We woke to clearing skies on Christmas morning so we decided it was a great time to take a hike. The surrounding mountains had been encased in clouds for 2-days while snow piled up on them. We wanted to take a short hike that would take us up just high enough for views of San Jacinto and San Gorgonio mountains. Last year we had attempted a hike to the “Grotto Overlook” and knew that in less than 1/2 mile on this trail we would be up high enough to get great views. We had no plans to hike on further to try to find the “overlook”. We had given up our attempt last year as the directions were not clear and it was a a very hot day. Today we got up to views quickly and decided we would hike on further to where you drop down into the first canyon. The weather was great for hiking, low 50’s and with full sun we were very comfortable. We got down into the canyon much quicker than we anticipated and took a lunch break under the large ironwood tree. During lunch we decided we would make another attempt at finding the Grotto overlook.
To get to this hike you follow the Box Canyon Road about 5 miles past the intersection with the Painted Canyon road. There is a small sign on the right side of the road for “Sheep Hole Trail” marking the parking area for this hike. You will need to drive off the road a few hundred yards to the parking area. The sand here was still hard packed despite all the recent rain, so driving off the road was no issue. The start of the hike will be right in front of you. There are some large rocks “guarding” the entrance to try to keep ATV’s out, but small ones can still squeeze by. You will walk a few hundred yards down this wash. Keep an eye to the right for a trail. You will follow this trail as it winds up quickly to your first views of the Salton Sea.
The trail is pretty easy to follow through here. You will continue on until you reach the high point. There is a plaque at this point. Take a moment to take in the great views and get ready for a steady climb down into the canyon. This ridge line has great views the whole way.
You will be looking for a trail on your left that takes you quickly down into the wash. On this trip we found a few cairns and arrows along the way, but you cannot count on them.
As you descend into the wash you will get a view of where you will be going. As you reach the floor you should be around the 1 mile mark. You will turn right and then walk a short distance before turning left up into the next wash.(see picture above) You will hike approximately another 0.4 miles until you reach a large Palo Verde tree on your right that is “hiding” the entrance to the trail. You will need to climb behind this tree and work your way up to the ridge.
Once you get to the top of the ridge, hike to the right. You will need to look across the wash to the next ridge looking for a low spot. Once you see this spot you should be able to make out the trail. Walk across the wash and up and over the low spot and then down into the next wash. Once you get to this wash you will turn left and head for a large palo verde tree. Once you arrive at the tree look up at the mountains ahead of you. You will see a mountain with tan coloring near the top. This is the general direction you will be hiking.
Continue hiking in the direction pictured above, you will find one more large palo verde tree guarding the entrance to the wash.
You will follow this wash as it brings you up higher into a narrowing canyon. The canyon is very beautiful as it winds its way up. Make sure you always stay left as you make your way through here. The footing gets a little rockier around the 2 mile mark. You will be at around the 2.1 mile mark when you need to start looking to the left to find your way up to the ridge line. You will start to notice some very light lavender color rocks on the ground and the same color rocks up on the ridge, this is how you will know you are close.
There was a small cairn marking the start of the hike to the ridge when we were there.
Carefully make your way up this chute. The rocks are loose so the footing is not great. The moment you hit the top of the ridge there is a “wow” factor as everything suddenly comes into view. There is an explosion of colors on the rocks below and a great view into a canyon.
Once you are on the top be extremely careful. The trail is very narrow and it is straight down on the other side.
I took a selfie at the top and was nervous about falling over backwards into the canyon. It is that narrow and steep.
This hike is a definite must if you are in the area-I’m hoping the pictures help others find their way to this beautiful location.
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