Dawns Peak, "Little Buck Peak"

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December 29, 2013
Dawns Peak (aka. Lorenzens Peak) is a broad rounded summit which sits smack dab in the middle of the main crest of the Santa Rosa Mountains in Southern California. While it does not stand out sharply amid all the other bumps on the looming crest, it does provide a remote and fun peakbagging objective for those seeking lesser traveled peaks in Anza Borrego.

PeakElevationTopographic ProminenceSummit Coordinates (lat/lon)
Dawns Peak6,582 ft1,082 ft33.459349, -116.312581
"Little Buck Peak"3,268 ft328 ft33.425961, -116.357253

Based on trip reports, most people preferred to approach Dawns Peak from the south, either via Clark Lake or Rockhouse Canyon. The Clark Lake Approach is accessible by 2WD, but involves several miles of tedious walking across the lake bed. The Rockhouse Canyon route (see map) is a little more interesting, but requires high clearance 4WD to get to the trailhead. Since one of us had a burly Jeep, we decided to approach via Rockhouse Canyon.

Getting to the trailhead: "At mile 26.7 on Highway S-22 (north and east of Borrego Springs), turn north on Clark's Well Road. Pavement soon ends and you continue driving on dirt, bearing left at 1.5 miles onto Rockhouse Truck Trail. After 9 miles of often-bumpy dirt-road travel in all, you arrive at a point where roads into Butler and Rockhouse Canyons join. This is the absolute limit for vehicles that are not high-clearance, four-wheel-drive machines. Three more excruciatingly slow miles of driving in the appropriate vehicle will take you to the Rockhouse Truck Trail terminus." (Directions are from the San Diego Reader)

Trailhead coordinates (lat/lon): 33.419549, -116.387739

The four of us got somewhat of a late start at around 9:50am due to the time it took to get to the trailhead. It was likely faster walking the last 3 miles to our start point rather than driving to it. Our start location (1,900 ft) was already in the main canyon of Rockhouse Canyon, one bend away from Hidden Springs. We would simply hike up Rockhouse Canyon in a general NE direction until the canyon walls gave way to the flat desert floor where we would be able to attain a clear view of Dawns Peak. From there, we would head east for a short distance before picking up a northeastern branching wash which headed directly for the peak.

at the start

Hidden Springs

heading up Rockhouse Canyon

About 0.8 miles after Hidden Springs, we came upon a nicely smoothed out dry waterfall which contained an easy class 3 move. There was an option to bypass this to the side. 

Dawns Peak coming into view

As the entirety of Dawns Peak came into view, we split off from the wash we were in (which continued east), and took a secondary wash which headed northeast directly towards the base of Dawn's west ridge: the obvious spine which branches left off the mountain.

entire west ridge

base of the ridge

The west ridge contained the classic Anza Borrego Desert ridge experience. The terrain rose nonstop and was easy to negotiate. There were stunning views towards the desert floor as well as other mountains in the Santa Rosa Range. Closer to the top, the bushwhacking increased to the point that we were looping among the shrubs, but it was nothing serious. As we hit a large plateau on the main Santa Rosa ridge, we turned right (southeast) and intersected the summit a few minutes later. 

ascending the west ridge

large summit cairn

oldest page in register

view northwest from summit




the classic Dawns Peak summit jump

We spent a good half hour at the summit before retracing our steps down the west ridge. On the way down, I noticed a small peak (which I dubbed "Little Buck Peak" to the southwest on the desert floor. Its difficult to describe its precise location without the map. To get to it, I followed the subsidiary wash southwest after descending the west ridge, but instead of heading west once the wash ended, I proceeded south up Little Buck's broad north ridge. There were several false summits on the way up, but it was very obvious once I had reached the highpoint. My primary purpose in bagging this peak was to attain a view of the setting sun on the Santa Rosa Ridge, which I managed to catch just in time.

Little Buck Peak seen from Dawns

views while descending Dawns west ridge

alpenglow on the Santa Rosa Mountains seen from Little Buck Peak

view northeast from Little Buck Peak 



There were several ways to get from Little Buck Peak to Rockhouse Canyon. I chose to stay on a broad ridge heading in a general northwestern direction, aiming for a broad hump (see above photo). Once on the hump, I dropped straight down the other side via a short cruddy section of class 2 terrain directly into Rockhouse Canyon. Shortly after reaching the canyon, I met back up with the group, and we made the fairly pleasant walk back to the start.

view from the hump

Final Stats
14.3 miles
5,540 ft gain/loss

1 comment:

  1. Nice trip report! We are doing the Santa Rosa Traverse this weekend, so this was useful beta, thanks!