Friday, November 13, 2015

Etiwanda Peak from Joe Elliot Campground

Hiked: 11/13/2015
Distance: 8.4 miles on trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 8662'
Prominence: 302'
Elevation Gain: 2900'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.32
Round trip time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Recommended water: 92 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Joe Elliot Campground
Difficulty: Moderate

Etiwanda Peak is a high peak on the eastern side of the Cucamonga Wilderness. Most hikers climb it using a long route from Icehouse Canyon. I wanted to climb it from the other side starting at Joe Elliot Campground. For a few months a year, starting in late Fall, San Sevaine Road (Forest Road 1N34) is open to Joe Elliot. The rest of the time it is closed for mule deer fawning or weather. You can view the official status of the area on this San Bernardino National Forest page. There are no facilities at the camp and no Adventure Pass is required for parking there.

To get to San Sevaine Road, take I-15 to the Sierra Ave exit, then go north about a mile. The dirt road starts on the left and there is a brown sign on the left. I drove the 11+ miles up San Sevaine Road. It starts off in good shape, but is rough in several places higher up, requiring 4x4 and high clearance. The unmaintained trail leaving from Joe Elliot camp (named Cucamonga Peak Trail on heads up to Etiwanda and goes all the way to Cucamonga Peak. The memorial tree was damaged and taken down many years ago. The trail was in good shape at the beginning, though small plants were making homes in the middle of the trail. It was cold (45F) and gusty winds made it colder. I headed out with a balaclava and gloves.

Cucamonga (left) and Etiwanda (right) from the road

Start of the trail

Etiwanda from the campground

Burn damage, the trail winds around this bump

Unknown artifact on a camping spot, about half way up the trail

I passed a gully that could be used as a shortcut going up or coming down. I wanted to see how the old trail was doing so I left the gully for the descent. Past the gully, the trail got harder to follow and I ended up backtracking out of dense buckthorn a few times. There was a lot of dead fall to cope with, although I saw a few tree cuts that looked fairly recent. Still, the middle section of the trail could use some TLC. There was at least one good camping spot about half way up with some left over artifacts. The trail continued on the north side of the Etiwanda ridge where the cold, shade, and wind started to bite again. The north side also had a few long washouts, but they were navigable with a little extra attention.

Tree cut, there were many more uncut trees across the middle section of the trail

Entering the pine zone

Pine shadow across a long washout

The top section of trail was pristine, running through a healthy pine forest. There was a dusting of snow across the trail in shady areas, enough to look nice without causing traction problems. The views from the summit were stellar. There was no benchmark that I found, but the register was in a long green plastic tube. After signing in, I took some video but my commentary on the summit was muffled by the harsh wind. The wind was freezing and I didn't bother resting or eating on the summit. Those activities would be much more pleasant on the sunnier slopes out of the wind. I descended from the summit the same way I went up. When I got to the shortcut gully, I decided to follow it down. It was loose and slippery, but not technical. I saved 1.5 miles taking the gully instead of the trail back, but I went a little past the intersection with the trail. The intersections on both sides were camouflaged and I had to check the GPS to get back on track. The rest of the return trip was mellow. I never saw another person the whole day.

Etiwanda getting closer

Snow dusting on the trail

Register tube

Cucamonga Peak from Etiwanda summit

View down to Joe Elliot Campground

Telegraph Peak and ridge

Looking up on the way down the shortcut gully

Etiwanda Peak from Joe Elliot Campground from Keith Winston on Vimeo.


  1. Etiwanda is a neat summit! I've only been there from Icehouse as a link up with Cucamonga.

    Thew few times I've gone up Cuca I've always wondered about Joe Elliot. Thanks for posting!

    BTW, do you know why all the trees on the E. Side of Cucamonga and Etiwanda are dead?

    1. Joseph,

      I think it was mainly the Grand Prix Fire in 2003 that burned the area. Lots of dead trees on the slopes and across the trail. From searching the Internet, I found that two 4x4 drivers died in 2004 driving on San Sevaine Road when it was closed. I have to say the drops off that road are the steepest I've driven.