Santa Rosa Mountain Road begins at Highway 74 and travels from Santa Rosa Mountain to Toro Peak, about 14 miles away. A popular route for mountain bike enthusiasts, the road makes for a good hiking trail as well. A wide, graded dirt road, it rises through montane chaparral and new growth pines via many switchbacks, with scenic views at every turn. High above the desert plains, the air is cool and breezy, and the climb, though long and unrelenting, is only moderately uphill.
About 8.5 miles into the hike, you'll come upon a turnoff for the Santa Rosa Spring. This short walk is worth the detour as you discover a furtastic natural spring emitting water, along with a picnic table and toilet. This is the pawrfect spot for a snack and a rest as you enjoy your forested surroundings that are busy with birds and small ground mammals.
Approximately 3 more miles into the hike is the Stump Springs Campground on the left, which features neat campsites for those who want to stay and explore. Once you reach the base of the summit of Toro Peak, the climb becomes more steep and rugged, with lots of loose rocks. Just when you think you're almost at the top, a gate bars your way with a sign proclaiming this to be the property of the Cahuilla Reservation. If you skirt around to the opposite side, you can climb with some difficulty all the way to top. Your extra effort is well rewarded with magnificent views of the surrounding mountain ranges and the desert floor below. At the summit is the burned out cabin of "Desert Steve" Ragsdale, a reclusive poet who fled here allegedly to escape marital issues and who used boulders and fire-burnt tree trunks as natural notebook pages for his social activist musings. It's also here that you may spy bighorn sheep and hawks, as well as lizards and other residents.
While Santa Rosa Mountain Road is not one of the most heavily trafficked trails in the area because it is less well-known, it provides a great workout for you and the pup, unparalleled vistas and a mountaintop picnic spot!
Good hiking boots are a must, and be sure to watch your step.