Advice and Reminders
Much of this landscape is remote and challenging. You can’t always depend on a signpost or a ranger to get you out of a fix. Pack so that you could take care of yourself overnight, if necessary.
- Hike with a friend. Or tell a friend where you will be hiking and when you expect to return.
- Carry as much water as you can. As a rule of thumb, you need at least one liter of water per hour of hiking. When half of your water is gone, turn around and head back.
- Protect yourself from the sun. Dress in layers. Wear a hat, sunglasses, protective clothing, and sturdy footwear. Use sun screen. Bring warm layers and a waterproof shell on longer hikes as the weather can change quickly.
- Know your trail. Carry a map and pay attention to the terrain so you can find your way back.
- Beware of rattlesnakes. Watch where you put your hands and feet, especially in warm weather when snakes are active.
- Keep children near you.
- Stay on the trail. Cross-country travel may adversely affect Peninsular bighorn sheep, and often damages plants and soils. Short-cutting of trails at switchbacks not only causes erosion, but creates an eyesore.
Please note: Dogs are not allowed on most trails in the National Monument. At lower elevations, this prohibition is enforced for the protection of endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep, which react to dogs as they would to coyotes, a natural predator. In the San Jacinto Mountains, which are usually accessed via the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway or from the alpine community of Idyllwild, dogs are prohibited in Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness. Dogs are also prohibited in the Indian Canyons.
One of the limited opportunities for taking your dog on mountain trails in the Monument is available on the loop connecting Homme-Adams and Cahuilla Hills Parks in the City of Palm Desert. From Homme-Adams Park, follow the Homestead Trail to the Hopalong Cassidy Trail, then south on the “Hoppy” to the cross or north to the Gabby Hayes which will take you down to Cahuilla Hills Park, or vice-versa. Be aware, however, that dogs are prohibited on segments of the Hopalong Cassidy Trail that extend south of the cross and north of the Ganny Hayes Trail. At higher elevations, dogs are allowed on Forest Service trails, though be sure not to continue with your dog into Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness or the Indian Canyons.
For details about where dogs are allowed and where they are prohibited, please contact the National Monument Visitor Center at (760) 862-9984.
To help you decide which of the many trails to take – especially if you’re a newcomer – we have divided the National Monument into three areas: the San Jacinto Mountains west of Palm Canyon divide, the Northern Santa Rosa Mountains between the Palm Canyon divide and Highway 74, and the Southern Santa Rosa Mountains from Highway 74 to the Monument’s border with Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Each area has its own personality. Along with the trail areas listed above, the some of the more popular ones in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument are listed here.
Trails are rated as easy, moderate, or strenuous in accordance with the following criteria:
Easy – Generally a leisurely walk, but don’t expect the trail to be flat.
Moderate – A serious hike, but not difficult for those in reasonably good condition.
Strenuous – Some trail segments require being in very good condition and/or the trail is long and requires stamina.
Difficulty ratings are based on one-way trips. When assessing how difficult a trail may be for you, consider whether you plan to return on the same trail, thereby doubling your distance, or by using another trail which also adds mileage and difficulty. Be aware that using two moderate trails to complete a loop may result in a strenuous hike.
The best time of year for hiking lower elevation trails is November through April; for higher elevation trails, the best time is May through October.
Many trails are open to all forms of non-motorized travel – hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking – but not all trails are open to everyone. Mountain bikers are prohibited in designated wilderness areas, in the Indian Canyons, on certain trails near Murray Hill, or on any part of the Pacific Crest Trail . Check with the appropriate agency if you don’t know the rules. Be safe and enjoy!