Hike Chocolate Drop Loop: Apr 2020

Updated: Jan 9

Hike Distance: 6.0 miles


San Jacinto Peak is one of the most topographically prominent peaks in the United States and is ranked the sixth most prominent peak in the 48 contiguous states. Known for its spectacular north escarpment, the peak climbs over 10,000 feet in 7 miles. This is one of the largest gains in elevation over such a small horizontal distance in the contiguous United States. For an explanation of mountain prominence click here.


For today, we were looking for an interesting hike in Desert Hot Springs. We had been surprised by the Swiss Canyon hike last month and was hoping to find something just as different.


The trailhead is located off Cockill Rd, an unpaved road leading to the start of a dry wash that locals have used as a shooting range for years. The views of San Jacinto were a great way to start off the morning.

Snowy San Jacinto Mountain from Desert Hot Springs

Here we were at the start of the wash looking back at Desert Hot Springs. The dirt road runs right through the middle if the picture.

Santa Rosa Mountains from Chocolate Drop Trail in Desert Hot Springs

We followed the trail counterclockwise in order to get the uphill portion of the trail done while it was still cool.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

Hiking at the base of the Little San Bernardino Mountains.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

The trail followed a ridgeline up and over a series of hills. Fortunately, the daytime temperatures were perfect for hill climbing.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

Our first two stops on the trail were the 'flag mountains' as the are referred to by locals.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

We were getting closer.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

A couple of hills remained but the first set of flags were already in sight.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail to Flag Hill in foothills of Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs
Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail to Flag Hill in foothills of Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

Nice to see the Canadian flag flying beside the Stars and Stripes on 'Flag Mountain'. The flags weren't discolored but they were in tatters from winds whipping through the valley.

 Flag Hill  on the Chocolate Drop Trail in foothills of Little San Bernardino Mountains

You can the ridge trail we followed.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

Off in the distance was our next destination, the second flag hill.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

On the hill the views from the San Gorgonio pass into the Coachella Valley were great. The San Gorgonio Pass was formed by the San Andreas Fault, the major fault between the Pacific plate and the North American plate in CA. The tall mountain ranges on either side of the pass result in it being one of the windiest places in the United States, and that's why it is home to the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm.

Clouds in the San Gorgonio Pass from Desert Hot Springs

Back on the trail and hiking to the final hill before we head toward Chocolate Drop hill.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

What a beautiful view of San Gorgonio as we approached the 3rd and final flag hill. San Gorgonio Mountain, also known locally as Mount San Gorgonio, or Old Greyback, is the highest peak in Southern California at 11,503 feet.

San Gorgonio summit from Chocolate Drop Trail in Desert Hot Spring

After the 3rd hill, the trail descended into a wash that led to Chocolate Drop.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs
Hiking in the wash of Chocolate Drop Trail in the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

The trail to the top of Chocolate Drop branched off from the wash. For once Dave was slower to the top than me.

Hiking in the wash of Chocolate Drop Trail in the Little San Bernardino Mountains

The wide-open views of the mountains and valley were amazing.

Standing on summit of Chocolate Drop Hill with San Jacinto in the background

Here is a panoramic view of San Gorgonio and the San Bernardino Mountains. At 11,503 feet, San Gorgonio is one of the most topographically prominent peaks in the United States. It is ranked 7th among peaks in the 48 contiguous states and 18th overall. It's large and broad; the summit plateau itself is one square-mile in area. In contrast to its spectacular but lower neighbor, San Jacinto Peak, San Gorgonio is not particularly craggy, and from a distance, it appears to be an extremely high hill, earning it the name of greyback. Despite not being particularly striking in appearance during the summer, it is the only mountain in Southern California with a summit a significant distance above the tree line. As such its bright white winter snow cap makes the mountain noticeable from miles away. The mountain hosts the longest recorded line of sight in the contiguous United States; it is plainly visible from the summit of Mount Whitney, 190 miles away.

Panorama of San Gorgonio and San Bernardino Mountains from Desert Hot Springs

At 10,834 feet, San Jacinto serves as the southern border of the San Gorgonio Pass. Naturalist John Muir wrote of San Jacinto Peak, "The view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth".


San Jacinto Peak is one of the most topographically prominent peaks in the United States, and is ranked the sixth most prominent peak in the 48 contiguous states. The steep escarpment of its north face climbs over 10,000 feet in 7 miles. This is one of the largest gains in elevation over such a small horizontal distance in the contiguous United States. We had the incredible experience to climb San Jacinto in Nov 2019; click here to navigate to that blog. For an explanation of mountain prominence click here.

Panorama of snowy San Jacinto Mountains  from Desert Hot Springs

After enjoying the views we headed back to the wash to continue our hike.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs
Descending from Chocolate Drop Hill in the Little San Bernardino Mountains

A view of Chocolate Drop from the base of the hill; it should be obvious how the hill got its name.

Chocolate Drop Hill in the foothills  Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

The wash definitely benefits from rain that's directed to it by the surrounding hills.

Wildflowers along the Chocolate Drop Trail in Desert Hot Spings

Huge patches of desert dandelions

Desert dandelions along the Chocolate Drop trail in Desert Hot Springs

Asters

Purple Desert Asters along the Chocolate Drop Trail in foothills on the Little San Bernardino Mountains

Blue bells

Desert Bluebell wildflowers along the Chocolate Drop Trail in foothills on the Little San Bernardino Mountains

Flowering encelia

Flowering encelia plants along the Chocolate Drop Trail in foothills on the Little San Bernardino Mountains

Flowering barrel cactus

Yellow flowering barrel cactus on the Chocolate Drop trail in Desert Hot Springs
Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

A small ladder was necessary to descend the 12-15 foot dry fall.

Descending by ladder on the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

The canyon walls became shorter and the wash wider as we exited the foothills. It was a sign the hike was coming to an end.

Hiking the Chocolate Drop Trail in the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains in Desert Hot Springs

The final stretch with the car in sight.

Santa Rosa Mountains from Chocolate Drop Trail in Desert Hot Springs

It tuned out to be another good Desert Hot Springs hike. This trail has some of the best valley and mountain views that we've experienced so far.



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