Mormon Rocks

Total oddball day of hiking.  I traveled a long way to hike to Arrowhead Peak in the San Bernardino Mountains.  Both my guidebooks and an online review said the trail is badly overgrown.  I’ve been on overgrown trails before but this one takes the prize.  Thick, sharp plants blocked every option.  I wandered for awhile before giving up and returning to my car.  Nature has taken back this trail. I Hope someone clears it again someday.  Now I needed to find another hike.  I remembered passing Mormon Rocks on my way to Blue Ridge Trail a couple of weeks ago.  I was blown away by the bizarre looking formation.  Since my drive home would take me past it anyway, Mormon Rocks turned out to be a perfect choice.

1   To get to the Arrowhead Peak trailhead I headed up CA-18 for about 11 miles.  I continued on after the Crestline Junction for another 1.6 miles to a large turn-out on the right side.  My guidebooks said to look for mile marker 14.95, which is bad advice, in my opinion.  Marker 14.95 is on the left side of the road after the turn-off and is hidden by a bush.  You’ll know your at the right place when you see this mile marker, 14.90, at the turn-out parking area.

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Amazing views from above.

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I think this is the ridge the trail heads down.  A close-up in photo 2 shows what looks to be a trail skirting around the right side of the hill.

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10   Next to the parking area there is a gate for an old fire road.  Looking straight down at the mess below, it’s hard to believe any vehicle ever used it.  I followed the trail that lead away from the gate.  It was clear at first but soon became cramped with vegetation.  That trail ended and I backtracked to find another way down.  I found a seam between the brush.  I put on my long sleeved shirt and started through.  The bushes closed up and my shirt offered no protection from their sharp stickers.  I turned around again.  Although I had not traveled far, I lost the trail that led back up to the turn-out.  I tried, unsuccessfully, to go straight up the hill in photo 5.  The footing was too unstable, like trying to hike straight up a sand dune.  I eventually did relocate the original trail and made it back to my car.

11   I headed west on the 210 Freeway to the 15 Freeway.  I then took the turn-off for Highway 138.  Mormon Rocks is very close to this turn-off and can’t be missed.  I knew that there were two hiking options here.  On one side of the road (left if coming from the 15) is the Mormon Rocks Fire Station and a mile long trail which offers panoramic views of the rocks.  On the other is a parking area and a few use trails which allow you to walk right up to these giants.  I parked by the fire station first.  Near the trailhead is a water feature that was being overtaken by bees.

12   The trail gently switchbacks up the hill.  The views become better as you climb.

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On Tilt

14   I reached a point high enough to see the view of the other side of the hill, impressive in it’s own right.

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19   Now at a good spot to view the entire formation.  These five photos pan from left to right.  To give some scale, notice the semi trucks passing on the road below in photo 4.  The rocks in photo 5 are on the same side of the road as the fire station.  The looping trail took me over to them.

20   Showing the trail ahead which runs below that first ridge.  I ignored the “Trail” sign directing hikers to the lower trail and instead headed up the trail that travels on top of the ridge.

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Views from the top of the ridge

23     24     25   Photo 1 – Beautiful multicolored yucca plants.  Photo 2 – Getting down from the ridge meant carefully making my way down this steep hill.  Photo 3 – I followed the trail right over to the rocks.  After, I walked a few yards down to the lower trail and headed back across under the ridge, adding some distance.

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28   I hopped in my car and drove down and across the road to a sandy lot next to the rocks.  I was now right in front of the massive formation.

29   Although there is something of a road, the deep sand is difficult to walk through.  Try to find the trails that run as close to the rocks as possible as the ground is firmer there.

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Wonderful weathered shapes

35     36     37   About three quarters of the way to the end I came to a high spot along the trail.  I looked back in the direction I came.  I turned around here.

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Now back at the beginning, a train passes right between the rocks.

39   Next I drove along the 138 to its junction with CA-2.  I drove for about 30 miles to the Charlton Flats area and stopped to eat lunch down in a shady area at the end of the paved road.  After I thought I’d hike up to Vetter Mountain Lookout Tower as I was parked right in front of the trailhead.

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There is a warning sign for Poodle Dog Bush near the trailhead.  This plant has a similar effect as poison oak.  It was growing everywhere.  I don’t know how or if I lost the trail but things got really overgrown in a hurry.  I turned back, lost and confused.  A fitting end for a strange day, I guess.

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