Big Morongo Canyon Preserve


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Looking west from the Yucca Ridge Trail
Looking west from the Yucca Ridge Trail

Big Morongo Canyon Preserve

  • Location: Morongo Valley.  From I-10, take Highway 62 northeast for 11.3 miles.  Turn right on East Drive (signed for Big Morongo Canyon Preserve.)  Go 0.2 miles and turn left into the park on Covington Drive.
  • Agency: Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
  • Distance: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season:  October – May, 7:30am – sunset
  • USGS topo map: “Morongo Valley”
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • More information: Yelp page here; Everytrail report here; trip description here
  • Rating: 6
0:00 - Boardwalk at the beginning of the Marsh Trail, Big Morongo Canyon (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
0:00 – Boardwalk at the beginning of the Marsh Trail, Big Morongo Canyon (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

There aren’t many short hikes that provide mountain and desert views–as well as wetlands–but this loop around the perimeter of Big Morongo Canyon is one such trip. The preserve makes a nice stop on the way to the northern entrances to Joshua Tree. Visitors who want more of a workout can find a nearly 10-mile round trip with the Canyon Trail.

0:06 - Turning right onto the Mesquite Trail (times are approximate)
0:06 – Turning right onto the Mesquite Trail (times are approximate)

This route is one of several possible loops in the preserve. The trails are all well marked and easy to follow, so it’s impossible to get too lost. From the main entrance, turn right on the Marsh Trail. You pass by the education center and come to an intersection. Turn right on the Mesquite Trail, which dips down to the stream and comes out again, reaching a junction with the West Canyon Trail (0.4 miles from the start.) You can extend your hike on the West Canyon Trail but this route continue straight on the Mesquite Trail, into a tight-walled canyon.

0:12 - Geology on the Mesquite Trail past the junction with the West Canyon Trail
0:12 – Geology on the Mesquite Trail past the junction with the West Canyon Trail

After passing the remains of a car and reaching a T-junction with the Canyon Trail, head left, deeper into the wetlands. You pass a short spur that leads to a viewing area and then reach a junction with the Yucca Ridge Trail. Continue straight onto this trail, beginning the only significant climb of the hike. You reach a view point with a bench where you can look west toward the San Gorgonio Pass.

0:18 - Through the wetlands before the junction with the Yucca Ridge Trail
0:18 – Through the wetlands before the junction with the Yucca Ridge Trail

The Yucca Ridge trail heads north before dropping down to the wetlands. You reach a junction with the Desert Willow Trail (1.3 miles). Turn right and follow the Desert Willow Trail through more marsh, into a field and finally back to the Marsh Trail. Turn right and follow the boardwalk back to the parking area.

Text and photography copyright 2013 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

0:39 - Right turn at the junction with the Desert Willow Trail
0:39 – Right turn at the junction with the Desert Willow Trail, back to the parking area
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