CRHT: Keys View Road to Upper Covington Flat, California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT), Joshua Tree National Park, California
CRHT: Keys View Road to Upper Covington Flat - 22.5 miles
California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT)
|Round-Trip Length:||22.5 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||4,340' - 4,815' (5,015' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+475' net elevation gain (+2,985' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
CRHT: Keys View Road to Upper Covington Flat - 22.5 Miles Round-Trip
Joshua Tree National Park's California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) stretches 37 miles from the Park's North Entrance Station in 29 Palms to the Black Rock Campground in Yucca Valley. This multi-faceted trail spans Colorado Desert transition zones in the east, archetypal Joshua Tree flats in the middle and upper-Mojave and pinyon-juniper eco-regions in the west.
6 Park roads touch the CRHT, providing visitors with numerous access points and day hike options. One point is the Juniper Flats Parking Area on Keys View Road, centrally located in the transition zone between Lost Horse Valley and Juniper Flats.
The 11.25 mile section between Juniper Flats (east) and Upper Covington Flat (west) is the CRHT's longest segment, rising gradually through miles of Joshua Tree flats into rugged canyon country and high plateaus on the edge of the Little San Bernadino Mountains where Joshua Trees grow in dense concentrations.
The following description travels west from Keys View Road to Upper Covington Flat:
The CRHT begins in a broad, sparse flat framed by foothills and distant mountains. The trail rises gently past Mile Marker 19 (.68 miles : 4,367') to a ridge and drops through another open expanse. It moves easily to Mile Marker 20 and the first of two connections with the Stubbe Springs Loop Trail (1.72 miles : 4,520').
Grades steepen through dense and diverse vegetation with emerging views of Mt San Gorgonio (11,499'). Travel eases through 2.5 miles with panoramas across Juniper Flats to Quail Mountain (5,813'), Joshua Tree's tallest peak.
It trends up to Mile Marker 21 (2.65 miles : 4,755'), crests (2.8 miles) and drops through another flat to Mile Marker 22 and the second Stubbe Springs Loop Trail split (3.65 miles : 4,728'). Mt San Jacinto (10,834') comes into view not long after.
The trail weaves through heavy brush to Mile Marker 23 (4.6 miles : 4,775') and gradually edges south, up and away from the flat. In 4.8 miles the trail begins an undulating climb to a rim over a large and desolate basin (5.25 miles : 4,795').
Crossing the basin is in sharp contrast - terrestrially and ecologically - from the previous 5 miles. The trail drops from the rim on a variously faint and twisting path.
You'll pass Mile Marker 24 (5.55 miles : 4,585') on a bouncing descent to Mile Marker 25 (6.55 miles : 4,175') on the basin floor. The trail crosses a sparingly marked wash and climbs immediately back up the rugged north wall. Stay alert as much of this segment is overgrown and indistinguishable.
Travel moderates and curls SW into a slot leading (west) out of the encasement. The trail rides above a wash, passes Mile Marker 26 (7.55 miles : 4,578') and soon merges with the wash (7.65 miles : 4,612') - anticipate this point. An anonymous set of cairns lead you left across the wash to a clearer path on the other side.
Another demanding push up the spine of a thin, divisive ridge leads above two washes (the one you just crossed is now on your right). The ridge levels and seamlessly joins the upper edge of a vast, eerie valley recently emptied by fire (8.2 miles).
The trail bends north to a burned trail marker (8.55 miles : 4,995' - see Worth Noting below), then back towards the rutted-out center of this vacant expanse. It continues easily down-valley to Mile Marker 27 (9.0 miles : 4,855').
Steps away from Mile Marker 28 (9.6 miles : 4,705') is the split for Upper and Lower Covington Flat. Bear left towards upper Covington Flat.
The trail heads west across successive washes and begins a steep, shifting climb up a diversely vegetated hillside to views of the fire-scarred valley below.
The trail levels at 10.75 miles on the edge of Upper Covington Flats with welcoming views of Mt San Jacinto. The final half mile moves easily through a dense, mature Joshua Tree forest to the parking area and Backcountry Board at Upper Covington Flat (11.25 miles : 4,817').
- N33 58.608 W116 09.905 — CRHT Trailhead on Keys View Road
- N33 58.215 W116 11.425 — 1.7 miles: Stubbe Springs split #1
- N33 58.653 W116 12.186 — 2.65 miles: Mile Marker #21
- N33 58.703 W116 13.135 — 3.65 miles: Mile Marker #22 and Stubbe Springs split #2
- N33 59.098 W116 13.939 — 4.6 miles: Mile Marker #23
- N33 58.894 W116 14.553 — 5.25 miles: Crest ridge with basin overlook
- N33 58.827 W116 14.662 — 5.55 miles: Mile Marker #24
- N33 58.867 W116 15.381 — 6.55 miles: Mile Marker #25
- N33 59.472 W116 15.849 — 7.65 miles: Cross wash left
- N34 00.022 W116 16.019 — 8.55 miles: Sign Post atop ridge
- N34 00.086 W116 16.462 — 9.0 miles: Mile Marker #27
- N34 00.442 W116 16.898 — 9.6 miles: Mile Marker #28 - Upper Covington Flat split
- N34 00.507 W116 17.546 — 10.4 miles: Cairn on steep ascent
- N34 00.575 W116 18.345 — 11.25 miles: Upper Convington Flat Backcountry Board
- The burned out sign post at 8.55 miles is likely the original and correct location for Mile Marker 27. Careful mileage tracking to this point and etchings in the post itself suggest so much.
- The western portion of this trail passes through mountain lion country. Sightings are extremely rare, but be mindful of your surroundings, especially around dawn and dusk.
- Those familiar with the Fan Canyon area may recognize its colorful walls in the SE portion of the encasement described between 5.25 miles and 7.5 miles.
- Terrain most suitable for backcountry camping can be found along the first 5 miles west of Keys View Road. The fire-scarred valley below Upper Covington Flat is an alternative, but arguably less-scenic.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- There are no designated or maintained backcountry campsites on this section of the California Riding and Hiking Trail.
- Wilderness camping is permitted 500' from the trail and one mile from Park roads.
- Camping is not permitted in day-use only areas. These are clearly labeled on topo maps and all backcountry registration boards.
Rules and Regulations
- Dogs, bikes, guns and motorized vehicles are not permitted on the California Riding and Hiking Trail.
- Horses are permitted, but must stay on trails and may not graze on Park lands or drink from Park water sources.
Directions to Trailhead
The Keys View Road Trailhead and newly expanded parking area is located approximately 12 miles south of the West Entrance Station, 1 mile south of Park Boulevard on the west side of Keys View Road. The trailhead is located 16.2 miles from the Highway 62 turnoff for Park Boulevard.
Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597