In need of a relaxing, quick and easy hike? Take a lazy trip to Anza and become acquainted with one of the many desert peaks in the valley. Cahuilla Mountain
is a historical location in California, the setting for one of the most famous novels of early California history – Helen Hunt Jackson’s “Ramona
,” published in 1884. Cahuilla was first noted (misspelled "Coahuila
") on the first USGS San Jacinto quad. The peak was originally named "Taakwi
" by the Luiseños and was standardized in its present form by USBGN in 1963. Cahuilla Mountain is an important landmark to the communities of the Anza Valley and the neighboring Cahuilla Indian Reservation. It has long held a special place in the hearts of the Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians.
Cahuilla Mountain offers the visitor spectacular views of the historic Juan Bautista de Anza Trail, San Jacinto Peak, Palomar Mountain, and the vast desert landscape to the southeast. When in bloom, 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. The groves of Black oak and Coulter pine on top of the mountain are so ecologically significant that the Forest Service has set them aside for scientific research.
Getting There - North or South Inbound?Coming from the North
- From I-15 northbound or south, 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 road, complete with competition “S-curves” to Mountain Center. Once you reach Mountain Center at intersection of Hwy 243 to Idyllwild and Hwy 74 to Palm Springs, stay to your right and on the 74. In approx 15 miles, you will reach the turn-off for Hwy 371 to Anza. Turn right, you really can’t turn left.
Continue on Hwy 371 through Anza for approx 17 miles and watch for Cary Road on your right. Turn right here, you will see Cahuilla Mountain welcoming you just off this road on your left.
Coming from the South
– Also from I-15 closer to the Border Patrol checkpoint, you may exit in Temecula onto Hwy 79S toward Warner Springs; you will pass Vail Lake Resort and many ranch homes along the highway. Once reaching Aguana approx 20 miles later, turn left onto Hwy 371 for Anza. Continue on Hwy 371 up a long slow grade to about 4500’ through the dry rocky terrain of Anza Valley, you will immediately see Cahuilla Mountain boasting splendid granite walls. In approx 11.5 miles, you will turn left onto Cary Road.
The Finer Details
- Once on Cary Rd driving through residential area, watch for a fork in the road in about 3.8 miles, with a sign for “Tripp Flats.” Turn left onto a dirt road; take caution, this road is barely wide enough to pass two cars. Just about a mile further, Tripp Flats Station gate will appear at a fork in the road, turn left here and pass through a different gate; continue for another mile and half to a saddle with obvious parking area. Also, be aware that this gate may be locked during heavy rains or fire season, which adds over a mile one way to your hike. A large sign for the Cahuilla Mountain Trail is on the left side of the road; park in this lot.
Ready to Summit Something?
Scenic, sandy and occasionally horse-pooey, the Cahuilla Mtn Trail provides a relaxing get-away in SoCal.
From the parking area at the saddle (dirt road continues on skirting Little Cahuilla Mtn), the trailhead begins at a large sign on the left. This trail is chronically used by equestrians and mountain bikers (although biking is not allowed). Simple Class 1 for approx 3 miles to the summit, albeit mainly sandy and rather steep in some areas; would not recommend taking small children or anyone in a wheelchair on this trail.
The Cahuilla Mountain Trail winds around the eastern side of the mountain, heading southward, and passes through an eco system of Black oak, Manzanita, Coulter Pine, and occasional colorful rock formations. Views of the San Jacintos, Thomas Mtn and Toro Peak are constant, as well as the Anza Valley below. Trail continues to a slight ridge at which point there will be white rocks posted on each side of the trail, this is where the trail ceases to exist on the topo. You will have the option of continuing on the maintained path to the summit, or turn right on use trail into the woods which eventually fizzles to a thousand game trails through thicket and wooded areas of a gulley and up the slope to a false summit approx one mile from main trail. This 5604’ summit is actually labeled “Coahuila” on the USGS topo.
Falsie Coahuila summit. Thomas Mtn and Toro Pk seen in distance.
Route finding to the falsie proves to be interesting with a multitude of large downed trees and remains of many fire ravaged others. The trip up is pleasant enough even with bushwacking through and over Manzanita and downed trees; you will eventually wander into a black oak savanna just below and left of the summit. Falsie summit is much more interesting than Cahuilla Mtn summit thanks to several large red granite formations begging to be scrambled upon. Three geo-markers dated 1939 dot three separate rock croppings.
For true summit of Cahuilla Mtn from main trail, continue on passed the white rocks, heading south (to your left) and slightly downhill. Off the mountain trail to your right, the tiny town of Sage is seen and further is Vail Lake and Temecula. Mount Palomar and Aqua Tibia loom southwest as well. Trail meanders and rises into wooded area, fortunately it remains fairly clear of debris from downed trees and fire. At approx ¼ mile from the summit, there is a strange sign posted in a chassis spring that points to the right fork in the trail stating “SPRING.” (Now I get it!) Stay on left fork to find unglorious summit of Cahuilla Mtn – a tiny pedestal of red granite amidst Manzanita with a classy vegetable can housing the summit register.
Summit of Cahuilla Mtn, seats one.
This peak was on the original HPS list in 1946.
Take a few moments to scout out surrounding area with care. The sand covered rock near cliff edges is treacherous and trees obscure most of the view of beautiful rock walls. There appears to be some Class 2/3ish scrambles from the valley below on the south side of the summit block.
Round trip to Cahuilla Mtn summit is approx 6 miles with 1700’ elevation gain. Tagging Falsie Coahuila along the way adds an additional 2 miles but worth the experience.
There's no reason to camp here, although I did find crude fire rings within the wooded areas. Water may be available (but don't count on it) in several small run-offs along the trail following heavy rains or snow melt, although this winter has not produced any snow on this mountain.
Mountain Weather Mountain weather conditions
as predicted by NOAA.
Post in your windshield a National Adventure Pass
which can be purchased at the Idyllwild Ranger station or several of the local merchants for $30 annually. For another $5, a pass can be purchased for a second vehicle. Daily passes can also be purchased for $5.
San Jacinto Ranger District
P.O. Box 518
Idyllwild, CA 92549
Voice: (909) 382-2921
Fax: (951) 659-2107