The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument is jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service and was created in October 2000. It contains both the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Wilderness Areas. The mountainous terrain rises from the surrounding desert landscape, reaching elevations of over 10000 feet, and containing 280,022 acres of public land. The monument preserves significant natural habitat, cultural sites, geological formations, and recreational areas. A variety of natural landscape includes palm oasis, snow-capped mountains, and wilderness and backcountry areas that are accessible from trails in the Coachella Valley and the alpine village of Idyllwild, California.
A visitor center located off Highway 74 has interpretive displays, references, maps, materials, and staff available to answer questions and provide directions. The visitor center also has restrooms, water fountains, and air conditioning, and is open year round, with the peak season being between October and April. There are no fees for visitors to access the wilderness areas, with the exception of overnight campgrounds in the region. Hiking, horseback riding, historical sites, geological formations, and wildlife await visitors to the BLM Santa Rosa and Santa Jacinto Mountains National Monument region.
A schedule of events in the BLM areas can be found at Calendar of Events. Camping in the area in an RV is a great way to enjoy the area. To obtain an RV in the area see San Bernardino National Forest RV Rentals. More information on the natural resources, activities and wilderness region can be found at San Bernardino National Forest and San Jacinto State Park.
The visitor center at the Bureau of Land Management’s Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument is located on Highway 74 about four miles south of the junction of Highway 111 in the Palm Desert. This area is popular in the cooler winter months. However, road conditions in the winter can vary with local storms or in the warmer months with forest and brush fires. Check out Alerts San Bernardino National Forest for weather and events that may affect travel in the region throughout the year.
Overnight camping is available at Pinyon Flat Campground. However, the road in is dirt surfaced and can be rough in spots. Ensure the contents of your RV are secured to prevent jostling of contents, and that your unit has adequate clearance for the naturally surfaced access road. Road conditions can deteriorate after storms in the area and can be dusty in dry weather. To get to the campground from nearby Idyllwild, take State Route 243 south for 2.6 miles, then go left at the fork in the road to State Route 74 for 21.7 miles. A sign will direct you to the campground access road on the left.
Equestrian Camping is available at the Ribbonwood Equestrian Campground. To reach the equestrian area take Highway 74 south to Pinyon, then turn left onto south Pinyon Dive. The campground entrance is on the right. The access is level but is also dirt surfaced and can be rough, muddy, or dusty depending on weather conditions.
Camping is available year-round for equestrians and their horses at Ribbonwood Equestrian Campground. Campgrounds must be reserved online at least three days prior to your stay. The campground is situated overlooking the Palm Desert, Salton Sea, and the mountains, and the landscape is truly spectacular with hundreds of miles of natural areas in the Bureau of Land Management wilderness area for equestrians to explore from horseback.
Equestrian trails extend from the campground and connect to other trails in the region. The area is covered with chaparral brush, cactus, pinyon pines, and yucca plants, and access roads are dirt and gravel-surfaced. Ribbonwood has fewer than a dozen single-family campsites, but the sites are spacious and accommodate large units and equipment. Each site is equipped with picnic tables and campfire rings with grills, as well as two horse corrals, and hitching racks to accommodate your four-legged friends. Amenities at the campground include flush toilets, showers, and drinking water supplies.
This picturesque desert campground has views of the nearby mountains and is situated on level ground and managed by the forest service for a small fee. The campground has parking areas and room for RVs, but no electric or water hookups. There are 18 sites at the campground available on a first-come, first-serve basis, all year around. Picnic tables and fire rings are situated at each campsite.
Campfires and BBQs are permitted at the campground dependent on any fire restrictions that may be in effect at the time of your visit. Campfires must be built within fire rings at developed campsites, and the area is usually under a Site 1 Fire Restriction, meaning you will need a California Campfire Permit to build a fire, even in the fire rings provided on-site. You can use lanterns and propane stoves providing you have a valid California Campfire Permit. A drinking water supply and restroom with flush toilets is available on site.
High mountain terrain and desert landscape with excellent night time dark skies, natural beauty, and scenic vistas make informal BLM camping an excellent option for those who are not hung up on amenities. Visitors are welcome to camp on Bureau of Land Management lands in the region and within the National Monument. Dispersed camping on BLM lands is permitted for a maximum of 14 days, after which visitors must move to a new location at least 25 miles away.
