Hot Springs Mountain

Today’s peak was to be the highest point in San Diego County, Hot Springs Mountain at 6,533 feet. As I drove out to Warner Springs, a fog bank hung over the lake, and the thermometer read 41! Hoping it was not like that at the campground. I made my way onto the reservation and slipped my $10 into the slot. Parking near the chain that blocks driving up Sukat road, the temperature was a crisp 56°F, what I had expected. I gathered my gear and started up the road.

If you have never done this hike, the first two miles are steep! I was glad to have a cool morning and some shade as I made my way up. I was passed by 4 trail runners practicing for the Ragnor race in a few weeks.

Once the steep section is over, the hike is nice. However, about a mile in the bugs started to appear. I grabbed my bug net and tossed it on. Before leaving the car, I applied bug spray so they avoid the arms. The road continued working its way upward. Portions were covered in acorns. Various animal tracks could be spotted in the dirt. Some nice signage pointed the way to the lookout tower.

I kept expecting to see the trail runners making their way back down, but I never did. I guess they headed down Hot Springs Road instead of going to the tower. After 5 miles of hiking and almost 2,500 feet of elevation gain, the abandoned tower came into view.

I took a break and enjoyed part of an orange and the views. A breeze had picked up so the bugs were held at bay. A register has been placed here, so I signed it. But the true summit is a just hike to the north.

Following an over-flagged use trail, I found myself at the base of the summit block. The register is located at the base, as it does take a bit of effort to scale the summit. Two ropes are attached to the top and they seemed solid. But I decided to scout around to find a possible safer ascent for a solo climber. Around the north side, a nice crack in the rock allowed me to get past the halfway point. From there it was a class 3 move to the top, the ropes gave me just enough comfort to scale the final portion. There the reference mark was found and the actual benchmark was down inside the concrete platform.

I took my photos and then scaled carefully back down from the summit. Grabbing my poles and pack I set off down the road. I was feeling great as the miles ticked past. I drank some Gatorade and eat some, all while moving. The bugs were too annoying to really stop. After just over 4 hours of hiking time, I found myself back at the car having covered 10.1 miles. This was my 67th peak of my 100 Peak Challenge!


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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