History of Garner Valley

Mountains in Garner Valley


Every once in a while you stumble upon a place that you wouldn’t have believed existed if you hadn’t seen it with your own eyes. Garner Valley is one of those magical kinds of places.

This pristine, picturesque valley, the largest plateau in the San Jacinto Mountains, is a haven for nature lovers and local wildlife. Fresh mountain breezes circulate through the meadows and pine forests where visitors to the area enjoy four distinct seasons and endless outdoor recreational activities. The famous Pacific Crest Trail winds along the top of the eastern mountains bordering the valley which was once known as Hemet Valley, then Thomas Mountain, and now Garner Valley.

The Cahuilla were early inhabitants of this area and their presence is still felt today. Their trails became the valley’s roads; the springs and streams became the water supply; and their knowledge of the area helped guide the early settlers.

In the 1860s, Charles Thomas followed the Indians to this valley where he settled and continued a harmonious existence between himself and the Indians. Many Cahuilla worked on the Thomas Ranch, including Juan Diego and Ramona Lubo who were made famous by Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona.  The Thomas Ranch became famous throughout California for its thoroughbred horses and pureblooded Durham and Angus cattle.

In 1905, Robert F Garner, a San Bernardino rancher and stockman, purchased 1700 acres of land from Thomas. The Garner Ranch grew in size to 9500 acres by the early 1950s. Although relatively smaller now, the Garner Ranch still operates as a working cattle ranch.

A portion of this ranch, 2200 acres, was sold to the Great American Land Company in 1968. The Great American Land Company had been searching for an ideal valley to develop when they stumbled upon Garner Valley. In 1973, their advertising campaign touted: “Retreat estates for sale at (a) historic Ranch almost a mile-high in a beautiful setting, yet not isolated.”

Throughout the years, many movies, television shows and commercials have been – and still are – being made in Garner Valley. In the 1940s Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and other stars galloped across the meadows to rescue stagecoaches and beautiful damsels in distress. Later on, the opening credits for the popular ‘60s show, Bonanza, were filmed in the valley. Today, rather than cowboys and horses, the camera focuses on car commercials.

The residents of Garner Valley have a fire station that serves the valley, a market within four miles and variety of shops in nearby Palm Desert and Idyllwild. Garner Valley is part of the Hemet Unified School District and students attend Hamilton and Idyllwild schools. The Idyllwild Arts Academy is nearby to offer cultural activities and a private secondary school. Mt San Jacinto, College of the Desert, Cal-State San Bernardino (Palm Desert campus) and UC Riverside (Palm Desert campus) are within a 45 minute drive.

The Garner Valley Property Owners’ Association board governs the necessary restrictions on the home sites and ensures that the common building, golf driving range, horse arena and trails are properly maintained for a minimal annual fee. The common building, near the center of 160 acres owned by the Association is available to owners for meetings, dinners and parties including dancing and games, or merely enjoying the open fireplace. There is also an equestrian arena, golf putting and driving facilities, shuffleboard, volleyball, horseshoes and croquet. The active Equestrian Club maintains 26 miles of trails for horseback riding and hiking as well as the arena at the Commons. They annually sponsor rides and dinners including a chili cook-off.


Enjoy the clean mountain air in beautiful Mountain Center away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Located just 30 minutes from Palm Desert to the Southeast and 35 minutes to Temecula To the west. Perfect for hiking, biking and horseback riding with miles of trails. Lake Hemet offers fishing, boating, cabin rentals and a water park in the summer for kids.


Garner Valley lies less than 90 miles from San Diego and Orange County, less than 120 miles from Los Angeles, 5 miles from Riverside, 20 miles from Hemet and Palm Desert, 12 miles from Idyllwild and 4 miles from Lake Hemet.


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