When setting up your site, remember you must be at least ¼ mile away from water bodies and wildlife water supplies. Also, you cannot camp at trailheads or day-use areas. It is advised that you camp at previously disturbed sites to minimize the impact on the environment.
You do not generally require a permit fee to camp on BLM lands. However, an overnight permit is required in the San Jacinto Wilderness, and you should be aware of fire restrictions and have permits for campfires if required. Vehicles should remain on designated roadways.
The nearby San Bernardino Mountains have plenty of snow cover in winter at higher elevations, providing plenty of fun winter activities. You can enjoy downhill sledding, tubing, skiing, and snowboarding at local resorts. There are designated snowmobiling areas and trails, and hiking trails in the area become excellent snowshoeing and cross country ski trails when snowpack permits.
There are four resorts in the national forest, a snow play area, two snowmobiling routes, and three cross country skiing and snowshoe areas to explore, so bundle up and head on out to enjoy the wilderness area and snow-covered terrain.
There are several riding clubs, stables, and equestrian campgrounds in the region that support equestrian activities on the BLM lands. Horseback riding is permitted on all the National Forest roads and trails, with the exception of interpretive nature trails.
Take the Spitler Peak and Forest Trails in the San Jacinto area for views of the desert floor far below the high trails. These trails connect to the longer Pacific Crest Trail. The Big Bear area has a series of easier equestrian trails that also connect with the Pacific Crest Trail.
Stay at Ribbonwood Equestrian Campground in the BLM lands or visit the nearby McCall Equestrian Park, Heart Bar Equestrian Group Camp, or Wildhorse Equestrian campgrounds nearby. Spring and fall are the best time to enjoy equestrian activities when temperatures are more moderate and less stressful for horses and riders.
The visitor center is open every day with extended hours between October and April. Reference guides, maps, and materials can be purchased here, providing information on the surrounding natural areas that are part of the BLM lands. Interpretive displays and documentary movies are also available.
While at the visitor center, you can visit the 0.2 mile Ed Hastey Garden Trail which skirts the center and provides an introduction to local flora and fauna, including desert plants, reptiles, birds, mammals, and insects common to the lower elevations of this wilderness area. Leashed pets are welcome on the trail.
Young people can participate in the Agents of Discovery program which allows visitors to use an augmented reality app to complete challenges along the garden trail.
The Palms to Pines Scenic Byway makes a great scenic drive that takes you to and transports you through the BLM land in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. The route takes you through four different life zones in just 76 miles with an extremely diverse landscape for a unique driving experience.
You will see desert palms, high mountain pine forests, and geological features such as rock outcroppings. Desert landscape and soaring mountains make this route an adventure of changing scenic vistas you can enjoy from the comfort of your vehicle. Road conditions in winter may be hazardous in the mountainous areas check local road conditions or opt for summer drives and turn up the air conditioning!
Bring plenty of water and be prepared for changing weather conditions with appropriate gear to protect from the daytime heat, sudden storms, and inclement weather. Hikers should dress in layers that can be shed or donned to accommodate changes in temperature and activity. Also, watch out for cacti, rattlesnakes, and stinging insects in the region, and take precautions to avoid these hazards.
Dogs are not permitted on most of the national forest trails, so you might want to leave “Fido” at home or contact the visitor center for more detail on which trails permit pets. Detailed trail maps can be obtained at the visitor center, and there are miles of trails to enjoy for all ability levels, as trails are rated from easy to strenuous depending on terrain, length, and elevation gain.
Please be aware that there is no cell phone service in most areas, so a radio, satellite phone, or locator beacon, along with a plan that includes letting someone off-site know of your planned route and expected time of return, is advised. Lower elevation trails can be enjoyed in the winter months while higher elevation trails are best enjoyed in summer months.
Enjoy desert wildflowers and cacti along trails in spring and summer when the flowers are in bloom. Purchase a field guide from the visitor center or find information online prior to your trip to help identify flora native to the area. Watch out for sharp spines on cacti while examining them.
A variety of birds, reptiles, and small mammals inhabit the area as well, and if you keep a close eye out, you can spot these local inhabitants. Be cautious of rattlesnakes and bees which are found in the area. Stay on trails and roadsides in this sensitive ecosystem and do not handle plants or animals. Geological formations including hot springs and rock formations, providing added interest for wilderness explorers in the area.