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Eureka Peak (Joshua Tree National Park)

  • Location: High desert near Yucca Valley.  From I-10, take Highway 62 northeast for 21.8 miles.  Turn right on Joshua Lane (opposite highway 247).  Go 4.6 miles to a T-junction at San Marino Drive.  Turn right and follow San Marino Drive to Black Rock Canyon Road.  Drive 0.3 miles to campground entrance (there is a fee for camping, but day use is free). Just past the entrance, park where available in a small dirt lot on the left by the information board. Additional parking is available by the ranger station.
  • Agency: Joshua Tree National Park
  • Distance: 9.7 miles (loop route)
  • Elevation gain: 1,900 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (elevation gain, terrain, navigation)
  • Suggested time: 5 hours
  • Best season:  October – April
  • Recommended gear: sun hat sunblock hiking poles
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: Inland Empire
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Cell phone reception: None for most of the route, weak in a few spots
  • Water: Available in restrooms at Black Rock Canyon Campground
  • Restrooms: At Black Rock Canyon Campground
  • Camping: The trail starts from Black Rock Canyon Campground. Like most Joshua Tree National Park campgrounds, Black Rock Canyon tends to fill up well in advance during the cooler months so plan accordingly.
  • More information: Trip description (loop in opposite direction) here; Summitpost page here; Map My Hike report here; Hiking Project page here
  • Rating: 8

Eureka Peak is Joshua Tree’s fourth tallest named summit at 5,518 feet, and the highest point in the northwestern corner of the park. There are several possible routes to the top (including driving almost the entire way on dirt roads). This post describes a loop using the California Riding & Hiking Trail and Eureka Peak Trail on the ascent and the Burnt Hill Trail on the descent.

From the information board, head southwest for 0.2 mile to a junction. The Black Rock Canyon Trail, your return route (should you do the hike as a loop) heads south. Turn left and head east on the California Riding & Hiking Trail. It meanders through a bunch of Joshua trees, reaches a ridge and gradually descends. At 1.3 miles, turn right on the Fault Trail which climbs for 0.3 miles before dropping into a wash. At a T-junction, head left briefly and then turn right on the signed Eureka Peak Trail (1.7 miles from the start.)

For the next two miles, the Eureka Peak Trail heads southeast, climbing through a sandy wash. Vegetation includes pinion pines, cacti and yuccas. At 2.4 miles from the start, the walls pinch in noticeably, although the terrain is still easy. You pass junctions with the Cliff Trail (left) and Canyon View Trail (right) and at 3.5 miles, you reach the Burnt Hill Trail, the return route. Continue up the wash for another half mile where it narrows again and makes the first of two steep climbs on the route. You reach a saddle and descend briefly, passing an intersection with the unmaintained Bigfoot Trail. Another short but steep climb brings you to a ridge with views of the Coachella Valley. Head left, tightly hugging the side of the ridge, and follow the trail to another T-junction. To the right, you may notice cars parked at the upper end of Covington Flats Road. This is an option for a longer return route (combined with the California Riding & Hiking Trail.)

To reach Eureka Peak, turn left and walk a short distance to the summit, 4.8 miles from the start. Here, you can enjoy a 360-degree view that includes San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, Quail Mountain and Toro Peak. If visibility is good, you may even see Orange County’s Saddleback Mountain and the Santa Anas far off to the southwest.

Retracing your steps is an option, but for variety, consider the Burnt Hill Trail as a return route. From the junction, it climbs gradually to a saddle in 0.4 mile and then begins a long descent across a slope dotted with Joshua trees and pinions. At the bottom, bear right onto the Black Rock Canyon Trail and follow it 0.8 mile back to your starting point.

Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see full sized versions)

California Riding & Hiking Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

California Riding & Hiking Trail

Eureka Peak Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

Heading up the wash on the Eureka Peak Trail

Eureka Peak Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

Pinion Pine, Eureka Peak Trail

Eureka Peak Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

Desert scrub oaks in the wash, Eureka Peak trail

Eureka Peak Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

Steep ascent on the Eureka Peak Trail

Eureka Peak, Joshua Tree National Park

Looking west from Eureka Peak

Burnt Hill Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua trees and pinion pines, Burnt Hill Trail

Burnt Hill Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

Descending the Burnt Hill Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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