Cone Peak (Desert Divide)

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 33.66690°N / 116.5979°W
Additional Information County: Riverside
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 6800 ft / 2073 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Elevation Disparity
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 perennial "Grand Old Man of the Mountains" of the Hundred Peaks Section, Sam Fink single-handedly constructed a trail along the crest of the Desert Divide in the southern San Jacinto Mountains that became known as the "Sam Fink Trail."

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 in the 7000’ range are found here and easily accessed off the PCT.

Cone Peak has a striking image from Hwy 74 and Morris Ranch Road; seems much more foreboding than it actually is. The peak is actually a conglomeration of huge boulders and two small pinnacles; quite the scattering of rock. Views from either pinnacle are afforded mainly in the southern to western skyline, but beautiful nonetheless. One can imagine that Cone Peak was probably named for its shape. The peak was added to the HPS Peak List in 1965.

The Drive

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 8.5 miles, you will reach Morris Ranch Road on your left, a fire station 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.
Cone Peak s Northern Side
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. Approx 3 miles after turning left, you will come upon Morris Ranch Road on your right with a fire station on the corner, turn to the right here. You will pass a sign for the trailhead to Thomas Mountain on your left prior to reaching Morris Ranch Road.

Once on Morris Ranch Road, drive approx 3.5 miles, passing the Joe Scherman Girl Scouts of America Camp and many mobile homes. On the right, you will come to a gate with a sign for "Cedar Springs Trail." Park in the vicinity and be sure to post your National Adventure Pass.
Elevation is approx 5300' so icy road conditions may exist in winter.

The Hike

From the gate at Cedar Springs Trail trailhead on Morris Ranch Rd, begin your 4 mile trek to Palm View Peak. You will have no choice but to stay on “The Trail” due to the barrage of “No Trespassing” signs, wire fences and gauntlet of gates (there are 4 of them to keep range cattle out of National Forest). There are even picnic tables and trash cans along the way.

For the first 3/4 mile, the trail alternates between trail and road. At the third gate, you will finally be entering the National Forest boundary and feel you have escaped the confines of bureaucracy, but wait…one more gate. The gentle switchback trail takes you to the PCT for another 1.5 miles; great views of the canyon and surrounding area along the way, but as this portion of the trail remains in the sun during spring and summer, take care to protect yourself from the heat and rays. The only running water can be found dribbling from a pipe in the clearing near the picnic tables.
At the saddle of PCT and Cedar Springs Trail junction, there is a large half-busted sign pointing to several different trails, turn left onto the PCT and continue on trail for another 1.5 miles toward Peak 7123’ (bench marked on topo). You will drop slightly into a saddle after passing a noticeable peak on your left. Upon ascending past the saddle, watch for a cairn on the right side of the trail to mark a faint trail to Palm View Peak’s summit. This is the take-off point for Palm View Peak.

Continue towards elev. 7123'. Just before you reach the high point on the trail there is a large grassy slope descending on your left (south). Go down through this area picking up the faint remains of a trail. Follow it as it goes into some trees and then swing right (west) to the center of the ridge. It soon becomes a large horse trail 10-12 feet wide. Follow this trail down until it passes through a gully just below the saddle north of Cone Peak. Leave the trail and go up the gully towards this saddle. As you approach the saddle it becomes brushy. Leave the gully and follow use trails on the left side of the gully. As you go over the ridge turn left (south) and go up over some rocks. Here a well brushed route begins. Follow this south along the ridge. It soon goes off to the right side and then up to the summit.

We were able to find some Class 2 to Class 4 scrambling to reach the summit proper. Those uneasy with slab may want to stick to the trail.


Forecast according to NOAA.