Distance: 10.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,555 ft
The Whitewater Preserve is a special place to see and experience. It consists of 2,851 acres that are part of the larger, 33,000 acre Sand to Snow Preserve System managed by the Wildlands Conservancy. The Preserve is surrounded by the Bureau of Land Management’s San Gorgonio Wilderness, and includes the year-round Whitewater River.
The Whitewater Preserve is a gateway into the San Gorgonio Wilderness. The river that runs through the preserve year-round is called the Whitewater River. It starts at the highest point in southern California on the southeastern slopes of Mt. San Gorgonio and the San Bernardino Mountains and it terminates at the Salton Sean at the southern end of the Coachella Valley.
In the canyon, the wash expands to over 1/2 mile wide and is paved with accumulations of boulders, gravel and sand brought down by floods.
However, the water mainly penetrates through the porous desert floor, providing groundwater recharging of the Coachella Valley aquifer. Before approaching Palm Springs, the Whitewater River is fed imported water from the Colorado River Aqueduct thereby ensuring a continuous flow of water.
The water is so cold and crystal clear.
It serves as an important wildlife corridor between the San Bernardino pictured here and the San Jacinto Mountains across the valley.
We left the wash and began heading north on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which runs through Whitewater.
In front of us a short but steep climb to the ridge where we'd continue following the PCT.
Reaching the top of the ridge we had hiked 3.2 miles and gained 730 feet from the canyon floor. What an incredible view of the trails leading to the canyon floor and the mountains rising quickly on either side of the canyon.
Once over the ridge and down the other side the terrain began to flatten out.
We were soon walking on a broad plateau with hills and mountains rising on both sides.
We were starting to have unobstructed views of San Gorgonio, the snow-covered mountain right of center.
The trailed continued along the base of the hill to our left before taking a 180° bend and climbing the hill to our right.
We gained elevation quickly and had a birds eye view of the trail below us.
Here's a view from the overlook looking west toward the San Gorgonio and the San Bernadino Mountains. Time for a lunch break!
San Gorgonio Mountain, also known locally as Old Greyback, is the highest peak in Southern California and the Transverse Ranges at 11,503 feet. 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. The mountain is large and broad; the summit plateau itself is one square-mile in area.
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, unobstructed by vegetation, makes the mountain noticeable from many 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.
Here's to hoping I can complete this peak in my bucket list.
The San Bernardino range extends southeastward for 55 miles from the Cajon Pass, which separates them from the San Gabriel Mountains, to the San Gorgonio Pass. The mountains were formed about eleven million years ago by tectonic activity along the San Andreas Fault, and are still actively rising.
After enjoying the scenery it was time to start our 5 miles journey back to the trailhead.
What a difference from the lush green environment along Whitewater River. Here everything was dry and brown.
At the ridge leading into the canyon, the sun was at the right angle to highlight the red-pink granite intrusion in the hillside.
Walking along the Whitewater River and the bend near the Red Dome rock formation.
On the home stretch.
Time for a last selfie in the heavy green growth along the stream. For me there is something special about hiking in the Whitewater Preserve.
Here's the satellite view of the hike from the MapMyRun app.