Vallecito Mountains High Point

With the day off for President’s Day (or as I call it, my distant cousin’s day), I rendezvoused with Susie and Matt to tackle Vallecito Mountains High Point. The real challenge of this hike is not the 5.6 miles nor the two boulder fields you need to navigate through, but rather the 18 or so miles of pure off-road driving. We had decided to meet at the bathrooms at the Ocotillo Wells Ranger Station and transfer into my Subaru. Susie and Matt had been camping since Friday out in various spots in Anza-Borrego, making a serious dent in the Sierra Club 100 list.

The beginning of the drive was very familiar as it is the same one we did just a few weeks back when we summited the Split Mountains. As we zoomed past them, we continued on Fish Creek Wash, heading deeper and deeper into the heart of Anza Borrego. The terrain and geology were fascinating, to say the least. There were certainly sections of the road that took a bit of skill and patience to navigate over. Finally, after about an hour of driving, we came to a sign pointing the way to Dave McCain Spring, our trailhead.

Once there, we quickly geared up and were ready to head out. We passed by the remains of the water tank for the spring, as we crested a small saddle. The pipe that carried the water from the actual spring still sat on the desert floor.

Upon reaching the crest, we dropped down and followed a small wash, which took us around a small hill. From there, our first challenge stood before us–the first boulder field. We worked our way to the south and followed the gully for a while. Eventually, we moved out of it and onto the slopes to the south. Matt found a nice path over the rest of this initial climb and we soon found ourselves descending about a mile into the wide plateau that we found.

We cruised along the fairly firm sandy wash toward the northeast of this section. We wondered exactly which of the boulder-filled slopes we would attempt. Finally, we reached the end of the wash and began our climb up toward the summit. Stowing our trekking poles, we opted to stay to the north of the gully for the ascent route. Matt would seem to almost effortlessly lead us along a great route up through the maze of rocks.

Just before the false summit (I hate those things!), was a small flat spot, perfect for a short break. We found a nice-sized boulder and sat in the shade for a few minutes. We knew we were close, so we pressed up and over. Upon reaching the saddle, Matt scoured the terrain and plotted our path to the true summit.

The views were tremendous! Whale Peak rising to our east, and Sunset Mountain to the northwest. The Santa Rosa Range to our north, and even though the haze, San Jacinto could be seen as well. There is no benchmark here, but we proudly signed the register and took our photos atop the highest rock.

After a nice break, we slung our packs back on to begin our descent. We were able to mostly follow the same-ish path down and up to the top of the false summit. From there, we kept slightly more to the north, as the route seemed to be a bit better. So far, the boulders were not too difficult.

Once back on the plateau, we opted to make our way to the western wash instead of the one we followed initially. We reached the junction of the initial wash and turned to the northwest. This time we decided to follow it further before making our way over the final boulders.

As we approached the top of the boulder field, we decided to stay to the north and work our way down from there, rather than work our way south across one section of boulders and back to the route we took on the way up. This proved not to be the best choice. Our route was tough, all the easy bouldering we had done until now was but a distant memory. We carefully worked our way through them. At one point we actually crawled through a small boulder cave. Finally, we reached the end of the boulders and were back in the initial wash. We worked our way back along the same route, knowing that soon we would be back at the car. While we still had an hour of off-road driving, we had summited Vallecito Mountains High Point. This was peak #86 for me, and #92 for Susie. I think we just might finish before this desert season ends!

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, Central Coast, 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. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *