The Pacific Crest Trail winds and wiggles northward through the San Jacinto Mountain Range; making its way from the oaken forests, chaparral, yucca, and cacti desert highland and eventually sub-alpine forests of pine and fir. This southern section of the San Jacinto Mountain Range is known as the Desert Divide, and on its eastern flank, you'll find several deep, eroded, boulder-strewn desert canyons. Rock composition mainly of batholithic rock and granite.
The views along this section of the PCT are breathtaking; the entire Santa Rosa range to the south, the San Jacinto Wilderness to the north, the Coachella Valley to the east, and Garner Valley, Thomas Mountain along with Lake Hemet to the west all seen quite clearly year-round. Many of the Hundred Peaks Section peaks below 7000’ elevation are found here and easily accessed off the PCT. Butterfly Peak is one of several double-peaked mountains along the Desert Divide; accessible by Class 2 trail and some bit of scrambling onto the summit block.
Ernest Maxwell, of the Izaak Walton League in Idyllwild, remembers that Butterfly Peak was named by USFS Ranger Jim Wellman in 1949. Apparently they were fighting a fire when there was a question as to what to call it since the fire wasn't near any named spot. Just then some butterflies wafted by and both the fire and the burning peak received a name. This "unofficial" penciled-in use-name was then lifted and applied to the next Forest map. Again, without any official deliberation, this name was subsequently employed by the USGS in 1959. First cited on USGS Idyllwild topo (1959). Butterfly Peak was added to the HPS Peak List in 1961.
From I-15, north or southbound, you can exit in Temecula onto Winchester Road (Hwy 79N) and head north to Hwy 74E and continue on through Hemet and up the slope on pleasant winding mountain roads, complete with competition "S-curves" to Mountain Center. Once you reach Mountain Center at the intersection of Hwy 243 to Idyllwild and Hwy 74 to Palm Springs, stay to your right and on the 74. In approx 10 miles, you will reach Toolbox Springs Road on your left, a sign for Pathfinder Ranch sits on the corner. Turn left here.
Or you may exit in Temecula onto Hwy 79S and drive east toward the San Jacinto Mountain range for approx 20 miles, then turn left onto Hwy 371 for Anza. In another approximate 20 miles up a long slow grade to about 4500' through dry rocky terrain, passing the Temecula Olive Oil Company ranch and Cahuilla Casino, you will reach Hwy 74 bound for Palm Springs to the east and Mountain Center to the northwest. Turn left at Hwy 74, there is a nice restaurant on the right hand corner, Paradise Cafe; probably the ONLY good place to eat for many, many miles.
Once you’ve turned onto Toolbox Springs Road, in approx 0.6 miles you will take a left onto Butterfly Peak Road. Approx a quarter mile later, turn right onto Table Mountain Road. Less than a quarter mile later, there will be a narrow paved road on your right marked “private property,” park along Table Mountain Road near here and begin approach on foot on the paved road.
Fresh on the trail to Butterfly Peak.
From the parking area along Table Mountain Road, begin your trek on the narrow paved road marked with “private property.” This short road will come to a “T,” and at this point you will turn left and continue along the fence. Quite soon you will encounter a locked gate, you’re only option is to take a right-hand turn once passing alongside the gate and continue uphill between two fence lines.
Stay to the right along the trail heading for Gold Hill, it is the only “hump” along the trail that is not mainly granite. There are many faint use trails on the western side, most likely for access to bouldering; this area is littered with hundreds of playful stone!
Once coming just southeast of Gold Hill, you will come to a fork in the trail; take the left fork, the right fork is the turn-off for Rock Point. Hike up the left fork passed abandoned mining equipment scattered on both sides of trail and an open mine shaft, New Hemet Bell Mine, on your right.
Mine shaft of New Hemet Bell mine.
Soon after passing the mine shaft, take the “Prospector’s Trail” on your left, marked by wooden plank sign. This trail becomes steep quickly, switchbacks to a shallow saddle of the ridgeline just south of Butterfly Peak.
The trail is well-ducked but crazily meanders through Manzanita and chaparral, views of Butterfly Peak will be occasionally obscured but mainly on your left and eventually straight ahead. You will slowly drop into a small canyon and pass beneath Prospect Wall amongst a boulder field. Continue on ducked trail and climb steep trail to the north onto Butterfly’s eastern ridgeline. Many fallen trees obstruct the path but are easily navigated either around or over. Ducks will lead you to true summit of the peak where summit register will be found. This peak is not benchmarked on topo, but certainly appears to be taller than the 6228’ reported elevation. Ascend via Class 3 rock on southern side of summit block, or Class 4 on northeastern face.
To be sure, you may bushwack for 30’ or so and pick up faint trail for less than 1.4 mile to the benchmarked peak northwest of summit register peak. Climbing this point and exploring nearby bouldering on summit blocks, as well as the views are more entertaining here.
Summit register? Here it is!
Please stop by the Idyllwild Ranger Station
to pick up your permit, or just to visit. National Adventure Passes
are required for parking near access to national forests and can be purchased from the ranger station or various area merchants. Be mindful of private property and courteous parking at the trailhead.
- Compliments of NOAA.