The Toro Peak 7.5 mm topo quad map shows a jeep road that switchbacks far up the north side of the Santa Rosa Mountains. I'd wanted to hike this for some time. Richard Hughes of San Diego also described it in an email listserv account
of his Toro Peak trip in 1999. So Annie Kramer and I hiked from the Cactus Spring trailhead (4040') on Christmas Eve. We followed the jeep road from the initial intersection, then zigzagged north. We set out before dawn to finish by midday for a dinner date atop the Palm Springs Tram, enjoying sunrise over Martinez and Sheep Mtns to the east.
High-clearance 4wd would only be required in two ruts high up on the "DPS good" dirt road. It leads to a largely intact charcoal kiln and a vigorously flowing spring (6200'+). This is a comfortable, though littered, campsite at the treeline of the pretty pine forest. The kiln was presumably utilized to generate charcoal for the Dolomite Mine below. There remains some abandoned logging equipment, including an old log hauling trailer.
Above the spring the road deteriorates into a pair of steep, eroded jeep tracks, not shown on the 7.5 mm topo. Left at a fork, it becomes a well-marked trail to an abandoned road spur below Stump Spring Campground. A homemade sign on a tree reads "RV Loop, Santa Rosa Mtn 3." Right at the fork leads on a track past Stump Spring to a four-way intersection that is a mile east of the summit.
Annie continued at her own pace well behind on the road. I went left at the fork. At a drop in the trail, I headed cross-country up ridge, shortly rejoining the pleasant footpath. At the road spur (7640') is another posted sign: "RV Loop, Hwy 74 10 mi." Not quite. I turned west on the spur, to the main road at the aforementioned four-way intersection (7700'), and on to the summit by the normal route. A family on a Christmas campout had a pair of tents on the leeward side. They enjoyed a great campfire the prior night in the cabin ruin's fireplace, the chimney still intact. I retraced my way down, meeting Annie at the kiln.
Did I mention that all those road switchbacks seemed a lot more tedious on the downhill? Still a fun way to summit Santa Rosa or Toro. Later I found this "Sawmill Road" route described as trip #66 in Phillip Ferranti's 100 Great Hikes In and Near Palm Springs.
Stats: About 18 miles, 4600 feet gain roundtrip.