Wilson Benchmark & Pinyon Ridge

Another fantastic day out in the high desert near Ranchita. Susie Kara and I decided to tackle Wilson Benchmark and Pinyon Ridge. She needed to summit this pair of peaks on her quest to complete the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peaks list for a second time. Initially, we had talked about doing this hike as an overnight just to mix things up, but in the end we opted just to hike it.

I turned on Old Wilson Road in Ranchita, then hopped on to a side road to connect to Old Culp Valley Road. There was one spot on this dirt road that took a touch of care. We parked at the trailhead and grabbed our gear. We opted to do Wilson first and summit Pinyon on our return. When I had done these peaks previously, I had done Pinyon Ridge first then continued onto Wilson Benchmark. 

Once we reached the point where we could leave the old Jeep road to make the climb up Wilson, we debated where we might want to work our way up its gentle slope. The climb up Wilson was nice and easy. The skies were much clearer than last weekend, so we could truly enjoy the views. Our descent took us a slightly different route. We actually spotted a cairn this way, not like it was really needed. We then retraced our route back toward Pinyon Ridge.

Since I saw there was supposed to be an azimuth mark near Pinyon Ridge, just a bit to the north of the road, I spent some time trying to locate it. Sadly, I did not, but I did get a nice photo of Pinyon Ridge. Since this hike was about exploring new routes, we stayed on the ridge we were on to make our way to the summit. This route took us right to the base of the summit and avoided some of the challenges I remembered from my previous ascents.

We carefully plotted our route up to the top of the actual summit block. Susie took the more traditional scramble on the north side, while I found a nice route on the east side that bypassed the minor friction move that was needed. We took a short break, signed the register, snapped our photos and then headed down. We would switch our descent routes off the summit. Susie tried my route, and I was able to navigate down her route with no issues at all. 

Although we had a nice breeze blowing, it was starting to get a tad warm. Soon, the car came back into view. Continuing the “new routes” theme of this hike, we decided to drive out toward Culp Valley instead of back toward Ranchita. Initially the road was great, but there were a couple of spots to be mindful of. For future hikers coming out to this trailhead, I recommend driving in from the Ranchita side. All told this hike was 9.1 miles in 4:40 (including the summit rests), and about 1,500 of elevation gain. On the way home, we again stopped at Don’s Market for a cold drink and Dudley’s for a sandwich. 

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. 

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