Hike Name: Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness: Cahuilla Mountain Trail
Name of area/general location:Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness, San Bernardino National Forest
Land Acknowledgement: This trail is located in the ancestral homelands and traditional territories of the Cahuilla people. To learn more about the original residents and stewards of the lands, visit native-land.ca
Trail rating: Moderate. 1,361’ elevation gain over 2.9 miles
Trail mileage: 5.8 miles round-trip
AllTrails Hike Link: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/cahuilla-mountain-trail
For more information: San Jacinto Ranger District, 909-382-2921. Please note, you must display an Adventure Pass when parking in the San Bernardino National Forest. For information on how to buy an Adventure Pass, please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/r5/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5208699&width=full
Description of area, sights, wildlife and any key markers on the trail:
The 5,585-acre (8.7 square-mile) Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness is in the San Bernardino National Forest in Riverside County east of Temecula and northwest of Anza. Cahuilla Mountain is a major landmark to the communities of the Anza Valley and the neighboring Cahuilla Indian Reservation, and it has long had a special place in the hearts of the Cahuilla Tribe. This trail climbs the mountain in a moderate ascent and offers outstanding views in all directions.
The trail climbs 1,361 feet over its 2.9-mile course to the top of the 5,635-foot summit and passes multi-colored boulders, stately groves of black oak, Jeffrey pine and Coulter pine along the way. From the top, Cahuilla Mountain offers spectacular views of the historic Juan Bautista de Anza Trail, majestic San Jacinto Wilderness, Palomar Mountain, Beauty Mountain Wilderness, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and beyond. Spring wildflower displays are magnificent. The area is home to mountain lion, mule deer, mountain quail and California quail as well as two rare species, the large-blotched salamander and red diamond rattlesnake.
Cahuilla Mountain is the setting for one of the most famous novels from early California history, Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson, published in 1884. Jackson sought to portray Indigenous Californians as people worthy of respect and sympathy. In fact, Jackson sought to humanize them in the same way that her good friend Harriet Beecher Stowe had generated sympathy for African-Americans in her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Ramona’s protagonist, an Indigenous man who was killed for allegedly stealing a horse, lived on Cahuilla Mountain’s lower slopes.
Directions: West of Anza on Highway 371 near mile marker 371 RIV 68.0, turn right (north) onto Cary Road which becomes Tripp Flats Road. After 3.6 miles, turn left on Forest Service Road 6S22. Drive for 2.4 miles to the signed trailhead on your left. As of winter 2022, Road 6S22 was best suited for high-clearance vehicles, though this condition has varied over the years with the road sometimes being passable to standard passenger vehicles.
Additional information on this trail was gathered from John W. Robinson’s and David Money Harris’ 100 Hikes in Southern California: San Bernardino Mountain Trails, 6th Ed. (Wilderness Press, Berkeley, CA January 2006).
Photo on top of page by Maria Berton from Alltrails.com
Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.