An alternative route for hiking up Quail Mountain, Joshua Tree's loftiest summit, from the west at Covington Flat. This area is accessed via a long dirt road is is therefore pretty secluded and uncrowded making for a great hike away from the masses. Total hiking distance from Covington Flat is about 10 miles, total elevation gain about 1,750'. About half the distance and most of the elevation gain is cross-country. You can dayhike this route or do a short-overnighter if you wish. There is a nice place to camp in the saddle south of Quail Peak, or in the valleys to the southwest of the peak if it's windy. Bring all your water - any water you may find in the park is reserved for wildlife. Speaking of which, keep an eye out for bighorn sheep and deer on Quail Mountain. A large portion of the hike passes through an area burned in 2006 - but the Joshua trees and other plants are starting to come back. As soon as the area gets winter or early spring rain it comes alive with wildflowers. This area does get snow and freezing temperatures, so check the forecast before you go.
From LA, take I-10 east through San Gorgonio Pass to SR 62. Go north on 62 to SR 247 in Yucca Valley. Continue about 2.8 miles east on SR 62 to La Contenta Road (traffic signal). Turn right (south) onto La Contenta Road. Note odometer and go as follows: Drive south on La Contenta Road (pavement ends at 1 mile) to a junction at 2.8 miles. Make a half left turn. Continue on La Contenta Road to Joshua Tree National Park boundary at 4.5 miles. There is a road junction to the left near the boundary. Disregard junction and continue straight. Road junction at 5.8 miles. Go to the right. The road straight ahead goes to Nolina Cove. Road junction at 8.8 miles. Continue straight. The road to the right goes to Upper Covington Flat where you must park if you are doing this hike as an overnighter. But if you go straight and park in Lower Covington Flat you can do this route as a dayhike.
Road should be passable by all vehicles, unless it's soon after a snow or rain storm. Call the park to inquire on current road conditions.
From Lower Covington:
From the parking area at Lower Covington Picnic Area (4600'), head east on the California Riding and Hiking Trail for about 3 miles, until you reach the small gullies draining to the southwest. This is right before the trail makes a sharp turn to the south and heads to an area called Juniper Flats. At the second gully crossing (5000'), leave the trail and hike up the nose of the ridge in a generally east-southeast direction to the top of the ridge (5640'). Be sure to note your location as this ridge is hard to see on the return. Continue on the ridgeline in an easterly and then northeasterly direction, crossing over several bumps. Contour around bump 5787' on the left and into the saddle southwest of the summit of Quail Mountain. Continue to the northeast up the slope to the summit of Quail Mountain. The register is found at a tall rock cairn at the south end of the summit plateau.
As an alternative to crossing all the bumps, you can also stay low in the washes, heading east-southeast, and then making a final climb up around bump 5787' and then up Quail. We hiked to Quail staying high, then returned staying low, and it seemed to be easier staying low.
From Upper Covington:
From the small turn-around parking area at Upper Covington (4811') take the trail behind the backcountry board (register to spend the night out here). This trail winds its way past some of the park's largest Joshua Trees. You top off at a low pass then wind your way down a rocky ridge to eventually intersect with the California Riding and Hiking Trail. Make a right and go about 2 miles until you reach the small gullies draining to the southwest. Then follow the directions above.
Water, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, windbreaker, topo map, binocs, camera!
External LinksMy Quail Mountain from Covington Flat Trip Report
Joshua Tree NP