Fobes Saddle Trail Sits In San Bernardino National Forest

Fobes Saddle Trail Boasts Cooler Elevations

The endangered Bell’s vireo has been spotted along the Fobes Saddle Trail.

With temperatures starting to hit 100 degrees in the Coachella Valley, the season has arrived for hikers to hit higher – and hence cooler – elevations. During May, the Fobes Saddle Trail (4E04) perfectly fits the bill.

The 4-mile round trip trail sits in the San Bernardino National Forest. It sports about a 800 foot gain in elevation.

To reach the trailhead, from Calif. Hwy. 111 in Palm Desert, take Calif. 74 (the Pines to Palms Highway) south into the foothills then Garner Valley. After the Calif. Hwy. 371 intersection, watch for Fobes Ranch Road (Forest Route 6S05). The dirt road crosses a wash in Quinn Flat then climbs the mountains atop a ridgeline before descending into Duchess Canyon. At just a little over a mile, the trail – a jeep road – splits to the right/east. Park there. You’re at about 5200 feet.

Fobes Saddle Trail Boasts Cooler ElevationsThe trail remains wide as it gradually climbs up a ridgeline. Then at about 0.4 miles, just as the road curls east, a narrow path branches to the right/north. Head onto the small path.

You’ll walk along a creek bed then serpentine up the side of Palm View Peak. Chapparal and oaks dominate the terrain from here on out.

Along the way, watch for a couple of endangered species. The Bell’s vireo songbird as well as the Mojave tarplant previously has been spotted along the trail.

Brownish-gray with white wingbars, Bell’s vireo is a diminutive bird. Of the three Bell’s Vireo subspecies, the Least appears in California and won’t be spring-green like the Eastern and the Arizona varieties. Bell’s vireo owes its decline to a loss of habitat and the arrival of non-native cowbirds, which engage in brood parasitism.

Fobes Saddle Trail Boasts Cooler Elevations

At Fobes Saddle, you’ll be able to see the Coachella Valley from Palm Springs to Rancho Mirage.

The thin Mojave tarplant is found in only five California counties, with most of the occurrences in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains. The tarweed’s hairy stem can grow up to 40 inches tall. It prefers moist sites with a bright yellow flower blooming in May and June.

At 2 miles, you’ll reach Fobes Saddle, which sits between Palm View Peak to the right/southeast and Spitler Peak to the left/northwest. The saddle’s elevation on the Desert Divide is about 6000 feet.

Fobes Saddle offers a nice view of part of the Coachella Valley below. Palm Springs is on the left with Cathedral City in the middle, and Rancho Mirage to the right. The Little San Bernardino Mountains that forms the valley’s eastern wall sits beyond the three cities.

Fobes Saddle Trail Boasts Cooler Elevations

Fobes Saddle Trail topo map

Turn around, and you’ll be treated to views of Garner Valley and Thomas Mountain.

At the saddle, the intersecting Pacific Crest Trail heads to both Spitler and Palm View peaks if you wish to extend the hike, though for both you’ll need to gain at least as much elevation as you did just getting to the saddle.

While not a walk across the desert, there’s no shade on the trail. Be sure to don sunscreen, sunglasses and sunhat. A trekking pole or walking stick can make the ascents more bearable on the switchbacks.






Image Sources

  • 03 Most sightings of the endangered Mojave tarplant have occurred in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains.: Rob Bignell
  • 04 At Fobes Saddle, you’ll be able to see the Coachella Valley from Palm Springs to Rancho Mirage.: Rob Bignell
  • The Fobes Saddle Trail heads through chapparal and oak.: Rob Bignell