FATMAP difficulty grade
This segment of the PCT, from Warner Springs to Highway 74, winds through seemingly endless desert hills, among dense chaparral and boulder gardens that feel far from civilization, and are often far from water.
But the dry and lonely miles are punctuated by two hiker havens––“Mike’s Place” and “Mary’s Place.” They are watering holes and gathering places provided by friendly landowners adjacent to the trail.
For northbound hikers, this segment is the last long stretch of desert before heading into the San Jacintos, so any social stops could be invaluable for inquiring with southbound travelers about conditions in the mountains.
The conclusion of the segment at Highway 74 is an opportunity to leave the trail for resupply, or to bypass the mountains if necessary.
Northbound from Warner Springs (NB mile 109.5), the PCT heads across a pleasant grassland before meeting Agua Caliente Creek and passing under the highway (NB mile 111.4).
The creek normally has water through spring and early summer, providing welcome refreshment for the next few miles.
The trail meanders up this creek valley, sometimes in shade beside the water and sometimes on the sunny slopes above, and crossing the stream a handful of times.
You may have to get your feet wet, or you may find well-placed stones and logs. When the trail climbs away from the creek for the last time, it takes some switchbacks to get definitively higher in the hills, and passes the side trail to Lost Valley Spring (NB mile 119.6).
You can use the resource [PCT Water](https://pctwater.com/) for locations and updates about this and other water sources.
As the trail proceeds higher in elevation, the dense chaparral becomes studded with more and more granite formations.
Suddenly you’ll enter a high valley where every slope is littered with huge pinkish, egg-shaped boulders.
From there, the trail traverses more vegetated hillsides before reaching a dirt road and the turn-off to Mike’s Place (NB mile 126.9).
A sign near this spur should indicate if Mike’s is open to hikers, and it normally is.
He graciously provides water in large metal tanks, and may even allow camping on the property.
North of there, the next good camping is on the ridge near Combs Peak (NB mile 129.2), but there is no water, so you’ll have to carry from Mike’s. If you want to punch above 6000 feet on this section, you can take the side trail to the top of Combs Peak.
Otherwise, stay on the PCT as it turns downhill and twists for several miles through more arid hills and drainages, on sometimes rocky terrain.
After passing the natural water source at Tule Spring (NB mile 137), the trail begins to regain elevation, as much bigger mountains loom on the horizon.
These are the San Jacintos, which the next section of the PCT holds in store. Another welcome oasis for hikers comes at [Mary’s Place](https://pct145trailangelmary.com/) (NB mile 145.4).
On Mary’s property, you can find a water tank, a free book exchange, and perhaps a place to camp.
There are decent dispersed sites along the trail as well, both south and north of Mary’s.
A bit farther on is Highway 74, making the logical end to this section.
There’s a dirt lot for section hiker parking, and it’s generally easy for distance hikers to hitch from here for resupply.
The town of Anza is nearby, and Idyllwild is farther.
You could walk or hitch just one mile west of the trail crossing to reach [Paradise Valley Cafe](https://www.theparadisevalleycafe.com/), a popular hiker haunt loved for their hamburgers and milkshakes. Permits: For this section, a special permit is needed only for camping in the vicinity of Agua Caliente Creek, between NB miles 112.5 to 125.
This is within Cleveland National Forest and requires a [wilderness visitor permit](https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/cleveland/home/?cid=FSEPRD488307) or the [PCT Long-Distance Permit](https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/permits/pct-long-distance-permit/).
Anyone camping overnight, anywhere along this section, may also need the [California Fire Permit](https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/permits/california-fire-permit/). Sources: https://pctmap.net/trail-notes/ https://pctwater.com/ https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/permits/local-permits/