Two billion years in the making…Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is a natural and cultural site where the Mojave and Colorado Deserts meet. Suitable for outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts, birders, hikers, walkers, photographers, and even visitors who use wheelchairs, this family-friendly experience should be included in your desert itinerary.
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve contains some of the oldest rocks in California which are dated to almost two billion years. It's located in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties in Southern California where you will find two distinct ecosystems.
High Desert and Low Desert ecosystems are defined by differences in elevation, climate, native vegetation, and animal life. The Preserve elevations which are considered High Desert, range from 1,700 feet to over 4,000 feet. This desert oasis on the canyon floor is a fertile wildlife sanctuary for bighorn sheep, deer, and mountain lions to rare and usual birds, butterflies, and reptiles.
The canyon was used by nomadic Indians for centuries because water was available and food plentiful. In the 1800s the area was used by ranchers and farmers. Eighty acres was gifted in 1968 to The Nature Conservancy, adjacent land was obtained by the County, and then the property was recognized and protected by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve offers education along with your daily hike. A detailed display and brochures are available in the kiosk at the entry, as well as an Education Center where you learn about habitat preservation. This is a real science classroom.
Six trails from easy to strenuous are well marked. The Marsh Trail is actually a boardwalk that is wheelchair accessible. Bringing your family or coming alone to the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve is such an easy way to get outdoors, improve your physical and mental health, and enjoy BLM land with one of the largest cottonwood and riparian willow habitats in California.
It may be (and usually is) windy in other parts of this high desert, but calm descends on the basin that is alive with the vivid reds, greens and golds of the fall foliage. During each visit, I enjoyed peace and tranquility. I am eager to return again. For me, it is just a short drive (one hour…depending on time of day and traffic) out of the hustle and bustle of Orange County.
While there is no camping at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park is just a short drive up the road (watch for an upcoming post) where there are many options for outdoor enthusiasts and naturalists that include camping, hiking, bouldering, and merely communing with nature.
If you go
The hours are 7:30 am to sunset, daily, year-round.
Bring plenty of water to drink, along with a hat, sunscreen, and bug repellant.
Summers are hot and dry. Fall and winter are more moderate with cooler temps. It is good all year round.
From Los Angeles or Orange County:
Take the I-10 East to Exit 62/Hwy 62 (You will see the Wind Farm turbines). Continue about 15 minutes to the northeast end of Morongo Valley, turn right on East Drive. Proceed approximately 200 yards to the Preserve driveway and turn left at the large rock sign. Follow the dirt lane to the parking lot.
From Palm Springs, Phoenix, and points east:
Take the I-10 West to Exit 62/Hwy 62, then same as above.
Written by Julie Diebolt Price at www.jdptravels.com