Nothing historical here but this is a nice hike to a peak with great views that is just outside of Joshua Tree.
- Hike: Moderate hike, 5.7 miles Out & Back, 1400 ft gain round trip. 3 hours.
The trailhead for this hike is at the visitor center in the Pioneertown Mountains Preserve run by The Wildlands Conservancy.
To get there, drive out to Pioneertown, CA. (It is a few miles north of Yucca Valley.) Follow Pioneertown Road to the west end of town and continue on it as it makes a right turn northward. Follow it 3.5 miles north to the intersection of Pipes Canyon Road and turn left into Pioneertown Mountain Preserve. It is a short, graded dirt road to the visitor center. The Preserve is open from sunrise to sunset.
The trail starts from the upper dirt parking lot. The trail to the peak is easy to follow and generally well-marked. It starts off by following an old road up the mountain.
You will notice right away that the vegetation here is recovering from the large Sawtooth Complex wildfire. Started by lightning strikes in July 2006, the fire burned 61,700 acres over nine days. Fifty homes were destroyed, and one person was killed. It will take a long time for the desert to heal from this wound.
At around 0.7 miles, the trail gains some elevation, and you begin to get some nice views of the Pioneertown area and flat-topped lava buttes off to the east. That lava flow dates approximately 6.9 to 9.3 million years ago, which puts it in the Miocene epoch. This suggests they were formed about the same time as some other volcanic sites in the Mojave: like the Amboy and Pisgah Craters. That must have been an interesting time to be around.
From here the old road turns west and deeper into the hills. The destruction of the fire is pretty evident here; California Juniper (Juniperus californica), Pinyon Pine (Pinus monophylla) and Desert Shrub Oak (Quercus comelius-mulleri) are slowly recovering. At 1.3 miles, the trail zigzags up a granite hillside to a saddle. The trail continues into a sheltered little valley before the final climb to the summit. The darker-colored rock here is the same basalt lava flows as those distant flat-topped mesas.
Rocky Chaparrosa Peak has a pleasant view of San Jacinto peak towering to the south. Onyx Peak is a high bump off to the west with San Gorgonio being hidden behind a ridge. To the southeast, the rolling terrain of the Little San Bernardino Mountains inside of the park is apparent. It is hard to pick out any of the individual peaks, but Quail, Eureka, Warren, and others are all in there with Queen Mountain being separate and a bit farther off and east. On a clear day, you might even be able to spot the Salton Sea in the distance.
The USGS peak marker on the summit ridge seems like it is at the wrong spot. The high point appears to be a bit farther to the west. Look for the summit register in a red coffee can near the marker.
If you go early enough, you can be back in time to have lunch at Pappy and Harriett’s in Pioneertown. This is a great place to get a bite to eat (and sometimes stay for a show.) After lunch, you would still have time to come back here and hike up Pipes Canyon.