo map: “Palm View Peak”
- Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; hiking poles
- More information: here; trip reports here
- Rating: 9
The Desert Divide region of the San Jacintos doesn’t get much traffic due to its remote location, but L.A.-area hikers will find a lot to enjoy here. The Cedar Springs trail is a moderate hike that can be doable any time of the year, depending on conditions. The summer months, obviously, are hot, but there’s a decent amount of shade on the lower-elevation portions of the hike, and with enough water and an early start, the exposed climb to the Pacific Crest Trail on both sides of the divide shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
The trail begins by traversing private land, so respect the fences. It soon enters a pleasant grove of oaks and then a meadow, where picnic tables make for a nice rest stop. Afterward, the trail visits another wooded area (and a seasonal stream) reminiscent of some of the transitional climates in the areas of Cleveland National Forest at comparable elevation. The idyllic mood is broken, however, by a sign that warns “Hazardous conditions beyond this point.”
Truthfully, the ascent to the Pacific Crest Trail is not all that severe, especially if the hiker is prepared with a good water supply (on my recent trip I drank about three quarts during the whole hike.) Efforts are rewarded with great views of the Garner Valley, interesting geology and vegetation, including a Joshua tree.
At 2.3 miles from the trail head, the Cedar Springs Trail reaches Pacific Crest and starts to descend. Here, you get great views of the Coachella Valley. The trail dips into a cool grove of trees, climbs out and makes another descent, finally arriving at Cedar Springs. This pleasant flat area, shaded by pines, oaks and cedars, is also a popular campground and the turnaround point. The trail does, however, continue beyond, becoming the Jo Pond trail and descending all the way to the Indian canyons of Palm Springs.
For sheer variety and solitude, the Cedar Springs Trail is one of the best. It’s a great introduction to the Desert Divide and will have you wanting to come back to check out more trails in the area.