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Santa Rosa Mountain and Toro Peak

Located between Idyllwild and Palm Springs the 13 mile dirt mountain road up to Santa Rosa mountain and beyond to Toro Peak is a ride where you get in some great exercise while taking in some of the most incredible views in all of the lower portion of southern California.   You will start out at around 4,600 feet and climb to 8,716 feet at Toro Peak. The climbing is not particular steep for the most part until you are nearly at Toro Peak.  You will be working but it is mild enough that you can enjoy your surroundings as you make your way up the mountain.

images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMtMap.JPGHere is a map of this ride as well as an elevation profile.  (The profile is only for one direction)

images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMtProfile.JPG  Download the TOPO! File


From San Diego - Head North on the I-15 and take the CA-79 South exit when coming into Temecula. Take CA-79 South (its actually more like east) 17.8 miles to the CA-371.  Turn left (North) onto CA-371 and take it for 20.7 miles. to CA-74. Turn right on CA-74.  At around 5 miles left for Santa Rosa Mountain Road on you right.  There is a small dirt area to part right off the road.  In the unlikely event that there are several cars there you can go up the road for just a short distance to several other spots to park.  

From Palm Springs - From the intersection of CA-111 and CA-74. Take CA-74 19.2 miles look for the well sign Santa Rosa Mountain road on your left.

Hazards:  The weather has been known to change rapidly at the higher elevations.  In the spring and fall you could find snow up top.   Vehicles are allowed on this road which will not be a big deal on the climb, but on your blazing return you will want to keep an eye out.

September 2009 UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention by a lawyer representing the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians that the land around the summit of Toro Peak is part of the tribe's reservation lands. Since my original posting of this page in 2003, they have added signs to alert the public to the fact you will be trespassing if you go all the way to the peak. I have requested a meeting to see exactly where all of the boundaries are and get the full story on things. In the interim from what I have gathered from other sources you would cross onto the reservation lands shortly after the fork in the forest road at 12.8 miles. This is roughly halfway between SR-21 and SR-22 way points on my map. You can find numerous printed guidebooks and online resources that make no mention of the land ownership and access issues. Sometime in the last six years keeping the public off of Toro Peak has become a greater concern to the Cahuilla Indians. Hopefully my photos of this truly magnificent peak will satisfy your curiosity because you will be trespassing if you climb the last mile or so to the summit yourself. Also don't forget to check out one my early additions to this site.

Ride Report:

images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-03.jpgimages/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-07.jpgI did this ride in August when it was well over 100 in Palm Springs.  This ride has a reputation for being cool when everything else around is baking.   The place lived up to that reputation.   I started this ride really in the morning about 30 minutes after sunrise.  I was actually a little chilled in the shade of the mountain when I started.  The early morning light made for some very colorful scenes which the pictures do not provide full justice.  At 1.7 miles I went over a saddle and descended for about 3/4ths of a mile.   While I enjoyed the break in climbing, as I was still warming up, it is always a bit of bummer knowing you just have to regain the elevation you are shedding off.

Once back onto the climbing the views of Vandeventer Flat to the south opened up.


There was a mild breeze blowing most of the day and the temperate only climbed a little for the better part of the climb as I was climbing in elevation as the temperate was rising so the two pretty much counteracted one another.

images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-16.jpg images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-14.jpg images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-15.jpg

At around 8.5 miles you come to the turn off for Santa Rosa Springs on your left.   You will go downhill a couple hundred yards to the spring, a toilet and a few picnic tables.   This is a great place to take a break and replenish your water as this is some of the best spring water you will find anywhere.


Less than a mile after the spring you will pass an interesting message painted on a large rock.  You will see a few more of these public service announcements on your way up to Toro Peak so be looking out for them.  Shortly after the rock, you pass by a fire road on your left that heads out to a radio tower.  You are passing through 7,500 feet at this point and the climbing becomes much more gradual at his point and the seemingly endless switchbacks are behind you.

  images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-19.jpg images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-20.jpg images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-22.jpg  

At around 11 miles you will pass Stump Springs Campground on your left.  There is a fire road that leads off to the left and supposedly a singletrack that connects with the Sawmill trail (exploration for another day).   I was pretty sure I found the trail, but it was unmarked and I was not headed that way today.  I continued on the main fire road past Stump Springs Campground.   You will have a couple of gradual descents and rises for the next 1.8 miles.  The road follows along the north side of the of the ridgeline now and the views in that direction becoming increasingly incredible.

images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-25.jpg    images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-23.jpg    images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-24.jpg    images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-26.jpg

At 12.8 you will come to a split in the road.  Go to the right and uphill to get to Toro Peak. The easy climbing is over now as you will soon get into some serious climbing. From here to the peak is a steep haul with the last half mile being quite brutal.

images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-28.jpg    images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-29.jpg    images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-30.jpg    images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-32.jpg    images/Trails/SantaRosaMt/SantaRosaMt-04SEP05-34.jpg

You know when you get to the final push up to Toro Peak as you will pass by some radio facility equipment at the bottom of a really steep, loose and rocky section.   I call it the final push because you will most likely push your bike up it. 

Views along the final push to Toro Peak

Once at the summit of Toro Peak at 8,716 feet and 13.8 miles into your ride, you are treated to absolutely breath taking views in all directions.  While seating on the top rock you will be able to see the San Jacinto Mountains, San Gorgonio, Palm Springs, Palm Desert, The Salton Sea, The Anza Borrego Desert, The Laguna, Cuyamaca, and Palomar Mountains, Santiago and Mojeska peaks in the Santa Ana Mountains, and a score of other peaks.   This has to be one of the best spots in all of the Southern California to enjoy a well earned mid-ride snack, so save your good stuff for the peak.




The picture to the left was taken looking down from where you came from.  The picture on the right was taken from the spot pictured on the left looking up a the peak.


Once you taken in all of the beauty of Toro Peak you can stand in one setting head back the way you came.  The descent down the final push is quite tricky and it will be you most technical thing you will do on this ride.  The rest of ride back is mostly filled with a nearly endless blazefest descent with a couple of mild climbs in a few spots. 


On my way back down the road I spotted a hawk enjoying the thermals so I stopped and took a few picture s of this beautiful bird.  There is a multitude of places where you can just enjoy all there is to see so take a break at least one on the way down.  The place is so pretty it is worth the stop.