Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 33.56898°N / 115.77986°W
Additional Information County: Riverside
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 3815 ft / 1163 m
Sign the Climber's Log


The Orocopia Mountains are situated on the San Andreas Rift Zone in the deserts of south-central Riverside County, overlooking the Salton Sea on the sea's northeast. The highest point of the range is just 3,815 feet, but the range does have over 2,000 feet of clean prominence. From the Salton Sea, there is over 4,000 feet of vertical differential between shoreline and summit (keeping in mind the Salton Sea is at -230 feet elevation). When viewed from the north side along Interstate-10, the range seems low, probably because it is surrounded by higher ranges such as the Eagles to the north and Chuckwallas to the east, and of course, the giant Toro and San Jacinto peaks to the west.

The Orocopia Mountains are enclosed within the Orocopia Wilderness, established in 1994 and managed by the BLM. The wilderness covers just under 46,000 acres and has good dirt-road access both from Interstate-10 from the north, and from various roads from the south. The Mecca Hills Wilderness adjoins the Orocopia Wilderness to the west, separated by the Box Canyon Road Secnic Drive.

The peak literally sits astride the famous San Andreas fault, separating the Pacific and North American plates as they slide along one another in separate directions. It is possible a major quake could occur here; if so, just hold on and enjoy the shaking. A 7.1 quake occured here in 1940 (see link). A mid-6 quake also hit the area in 1979, as I recall.

Orocopia MountainsThe Orocopia Mountains (zoom image from near the Joshua Tree South Entrance

Getting There

These are the directions for the northern approach. Thanks to Charlie Winger who provided me some basic info from the Sierra Club DPS information bank for getting me on the right road, literally.

Exit Interstate-10 at the Joshua Tree/Mecca exit, which is about 23 miles east of Indio and 5 miles west of the Chiriaco Summit exit. Go south for 0.3 miles, and turn left (east) onto old paved Pinto Road for another 0.6 miles. Turn right (south) onto a good dirt road. Pass under powerlines at 0.9 miles, then stay left at a Y-junction a few yards past the power lines. Stay on this main road for another 2.8-2.9 miles. It trends mostly east and south. Toward the end, stay left at a pair of Y-junctions, even if it appears the better road is to the right. At this point you come to another Y-junction: the right ends at some rock barriers just a few feet ahead, while the left fork goes up steeply and eroded section to gain a slightly elevated bench. The road "ends" at the wilderness boundary another 0.4 miles further.

The road is pretty good and slightly sandy. High clearance is recommended, while the last 0.4 miles will need 4-wheel drive. Otherwise, park at the last Y-junction.

Pay attention to other side roads that meet this road to avoid confusion on the way out. The lands north of the wilderness boundary are open to off-road vehicles, so keep an eye out for them, too.

Orocopia MountainsThe summit.

Red Tape

There are no fees or permits required. Once inside the wilderness you must abide by the wilderness rules. Outside the wilderness you are on BLM land. The end of the road would make for a nice camping area.


There are plenty of good ad-hoc camping areas on the BLM lands surrounding the wilderness, on both sides of I-10. Developed camping can be found at the Cottonwood CG inside Joshua Tree National Park, 8 miles north of I-10 at the JT/Mecca exit.

External Links

Orocopia Mountains Wilderness

Cottonwood Springs CG, Joshua Tree National Park

Sierra Club Desert Peaks Section List (Riverside County) Includes some old trip reports.

Gas & Grub

Indio & Coachella: full services, including hotels, groceries, everything. I've always used the truck stops at the Dillon Road exit for my needs when heading east.

Chiriaco Summit: there is a Chevron there and a small cafe. The George S. Patton Museum is located here. Chiriaco Summit was the entrance to old Camp Young, the Desert Training Center used during WWII.

There are no services at the JT/Mecca exit.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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gimpilator - Dec 16, 2016 11:21 am - Hasn't voted

Parking Area

For those that find the sandy junctions confusing, the upper parking area is located at (33.598289,-115.778562). I was able to drive a Subaru up the steep section but the passenger had to get out to lighten the load. The first time we tried to get to the trailhead, a bunch of yahoos were camped right above the steep section and were firing off shotguns and tracer bullet rounds in the dark, so we left and came back a few days later.

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