California Trails

Go on a Journey at Sand to Snow National Monument

See everything from low desert to high peaks on this 30-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Editor’s Note: Five years ago today, the US got three new national monuments when President Barack Obama designated Sand to Snow, Castle Peaks, and Mojave Trails National Monuments, protecting 1.8 million acres of federal land. To celebrate, we’re sharing this trip in Sand to Snow, which Sage Marshall originally wrote when the Department of the Interior was considering shrinking it in 2017. Today, it still exists in its original boundaries.

Located a measly two-hour drive from Los Angeles, the 154,000-acre Sand to Snow National Monument ascends from the Sonoran desert to the mountains of the San Gorgonio Wilderness. The monument’s biodiversity is nothing short of spectacular, touting species from the California spotted owl to the desert bighorn sheep.

Hike it: Pacific Crest Trail

A 30-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail bisects Sand to Snow National Monument. Hike it and you’ll experience the full breadth of the monument’s varied ecosystems. Catch the trail where it intersects I-10 and follow it north into Whitewater Canyon. After a few miles, the trail briefly exits the monument and winds through a wind farm. Stay on the trail and follow it through Mission Creek, slowly gaining elevation until it reaches the monument’s northern border near Coon Creek Campground. Season: Year-round Map