Friday, March 25, 2022

PCT Day 16-18: Onyx Summit to Whitewater Canyon (33.5 Miles)

March 25-27, 2022
Onyx Summit to Whitewater Canyon

Mile 252-218.5
        [Mile 252-239.9]
Day 16: 5:56 (Moving) / 9:03 (total)
Max 8,755 feet (+1,585 / -2,192)
        [Mile 239.9-226]
Day 17: 6:29 (moving) / 9:41 (total)
Max 7,936 feet (+425 / -5,225)
        [Mile 226-218.5]
Day 18: 3:24 (moving) / 4:45 (total)
Max 3,644 feet (+933 / -2,300)
Pacific Crest Trail – Day 16-18 (overview)

We had 103 away from the PCT so plenty of time to plan our next weekend's PCT hike.   December 12, 2021 we finished at mile 218.5 at Whitewater Preserve near Palm Springs.  Looking at our guides we could see that our next section was going to be our most challenging.   We've successfully section hiked the first 218.5 miles with only one 2-day (1 night) backpack.   The upcoming 33.5 mile section had offered no road access in the middle so it would require a 3-day (2 night) backpack.   Additionally we would start at 2,305 feet and hike up to 8,443 feet.  Although, March in S. California and it was starting to feel like spring the higher elevation still had some winter snow obstacles.

There are some beautiful trails even for a day hike or weekend visit to Whitewater Canyon.

Also we would learn that the entire wilderness area we would hike for this section is also a National Monument (one step below national park) called "Sand to Snow".

Planning 3 days is a lot harder than just 1 day, especially with three people's schedules.  March 25-27 seemed to be the first date all year that we could all hike and we thought we would be clear of most of winter obstacles.   Oobrianoo continued to shine with helping with planning and logistics as well is our groups aficionado with navigating the FarOut mapping app and figured out we would have an ascent of nearly 10,000 feet of climbing.   With full packs and only 3 days I didn't think that would be possible for us so suggested we stray from our "only northbound" hiking and do this section in reverse.  It would still be hard, but I felt we could more easily cover the distance hiking southbound and taking advantage of our section hiking strategy and put it to our advantage.  


Logistics with section hiking is always a challenge.  Dropping off a car at the endpoint would require a 72 mile drive to our trailhead or with the mountain road 1.5-2 hour commute. 

I learned that Cienaga Creek Ranch offers cabins rentals and is right on the PCT 2 miles from Onyx summit.   I inquired into a room the night before our hike however the rates were over $300 per night.  They would allow us to park a car for 2 nights if we stayed 1 night, however, they were not keen on the idea of us letting us leave a car without a reservation, however, from a hiking strategy I figured the road was open and we could drop off backpacks 2 miles into the hike and then continue on to the trailhead where we would begin our hike.  Also I learned by talking with with a girl at the cabin rentals place that the 2 mile hike is most free of snow and we could hike with just hiking boots and no spikes would be needed.  

It was agreed on hiking the 33.5 miles southbound so we would meet at Whitewater Canyon Preserve.  Our last hike ended here and we met 2 rangers and exchanged contact information.  I had hung onto Lucus's business card and he was able send me a parking permit to allow me to leave our car inside the Preserves locked gates over two nights.  Also he shared a code we could use to unlock the gates if we were to arrive before they opened at 8 am or after they closed.   Oobrianoo had the longest drive from San Diego so for the first time he would get a room near Banning Thursday night while Mai and I would wake up early and meet him at Whitewater Canyon at 7 a.m.

It would be Oobrianoo's first "official" backpack.  It would be Mai's second "official" backpack so they were both busy figuring out any gear they would need that would be useful for the hike.   I always seem to overpack and carry a heavier pack than I would prefer, but I do like having everything we might need.  I got a new filter cartridge for my water filter which I hadn't changed.   Also I thought it might be great to be able to charge "on the go" to I bought a solar panel.   I tried it out and tried connecting my phone directly but learned unless it had unobstructed sun it wouldn't charge my phone, so found out it has a USB battery pack that snaps into the rear and constantly charges when connected no matter how many watts are being generated.   

Morning View of San Jacinto


Spring floral and San Jacinto in background

Click on Each Day for Full Day Blog


  1. That was my 1st official backpack with a tent, cooking gear, and filtering water experience.