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Ragsdale Cabin, Santa Rosa Mt. Ca.

ragsdalepix2Desert Steve Ragsdale, the founder of Desert Center, decided that he needed a cooler place to be, in order to beat the scorching summer heat of the California desert. So in 1938, Steve along with his wife Lydia, purchased 280 acres atop the Santa Rosa mountain from local pioneer, Arthur Nightingale. First thing Steve did was to cut down some of the local trees, and build a place to share his stories. Steve was known to have a story for every occasion, and then some. He constructed two “buildings”, a one room cabin with a huge fireplace at one end and a tree house or lookout as it is sometimes called.

It was a perfect place for Steve and Lydia to find some peace and relax, but it was short lived. In 1946, after the war, Steve insisted that a gate be installed for his and other mountain dwellers privacy, but the US Forest Service refused. the fight became so bad, that the local ranger resigned, still refusing to install the gate. By 1953 Steve’s health made the trips hard, so he sold the property to Desert Center Service and Supply for one dollar. In 1965 Charles Kaplan purchased the property and four years later traded it to the US Forest Service.

The twisting trek up is nearly eight miles long with some breathtaking vista’s and on a good day you can see Mexico, according to Steve, the storyteller.. You can make the trip without a four wheel vehicle, but we ALWAYS recommend it, it’s better to have it and not need it. The road is smooth in spots and a little rough in others, and the turn off to the cabin is where four wheeling is preferred. Along the way, be sure to check out the incredible views and messages left by Steve in a rock and two trees. These warnings were¬†written by Steve after a couple of fires back in 1945 and 46, and it’s GREAT that they are still there today. Sadly not much of the cabin is left today due to a fire, the large fireplace is the only thing that remains, but it is still worth the drive, the views are incredible! It was also make for a great place to camp overnight…


To get to the cabin, I would suggest you Google Pinyon Pines Ca. first to see where it is to you. The exit is off Highway 74 and would be approximately 2.78 miles SW from Pinyon Pines, or about 5 miles east of the 371/74 interchange. From there it is about eight miles to the cabin.

Once again we remind you that a high clearance or four wheel vehicle is highly recommended!!




Warnings placed by Steve Ragsdale in 1946 after a devastating fire.

Warnings placed by Steve Ragsdale in 1946.


Cabin in it's heyday, and what it is today.

Cabin in it’s heyday, and what it is today.




The view of Palm Desert area, this must be great at night..

The view of Palm Desert area, this must be great at night..





4 Responses so far.

  1. Scott Pam says:

    The last time my friends and I went up there, it was a National something day for the Forest Service and we got the honor of being asked to help out with taking down illegal firepits.

    Very nice spot and very photogenic.

  2. Elizabeth Douglas says:

    I think I have posted comments about Steve Ragsdale before. I met Steve Ragsdale when I was just a very small child but still remember him because he had a very full beard and kind of long hair and at a Christmas party at Desert Center he picked me up and was talking to me and with the beard and all the hair I was scared to death. According to my mother, Steve, loved children but apparently I didm’t know that. I lived at Desert Center with my mom and Dad for about two years beginning in 1942. My mom was the housekeeper that cleaned the few cabins that were across the street from his restaurant and my dad was the fry cook at the restaurant. After that we moved to the Bay Area near Alameda, California. I still to this day love the desert and think there is not much prettier than the wild flowers and hills and the catus and other things that grow in that environment.

    • admin says:

      Thx for your comment Elizabeth, it REALLY makes us happy when we hear of a personal connection. You made our day!!!

    • Richard says:

      Great stories . Would love to hear more from you Elizabeth about life in Desert Center.