The weekend before Thanksgiving, I drove through Anza, and took Hwy 74 into Palm Desert. Along the way, there is on off road trail head that points to Santa Rosa Mountain. I didn't have time to investigate, but I took a mental note to come back and explore.
I found out that this is Santa Rosa Truck Trail. It's designated 7S02, and is in the southern part of the San Bernardino National Forest.
Yesterday (Sunday, 12/20/2020), I took Maura on an unplanned day trip and scouting expedition. I wanetd to see what this trail is like. We left home around 8:15, and made it to the trail head in under 2 hours. A good place to gas up is the Cahuilla Casino. There is a nice gas station with very clean bathrooms, and people running around disinfecting everything.
The main trail is graded, about 11 miles long, and should not be difficult for anyone with modest clearance and traction. It starts around 5200 ft, and encounters 2 mountain peaks over 8000 feet. These are Santa Rosa Peak, and Toro Peak. The first detour was the side trail to the top of Santa Rosa peak. From here you can see down into Palm Desert, back to Anza, and Eastern San Diego county, and even pick out Saddleback mountain (we had a clear day). You can also look south to Borrego Springs and Ocotillo Wells.
Toro Peak is at the end of the trail,but there is a locked gate that stops you from getting to the very top. There are some radio towers on the peak, and this is indian/federal property. Signs warn of fines and prison for trespassing, and that there is video survailance (We did not walk through). From the switchback right before the gate, there is a great view across the southern Coachella Valley, and down to Salton Sea.
There are about 6 yellow post camp sites along the way. Most are close to Santa Rosa peak. Some are exposed peaks, good for star-gazing, and some are between pine trees, if you like to feel a bit more protected. We took most of the little side trails that we saw. These were a bit more challenging, but nothing I worried about getting the Tacoma stuck on. Some of them led to additional camping areas.
This is definitely an area I would go back to for an overnight caming trip in the right season, in case I didn't want to drive too far. In the height of summer, it could be crowded, but I suspect that early spring and late fall are decent times to go. There were very small patches of snow in some places, even though we had only received light drizzles in OC the previous week, so you would probably want to know that most of the snow was gone before going there in the spring.
I'll try to assemble some pictures for the next meeting.