Sand to Snow National Monument is a 240 square mile Bureau of Land Management park located in southern California. This BLM land extends from the Sonoran Desert area to the top of San Gorgonio Mountain, rising from an elevation of 1,000 ft to 11,000 ft. Featuring a unique landscape that grades from desert sands to mountain peaks with snow in winter, here’s a premier setting for primitive camping opportunities and recreational activities. If ever you needed a place for a memorable getaway, this park is just perfect.
San Gorgonio Mountain, Southern California's highest mountain, features scenic spots for guests to spread their tents and take in the vantage point views offered from the heights. Moreover, various wildlife species are protected along the park’s corridors, offering fantastic animal viewing opportunities. Also, diverse flora ecosystems decorate the park. More than 18 million people visit this park for free camping opportunities, climbing, hunting, horseback riding, hiking, and other activities. If you’d like to camp in your RV or trailer, then you should visit San Bernardino National Forest or Joshua Tree National Park as these parks feature campsites that accommodate motorhomes.
If you’re coming to Sand to Snow National Monument from any of the major southern California areas, be prepared for around a two-hour drive. The main access road to this BLM Land is Highway 38, along Mission Creek and Whitewater Preserve. Several local unpaved roads, which extend a few miles, branch off Highway 38, leading to different areas in this BLM property. Some points in the park are only accessible by trails such as the Vivian Creek Trail.
You should note as you drive along Highway 38 that the route winds around a mountain, so it's smart to drive carefully as you make your way around. Furthermore, the roads that branch off the Highway have lots of switchbacks, so exercise great care.
Accessibility to this park can be quite challenging in winter due to snow cover, so you may want to come along with snow chains and winter tires to make your trip less strenuous. You won’t regret that you did.
Even though there are no RV facilities and campsites at this BLM property, if you would like to rent equipment for use within campgrounds within reach of Sand to Snow National Monument, you’ll find at Yucca Valley, Mount San Jacinto State Park and Banning.
Tent and RV camping opportunities are available south of Sand to Snow National Monument at San Bernardino National Forest, a premier outdoor recreation destination open year-round. At this National Forest, you’ll have your pick of campsites as reservable sites and non-reservable sites are available. Besides, basic and modern amenities are provided within the park. Electric, water, and sewer hookups are available for RVs and trailers.
In addition, the RV camping options available, designated wilderness areas are also present for those who wish to get away from the noise and enjoy primitive camping.
Recreational opportunities that you’ll enjoy at San Bernardino National Forest include hiking, cross-country skiing, fishing, horseback riding, picnicking, amongst others.
If you’ll be visiting in your RV/trailer, ensure they’re no longer than 20 feet. If you, however, require equipment rentals, you’re covered.
Joshua Tree National Park is located southeast of Sand to Snow National Monument and offers various camping and backcountry experiences for guests and visitors. The beautiful landscape and scenery at the park are further enhanced by the modern campsites available and equipped with basic and modern amenities. Some sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and some are available by reservation.
Recreational opportunities at Joshua Tree National Park include hiking, bird watching, biking, rock climbing, and horseback riding. The chance to experience the dark night skies at this park is unparalleled. Picnic areas are also available.
RVs and trailers up to 100 feet can be accommodated within the park’s nine campgrounds. Hookups are available in the park, and so are equipment rentals.
Primitive camping opportunities are abundant along the trails that lead to the peak of San Gorgonio Mountain. Owing to the fact that the mountain is a popular spot for visits year-round, free camping, winter recreation, picnicking, hiking, and many other opportunities are enjoyed by guests that fancy a taste of the adventure in the park. The cool forests on the mountain that offer respite from the desert heat provide added incentives for park explorers to set up a tent and relax.
As you pitch your tent at any spot of choice, be sure to have the appropriate gear to keep you going, seeing as there are no camping facilities or services available atop the mountain.
The most popular and visited spot at Sand to Snow National Monument is the San Gorgonio Mountain, which stands at a height of 11,500 feet above sea level. This mountain, which is the highest point in California south of the Sierra Nevada, rises sharply from the Sonoran Desert and offers one of the best panoramic views that adventurers and nature lovers could ever get.
As one of the eleven peaks higher than 10,000 feet southeast of the San Bernardino Mountains, this spot is a must-visit for you while you’re BLM camping. Note that the topography is rugged and some portions of the rise are steep.
Sand to Snow National Monument is renowned for its hiking trail that bisects the monument. This trail – Pacific Crest Trail – runs for 30 miles and takes hikers to heights of around 7,000 to 8,300 feet. On this trail, you’ll get the chance to enter and exit the Whitewater Canyon and pass near the Mission Springs area in the park.
Whether you’re just on a day-visit to this BLM land or dry camping at any of the sites, you’ll be able to enjoy hikes at any time of the year you visit.
One of the most spectacular things about Sand to Snow National Monument is the plant community within the park. This BLM park features a huge range of plants that characterize different ecosystems such as the higher Mojave and lower Sonoran deserts. Moreover, flora characteristic of the alpine mountains is also present within the park. So, if you’re a lover of nature photography or wildflower watching, you’ll see plenty at Sand to Snow National Monument. It’s been said that more than 1,600 plant species reside in this BLM property. Mind-blowing!
Although not as popular as the San Gorgonio Mountain, Ate 'Ivyat is an area within Sand to Snow National Mountain that contains Black Lava Butte and Flat Top Mesa.
Translated “rocky place” in the Serrano language, Ate 'Ivyat contains evidence that the Serrano people have inhabited the area for a long time. Look out for the abundant petroglyphs that speak of this history. Over 40 sites within the area tell this story, as do the 1,700 rock art images that are present there.
The park’s beautiful landscape is home to abundant wildlife species, so be prepared to run into some animals every now and then as you explore this BLM park. Not only are 12 federally listed threatened and endangered fauna species found within this BLM property, but more than 240 bird species have been identified in the park.
No surprise, then, that Sand to Snow National Monument is a paradise for birdwatchers and lovers of wildlife viewing. The most commonly seen wildlife in the park are black bears, and California spotted owl.
The sightseeing and recreational opportunities available at Sand to Snow National Monument extend to the local communities and towns around the BLM park. Forest Falls, for instance, sits at the base of the San Gorgonio Wilderness and features two popular trailheads that lead to a large day-use area and waterfalls that attract many guests.
In addition, Angelus community features the trailhead that leads to the San Bernardino Peak. Pioneertown is yet another local town with attractive features for those dry camping at Sand to Snow National Monument.