The Hidden Trail To Flag Mountain – Desert Hot Springs, CA
Not all those who wander are lost. –J.R.R. Tolkien
I’ve always been a huge J.R.R Tolkien fan all the way from the original 1936 novel “The Hobbit” to the 21st century “Lord of the Rings” movies based on his works. Many years ago we took the fantasy a bit further and went on a road-tripping, back-packing trip to southern New Zealand to hike the very hills where the films were made. What a trip!
Now, Desert Hot Springs is not exactly Fjordland but it’s got those same wild, open expanses that set your heart beating and run your imagination wild. What’s even better is there are a TON of hidden trails. These are the kinds of hikes used by generations of tribes and explorers, known only to locals and with cryptic directions such as “walk about a half mile to the dirt road, turn right at the elephant rock, follow the leaning lady to the barrel cactus by the old cairn….etc.”, inevitably always followed by the comment “oh it’s easy, you can’t miss it”. For a woman with the directional sense of a single-celled organism these kinds of things are, putting it mildly, always a challenge…and of course I LOVE challenges.
I managed to glean the info for such an adventure from my neighbours who’d heard it from some other guy that heard it from some other guy who did the trail several years ago and placed the flags.
The obscure path is known locally as “Flag Mountain” and ingeniously involves both entities -> a flag and a mountain. This was an encouraging sign for me since I figured that even if I completely missed the trail (which would undoubtedly happen), I would surely be able to see the mountain and possibly even espy the flag. In other words, there was hope of success!
The pooch and I loaded up on water and headed off exploring. In fact we spent the entire week wandering the hills while Paul flew away to Flint, MI for his buddy Matt’s wedding. We got lost (multiple times), bush-whacked (almost constantly), got side-tracked by many flag mirages and false trails, but eventually, through sheer stubbornness and dumb luck, we found the hike!
When Paul got back we completed the entire circuit and proudly posed at the flag that honors the hike. It may not have matched Frodo’s dark hike to Mordor, nor the tumultuous path of early pioneers, but it sure did feel like my own personal glorious adventure.
P.S. For those of you looking to re-enact this little adventure, here are approximate directions. From Sam’s Family Spa turn left at the main exit and walk ~1/2 mile along the road to a raised dirt road on your right. Follow that road approximately straight back to the mountain (last 1/3 will be bush-whacking). Then locate the ridge trail that goes slightly right and all the way to the top. Good luck!
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Karen Phillips says
Nina..I can’t wait to get out west and meet you one day! Those are the type of days I’m dreaming about as I pack my boxes at Amazon 🙂
So hope to meet you too!
The Good Luck Duck says
Even single-celled organisms have chemotaxis, and that’s how I get around, too. Food? This way? Maybe I’d better take precautions when we get to the mountains.
You know if the trail was lined with food I would certainly do alot better…haha. Still persistence pays in the end even for single-celled organisms.
Love the Desert Hot Springs area. You made the reenactment directions easy enough. I think we can make it the next time we are in that area. Enjoy the beautiful scenery.
I’m sure you guys can find it. Feel free to ping me if you’re in the area and next more detailed directions.
i just love a good mountain hike in the desert…
Totally with you on that one!
Kevin and Sheryl says
We lived just up the hill (as Sheryl calls it) in Yucca Vally for a while. Sure do miss that area, so much to do. You can really get lost in J-Tree NP, what a great place to check out while your there.
I LOVE Joshua Tree. I’m always amazed at how BIG the park is when I get in the area. We won’t make it this time around, but went last year and will plan to come back.
Makes me miss the two spring break trips my family took down to Arizona to visit my grandparents. We would spend a good chunk of the week out hiking. some day soon I’ll get out to the desert again, and spend more than a week there.
Flag Mountain hasn’t looked like your photos in a long time. There are now two flag poles, one with the American Flag and the other with the Canadian Flag. It mus be time for you to return and get new pics.
The flag(s) seem to get destroyed by the notorious valley winds, and then replaced each year. So it does look a tad different every time I go. My last trip back was in 2015 and they did have both American and Canadian flags up at that time. It’s an awesome little hike.