Higher Elevation Areas
Entry to the western section of Sand to Snow National Monument is from at least ten trailheads along Hwy 38 and the linked Mill Creek Road, from where paths follow ridges and valleys, climbing to various peaks including San Gorgonio Mountain, California's highest summit south of the Sierra Nevada. The mountains are popular all year, for snow-based recreation in the winter, and regular hiking and camping in the summer, when the cool forests provide a respite from the heat below. Several dozen primitive campsites are spread out along the trails, facilitating multi-day trips. There are far fewer paths east of San Gorgonio Mountain, where the terrain is significantly steeper, and the land falls away in a series of deep valleys and narrow, sloping ridges. The southern edge of this large region has three main access points, at the end of Cottonwood Road
near I-10 exit 110 (a connection with the Pacific Crest Trail), at the end of Whitewater Canyon Road
, from I-10 exit 114, and along Mission Creek Road
off Hwy 62, which leads to the edge of Mission Creek Preserve, a riparian area spanning the boundary of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts. The latter two roads also lead to paths that link with the Pacific Crest Trail.
Lower Elevation Areas
Other vehicle tracks reach the northern extremities of the national monument, starting from Pioneertown and Morongo Valley, including along the upper reaches of Big and Little Morongo canyons, but they do not see much use. The lower sections of these canyons, east of Highway 62, are more readily accessed, however, especially the larger drainage
, which has a developed trailhead. From here a 4.3 mile path leads south, all through the western end of the Little San Bernardino Mountains to another access point, at the edge of Coachella Valley. The lower reaches of the longer Little Morongo Canyon is followed most of the way by a 4WD track, which continues to the town of Yucca Valley, coming close to the northwest corner of Joshua Tree National Park. The detached section of the national monument, centered on Black Lava Butte and adjoining the Bighorn Mountain Wilderness, contains outcrops of granite boulders with Joshua trees and many other desert plants, and is easiest reached via a lightly-used trail off Pipes Canyon Road, on the west side of Hwy 247.