Wilson Benchmark & Pinyon Ridge

Today was going to be another two-fer, the primary peak is Wilson Benchmark and the secondary peak is Pinyon Ridge. I was able to convince both Ted and Dave to head out into the chilly high desert. We grabbed our wool caps and gloves and headed out. We drove out toward Ranchita, until we reached Wilson Road, from there we turned on to Old Culp Valley Road. Glad we were in the Subaru. We found the trailhead without any issues.

The trail is an old, partially overgrown jeep road, and it goes up and down through the sparse landscape of burnt trees, resprouting shrub skeletons, blackened yucca trunks, and granitic boulders. Most of the area had burned in the 2012 “Vallecito Lighting Complex” fire. Pinyon is just a short side jaunt from the main route out to Wilson. As we worked our way across the desert, we slowly started to warm up.

Pinyon was a fun little scramble to the top. We found the northeast corner easier to navigate to the top of the summit block. Found the register and signed in. The wind was a tad chilly, so we did not stay too long. As I was scrambling back down to fetch my poles, I found a patch of snow tucked between the rocks.

Rather than return directly to the trail, we continued across the open desert to the east until we intersected the trail again.

After about 4 miles, we reach the base of the summit. From there we worked our way up, past the boulders and burned trees.

Once there we easily found the benchmark and register.

Anza-Borrego was again spread out before us. We could see the Salton Sea in the distance. Although it had warmed up some, there was still a bit of wind blowing, so we did not linger.

The return to the trailhead and the car was brisk, as Dave needed to get home.


I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea-kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

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