Santa Rosa Wilderness

The United States Congress designated the Santa Rosa Wilderness in 1984 and it now has a total of 72,679 acres. This wilderness is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service.

The stark Colorado Desert, with its agave, ocotillo, and creosote, rises up boulder-strewn and eroded canyons to chaparral, juniper, and pine-covered ridges. Elevations change drastically from just above sea level to over 7,000 feet. Seemingly desolate and inhospitable, the Santa Rosa Mountains are laced with deep washes and shallow drainages. Several riparian streams flow year-round. Blistering summer heat is sometimes relieved by thunderstorms that send torrents of water down the sandy washes. Many of these regions are important lambing sites for bighorn sheep; in fact, the mountains support the largest herd of rare peninsular bighorn sheep in the United States. Coniferous forests high in these mountains provide habitat for mule deer, while the desert below houses numerous reptiles including the desert slender salamander. Great horned owls soar in the night skies, and falcons and eagles nest and forage throughout the Wilderness.

Campfires are not allowed within the Wilderness. Gas stoves are allowed, with a free California Campfire Permit. Please practice Leave no Trace ethics.

The primary access into the Wilderness is the 9.5-mile Cactus Spring Trail (5E01). From Highway 74, across from the Pinyon Flats Campground, take the road south to the designated parking area (also for Sawmill Trail), just before the Pinyon area Riverside County Transfer Station. Take the access trail on the east end of the parking area and look for the trailhead sign. To enter the Santa Rosa Wilderness register at the sign-in box a short way beyond the trailhead sign, this is your Wilderness permit. A high desert trail, it begins in Pinyon Flat at 4,000 feet descending 2.5 miles to Horsethief Creek then continuing 2 miles to the spring that is difficult to find, the trail is fairly easy to follow to this point. The trail continues another 15 miles to Martinez Canyon and Highway 86 in the low desert and may be very difficult to follow. Much of the trail is within the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.

For more information, please contact:
Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitors Center

51500 Highway 74
Palm Desert, CA 92260