Rabbit Peak lies along the southeast end of the remote Santa Rosa Range of Riverside county in Southern California. The summit features views along the Santa Rosa Range to the northwest, to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to the south, and the Coachella Valley and Salton Sea to the east. There is no higher peak further south in California, so the views in that direction can span to the Mexican border (and into Arizona as well) on a clear day.
Seemingly desolate and inhospitable, the Santa Rosa Mountains are laced with deep washes and shallow drainages. Summer temperatures are brutally hot, periodically interrupted by thunderstorms that send flash floods cascading down the sandy washes.
The peak lies in a predominantly desert environment, though the summit area is crowned with several varieties of pines. Cactus, Yucca, and other desert flora cover most of the hillsides and surrounding desert floors. Rabbit Peak lies within the Santa Rosa Wilderness which supports the largest herd of rare peninsular bighorn sheep in the United States.
All of the routes to the summit are difficult, though there are no technical challenges. It is highly coveted among peak baggers, appearing on both the HPS and DPS peak lists, commonly believed to be the most difficult (time-wise) on both lists. It is one of seven Emblem peaks on the Desert Peak Section's list, signifying its dominance of its surroundings (another way of saying it has a swell view).
There are two primary directions to approach the summit. The shortest is from the east, starting below sea level. A longer (and more elevation gain) approach from the south is also popular in conjunction with the ascent of nearby Villager Peak.
East Approach (from the HPS):
- Drive east on I-10 to Dillon Road in Indio.
- Go south on Dillon Road about a mile to the intersection with SR 111 and SR 86. Turn left.
- Drive southeast on SR 86 for about 15.4 miles to the junction with Avenue 74 (north-south) and Fillmore Road (north-south). Turn right on southbound Fillmore Road.
- Go 2.5 miles to its end at a levee. Park here.
When the "trail" marked with white rocks reaches the base of the ridge ("Oven Ridge", old miners ruins here) two variations are possible: "Oven Ridge", following a trace trail up to the bench, then up the steeps to the long summit ridge; or "Catkin Canyon" the canyon to the right (north) of the ridge. Oven Ridge is less technical. Catkin Canyon has several sections of 3rd-to-4th class climbing up (normally) dry waterfalls. The canyon is a much cooler way to reach the summit ridge. In the canyon and wash near the miner's camp, Indian petroglyphs can be found on numerous rocks.
Rabbit Peak can also be climbed from the west via a long ridge traverse. Climbing Toro Peak, Rabbit Peak, and continuing over Villager Peak and down into Borrego Springs is a multi-day adventure you will remember the rest of your life. Well worth the requisite planning and supply caches.
- Take I8 east to SR 79.
- Take SR 79 north to Julian, turn right on SR 78.
- Take SR 78 east to county road S3.
- Drive north on S3 to Borrego Springs, turn right at the "T" on S22.
- Drive east on S-22, parking at a northside turnout in the desert at mile 31.8. A small brown sign "Pack it in, Pack it out" and some boulders to line the turnout are all that are here to mark the trailhead. Park here.
Rabbit Peak lies within the Santa Rosa Wilderness. Permits are not required for dayhikes or camping (says so here).
Fires are permitted in a metal container (stove); ground fires are not permitted.
No fees or permits required for parking.
The area is jointly managed by the BLM and US Forest Service.
BLM Palm Springs South Coast Field Office
690 W. Garnet Avenue,
P.O. Box 581260
North Palm Springs,CA 92258-1260
Telephone: (760) 251-4800
FAX : (760) 251-4899
San Bernardino NF
San Jacinto Ranger District
P.O. Box 518
Idyllwild, California 92549
Telephone: (909) 659-2117
When To Climb
Late Fall through Spring are the best times to visit, winter is probably the mildest time. Weather can be changeable - cold pacific storms in winter can bring rain and even snow at the higher elevations (not usually much precipitation). Summer heat can breed thunderstorms, though not to the extent found in the Sierra to the north. Watch out for flash floods when hiking in washes and drainages. Summer visits should be limited to those on special deprivation training missions, or the truly insane. Climbing 6,000ft of elevation in 100F+ heat is excruciatingly difficult.
Camping is allowed. Most popular site seems to be near the summit of Villager Peak, for a two-day ascent to Rabbit Peak. Keep in mind there are no amenities and virtually no water available anywhere in the area. Bring whatever water you might need with you from the start.
Santa Rosa Wilderness Weather (Indian Wells / La Quinta)
"Name was originally known by the Cauhilla Indians as 'Rabbit' or 'Rabbit Hole' Mountain. A Cauhilla legend tells of Suic, a white and red spotted rabbit that dwells on this peak. When he appears, the mountain trembles, and there is a rumbling noise. Charles Lummis remembered that when the local Indians were being forcibly moved to the new Pala Reservation (1902), they argued their claim to remain where they were with 'You see that Rabbit Hole Mountain? When God made [it], He gave us this place.'
Mythologically throughout the Southwest, the Rabbit was the main character in innumerable tales of the trickster, as well as a culture hero who (as the bringer of fire) was a great benefactor to mankind.
Peak is also called 'Big Rabbit', 'Tyranolepus Rex' (and sometimes even worse things) by the HPS.
It is also on the DPS List.
Name of peak first appears on USGS Indio Special Map (1904).
Peak was on the original 1946 HPS Peak List."
- Hundred Peak Section, Sierra Club