Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area

LOCATION and PHOTOS

Abronia villosa.
Abronia villosa.

Lasthenia californica.
Lasthenia californica.

Lasthenia californica.
Lasthenia californica.

Lupinus formosus.
Lupinus formosus.

Malacothrix californica
Malacothrix californica.

Garner Valley

Forest: San Bernardino National Forest

District: San Jacinto Ranger District

Description: Garner Valley is the land between the San Jacinto Mountains to the north and Rouse Ridge-Thomas Mountain to the south. Keen Camp Summit (4,900 feet) bounds it on the northwestern edge to the southwest where Highway 371 meets Highway 74 at Paradise Corners. Garner Valley, once known as Hemet Valley, is a long dry meadow area bordered by sagebrush and Jeffrey pines.

Viewing Information: Garner Ranch cattle still graze the valley; cattle herds have dotted the valley since the 1860s. In 1895, Lake Hemet dam was built in the northwestern side of the valley to provide water to the San Jacinto Valley.

Valley floor wildflowers include spectacular patches of yellow goldfields (Lasthenia californica) and tidytips (Layia ziegleri) in early spring and magenta fields of the endemic four o’clock (Abronia villosa var. aurita) during the summer. Along the edges, a wide range of interesting species grow in a narrow abound just above the valley: the endemic Johnston’s rockcress (Arabis johnstonii), California penstemon (Penstemon californicus), long-spined spineflower (Chorizanthe polygonoides var. longispina), and rock jasmine (Androsace elongata ssp. acuta). The view to the south, along drainages of Thomas Mountain, includes stands of big cone douglas fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa), an uncommon conifer of southern California. Two species of pinyon pine intermix in the southern edge of Garner Valley: single leaf (Pinus monophylla) and four-leaf (P. quadrifolia).

Safety First: The 10 mile stretch of State Highway 74, also a State Scenic Highway, that takes you through Garner Valley is a two lane road. Drive the speed limit and watch for other vehicles. There are no paved pullouts along Highway 74 in Garner Valley. The Ramona Trailhead parking area is a safe place to stop and view the northern portion of the valley. Above all be alert and drive defensively along the valley.

Directions: From the Cranston Fire Station just inside the National Forest boundary on Highway 74 east of the city of Hemet, drive 16 miles to past Mountain Center on Highway 74 to Keen Camp Summit. The view of Garner Valley is expansive as you drive east, dropping into the Valley near Lake Hemet.

Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, San Bernardino National Forest, San Jacinto Ranger District, Lake Hemet Water District, and privately owned parcels, including the still-operating Garner Ranch.

Closest Town: Hemet, California.

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