The Mountains of California
Palm View Peak • San Jacinto Mountains
• Riverside County

Pretty meadow about where the old road ends and the switchbacks start

View up on the switchbacks

Looking back toward Camp Joe Scherman's buildings

Now on the Pacific Crest Trail

Palm View Peak's summit is the wooded bump partially hidden by foreground hills

The actual wooded summit

Hiking back, the nice mix of vegetation and trees up here

Coming back to the trail junction. Big Toro Peak is in back

Date: May 14, 2013 • Elevation: 7,160 feet • Prominence: 1,160 feet • Distance: 8 miles • Time: 3 hours and 40 minutes • Gain: 2,000 feet • Conditions: Sunny and extremely windy


Palm View Peak is a forested bump along the Desert Divide, an appendage of the San Jacinto Mountains that comes off the main bulk of the range, trending southeast. The Desert Divide is the backdrop of mountains overlooking the desert cities from Palm Springs to Palm Desert, and various summits along this range reach upwards of 7,000 feet. Palm View Peak is just one of many. I chose it for its prominence value as well as its relatively easy access and hiking logistics.

I had driven to California for this weekend to visit family and to hike a few peaks. I had come out three days earlier to this area, hiking Cahuilla Mountain and Thomas Mountain on Saturday. Both these peaks are close by. In my optimism, I hoped to visit those two plus this one in one day, but I was beat after finishing Thomas Mountain, so I saved Palm View Peak for my way home. I left Wrightwood before dawn and battled traffic through San Bernardino and Riverside, getting myself into Hemet, where I stopped for groceries and top the gas.

I left Hemet, heading eastbound on state route CA-74, which wiggles steeply up the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains. After passing through the community of Mountain Center, I stayed on CA-74 another 9 miles to the turn-off to Morris Ranch Road on my left. I followed this paved road steeply up another 3.7 miles, following the directions given in the Sierra Club's Hundred Peaks Section. I parked off the road near the trailhead, surrounded by the Joe Scherman Girl Scouts Camp complex. It was about 7:30 when I pulled up, and the whole place was very quiet, evidently no campers here today, or anyone for that matter.

I started hiking at 7:40 a.m. in warm, sunny conditions. The trail passes through the camping complex, following a road for the first few hundred feet, then trails and old road for the next mile. Along the way, I had to pass through three gates, and the route was fenced on both sides with regular "no trespassing" signs every few feet. Portions of the trail were through a canopy of leafy forest, and later, along a lovely grass meadow and trees.

Past the meadow, the trail resumes, passes the forest boundary and then crosses a small creek. Immediately, the trail breaks out of the trees and into the scrubby open, now on the first of a series of switchbacks that eventually lead up to the Desert Divide and the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. The hillsides were covered in manzanita brush along with small agave-like succulents and flowering bushes. I passed one more gate along the way.

The switchback part covers a little over a mile and gains about 800 vertical feet. I kept a steady pace, scaring lizards along the way. Closer to the top, the winds had picked up, sometimes blowing hard enough to push my hat off my head. I had to keep it cinched tight. I took a break on a bench tucked into a little copse of trees forming a wind-break.

Now on the Pacific Crest Trail, I hiked up toward the top of the hill immediately ahead of me, about a 230-foot gain amid man-high scrub. Here, the winds were very strong, enough to push me off my stride. However, as I progressed along the PCT, the winds seem to moderate, or perhaps were better blocked by the vegetation. The scrubbier plants slowly merged into a mixed forest of trees and grasses, and the trail generally gained and lost about 40 feet at a time, all the while the grades being very lenient.

The trail tops out on an unnamed summit-bump along the ridge, elevation 7,080 feet, not far from Lion Spring. Immediately after it drops into the saddle to the west, the bigger pines take over, the change in flora is that sudden. The top of Palm View Peak was in view, a round, forested peak just across the way. I hiked up to near spot elevation 7,123, then walked cross-country to the summit, elevation 7,160 feet. I found it, a pile of rocks amid the trees, with no palms and no views. It had taken just under two hours for me to get here. I didn't stay long, just enough time to sign in to the log and snap a photo.

The hike out was nice, and the real attraction to the hike. The summit was just a destination to tag and claim for my records, but the views along the PCT were amazing. Looking north, there was over a vertical mile of relief into the deserts below, while south, I had views of the Santa Rosa Mountains and Thomas Mountain. The big hulk of Toro Peak rose directly ahead of me, to the east.

I was back to the bench at the trail junction, where I took another break, and where the winds were blowing strongly again. From here, I walked all the way out in one push, arriving back to my truck about 11 a.m. I had covered about 8 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain (including drops and regains along the ridge). I was feeling pleased about this hike. It had been a nice surprise.

Now I started the drive home to Arizona. I followed CA-74 into Palm Desert and drove to the Dillon Exit in Coachella to top the gas and get cold drinks for the long haul home. It was hot (about 102 F) and my truck has no air conditioning. Everything was dandy until I had passed the Vicksburg Exit (about milepost 45) inside Arizona. Just past it, a La Paz County Sheriff's vehicle comes racing up behind me, lights and siren on. He raced past me, and then I saw a traffic-informational sign that the highway was closed 20 miles ahead.

I had no desire to sit on Interstate-10 for an hour or two in this heat. I noticed there was zero cars going westbound. Whatever had happened must have been big. The only plausible alternative route into Phoenix is via Vicksburg Exit, where one can go north into Vicksburg, catch US-60 into Salome, then follow Salome Road back to Interstate-10 at milepost 81. This should bypass the closure.

After driving a mile or two more, I decided to bail. I illegally crossed over the median onto the west-bound lanes, then back to Vicksburg exit, me the only car on westbound Interstate-10 this whole stretch. I then went through Vicksburg and Salome, then back to the interstate. I noticed an inordinate number of large trucks driving westbound on Salome Road, which usually has very light traffic. They were exiting the westbound lanes at Avenue 75E (Exit 69), catching Salome Road that way.

My little plan worked, as when I re-entered the interstate, things were moving along. The little detour cost me an hour and maybe 20 extra miles, but it was worth it. I'd like to see one of those on-board GPS units figure out an alternative route. That's why I don't have one.

(c) 2013, 2019 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.