CRHT: Black Rock Campground to Upper Covington Flat, California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT), Joshua Tree National Park, California
CRHT: Black Rock Campground to Upper Covington Flat - 15.5 miles
California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT)
|Round-Trip Length:||15.5 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||3,983' - 4,815' (5,155' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+ 832' net elevation gain (+1,892' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
CRHT: Black Rock Campground to Upper Covington Flat - 15.5 Miles Round-Trip
Joshua Tree National Park's California Riding and Hiking Trail (CRHT) stretches 37 miles from the Black Rock Campground in Yucca Valley to the Park's North Entrance Station in 29 Palms.
The CRHT's westernmost section negotiates a maze of deep canyons and sandy washes that extend from Black Rock Campground to its highest point in Upper Covington Flat, where pinyon-juniper woodlands of the high Mojave meet the Park's oldest and densest Joshua Tree forests:
From the CRHT Backcountry Board, the trail quickly merges with a wash (.1 mile) and rises to a large sign on the left for the CRHT (.18 miles). Exit the wash and turn left on the CRHT to begin a steady climb through the foothills.
The trail crests (.85 miles : 4,185') and undulates down across a bajada to another wash and the Short Loop Trail junction (1.65 miles : 4,105'). The CRHT continues straight beneath fire-scarred hills to the east, merging with and becoming a wide wash just shy of the first Cliff Trail connection (1.8 miles : 4,115').
Travel now slows on steeper grades and deep sand up a tapering canyon. Note the prevalence of pinyon, oak and nolina - benchmarks of this special ecotone - as you gain elevation. Pinyon-juniper woodlands once covered much of the Park, but warm and dry climates since the last ice age have relegated them to higher, isolated pockets.
The brushy canyon variously widens and narrows between the second Cliff Trail connection (2.1 miles : 4,190) and a major, sparingly marked fork (3.45 miles : 4,508'). Bear left and resume a steady march that gradually moderates beneath receding canyon walls past the Eureka Peak Trail junction (5.3 miles : 5,040') to Upper Covington Flat Road (5.45 miles : 5,077').
Here the landscape opens considerably with the option of walking the road to complete this segment of the CRHT. Only if time is an issue should you do so, as conditions are appreciably better than preceding miles and the experience more authentic by trail.
The trail closely follows the road past the Deer Horn Trail junction (5.5 miles : 5,095') to the Eureka Peak Road - Upper Covington Flat Road split (5.7 miles : 5,155') - the California Riding and Hiking Trail's highest point.
Follow signs across and begin a shifting, downhill course away from the road through a vast expanse thinned by fire. Remain vigilant, as the trail is easily absorbed by miles of open space. Views of Mt San Jacinto (10,834') emerge as you move from the fire-touched area into a thick Joshua Tree forest (6.85 miles) for which these flats are known.
The trail drops into a twisting wash that rejoins the road at the Upper Covington Flat Backcountry Board to complete this segment of the CRHT (7.75 miles : 4,815'). Use the backcountry board and road - visible before entering the wash - for guidance on this final approach.
Overnighters may consider side trips on the newly opened Crest Trail (5.8 miles roundtrip), or up to Eureka Peak (2.6 miles roundtrip from the CRHT - Eureka Peak Trail junction) on the return.
- N34 04.508 W116 23.270 — California Riding and Hiking Trail Trailhead
- N34 04.181 W116 22.505 — 1.0 mile mark
- N34 04.017 W116 21.895 — 1.65 miles : CRHT - Short Loop Trail junction
- N34 03.960 W116 21.810 — 1.8 miles : CRHT - Cliff Trail junction #1
- N34 03.847 W116 21.506 — 2.1 miles : CRHT - Cliff Trail junction #2
- N34 03.684 W116 21.193 — 2.5 mile mark
- N34 03.456 W116 20.851 — 3.0 mile mark
- N34 03.090 W116 20.761 — 3.45 miles : Fork in wash - bear left
- N34 02.702 W116 20.551 — 4.0 mile mark
- N34 02.317 W116 20.378 — 4.5 mile mark
- N34 01.713 W116 20.172 — 5.3 miles : CRHT - Eureka Peak Trail junction
- N34 01.630 W116 20.095 — 5.45 miles : CRHT - Upper Covington Flat Road junction
- N34 01.609 W116 20.030 — 5.5 miles : CRHT - Deer Horn Trail junction
- N34 01.468 W116 19.888 — 5.7 miles : Eureka Peak Road - UCFR intersection
- N34 01.188 W116 19.234 — 6.5 mile mark
- N34 00.952 W116 18.853 — 7.0 mile mark
- N34 00.575 W116 18.345 — 7.75 miles : Upper Covington Flat Backcountry Board
- This trail is highly exposed to sun, wind and variable conditions at high elevations. Bring sunglasses, a broad rim hat, lotion and layers. The trail's southeast heading will place the sun directly in morning travelers' eyes.
- Though generally well marked, pay close attention to the trail and keep track of forks in washes.
- This is mountain lion and rattlesnake country. Be mindful of your surroundings, avoid traveling alone and be aware of your hands and feet at all times.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Beyond the Black Rock Campground, 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
- No dogs, bikes, guns or motorized vehicles are 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 California Riding and Hiking Trail Trailhead is located on the north side of the Black Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, 5.0 miles from the Highway 62 turnoff in Yucca Valley, CA.
From Highway 62 in Yucca Valley, turn south on Joshua Lane and travel 4.5 miles to its dead-end at San Marino Drive (do not veer off on Joshua Drive 1 mile from the Highway 62 turnoff). Turn right, then left on San Marino Drive and follow it into the Black Rock Campground.
The California Riding and Hiking Trail Trailhead is located .5 miles up on San Marino Drive on the left hand side of the road. Parking is very limited, and it's advisable to drive another .2 miles past it to the Ranger Station parking lot and walk back down to the trailhead.
Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597