Yes, there are antennas on the summit and trees that block most of the views. Yes, much of the hike is on fire roads. Yes, you can hear traffic noise from Highway 38. Despite these drawbacks, Onyx Peak’s reputation in some circles as a “boring” hike isn’t entirely deserved. The moderate trek to the 9,113-foot summit provides an enjoyable introduction to the San Bernardino Mountains high country. Views include San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, the high desert and more. While veteran hikers may find it a little tame, its high altitude makes it a good training route for late spring and early summer. In case you were wondering, Onyx Peak was named for an onyx mine that once operated on the mountain’s eastern slope.
From the parking area, head east on the dirt road. Pass by the turnoff for Pipes Road/1N01, which you join later on, and make a short but steep climb to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. You may feel the effects of the altitude; at 8,443 feet, Onyx Summit is not only the highest point on Highway 38 but also the highest mountain pass in all of Southern California. At the junction with the P.C.T., you may see bottles of water left for through-hikers as well as a message board.
Turn left (north) on the P.C.T. and follow it for a pleasant mile along a slope lightly dotted with trees, including limber pines, junipers and more. Just before the junction with Pipes Road, notice a small dumpster and a sofa(!) left by locals for use by through-hikers.
At the junction, bear right and follow the road north for a short distance before making a wide curve and heading south. Here, you get your first glimpse of the antennas on Onyx Peak and also some peaks at the high desert. At 2.1 miles, you reach a “Y” junction. (With a high clearance vehicle and good road conditions, it may be possible to drive to this point and begin the hike here). Pipes Road descends to the left while the route to Onyx continues straight, climbing gradually and making a few switchbacks before arriving on the wide, antenna-covered summit.
The best views are to the northeast, where you can see not only the high desert spread out far below but the southern end of the eastern Sierras in the distance. San Gorgonio and San Jacinto are also visible, but obscured by the trees. You may even get a glimpse of Toro Peak, Rabbit Peak and the rest of the Santa Rosa Mountains to the far southeast.
Text and photography copyright 2016 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.