The native Kumeyaay of the area painted the Little Blair Valley pictographs hundreds of years ago. The pictographs are unusual for their well-executed yellow and red symbolic designs that include diamond chains and chevrons, typical of Luiseño rock art. The designs reflect the influence of this Indian group on the neighboring Kumeyaay that chose to use this style of rock art within their territory. As to their meaning, anthropologists are still conjecturing whether or not they served a specific purpose, such as part of a puberty ceremony or whether they simply reflect the inclinations of the artist. The pictographs are included in the 4757-acre Little Blair Valley Cultural Preserve that was created in December 2010. This pictograph site is the only one in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that is openly advertised to the public.
The hiking trail begins next to an interpretive sign. This is the steepest part of the trail, which goes over a low divide into Smuggler Canyon. Because of the higher elevation of the Blair Valley area, both juniper and Mojave yucca are encountered. The typical desert plants commonly seen en route include creosote, ocotillo, agave, lavender, acacia, and various species of cholla. Look for a prominent boulder on the west side of the streambed less than a mile from the trailhead. Grinding areas may be seen next to the rock art. The large boulder may have served as part of a shelter.
Most visitors turn around here and head back to their vehicles, missing a bonus found by continuing another half-mile, where an ancient Kumeyaay seasonal camp was located. To the right are many flat boulder ledges where bedrock mortars are scattered. Where the canyon narrows there is a low point that may have pooled water that supplied the local Kumeyaay. Pass through the narrow, bouldery defile to a lip of a dry waterfall from which there is a stunning view into the Carrizo Valley. The Vallecito Stage Station is also visible from this viewpoint. Do not attempt to climb down the dry waterfall, which has a sharp drop-off and is slippery. After taking in the view, follow the trail back to your vehicles.
Distance from downtown San Diego: About 85 miles (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park). Allow 2 hours for driving. Drive to Julian via Ramona or Descanso and head east out of town on SR-78, driving about 12 miles down Banner Canyon to Scissors Crossing. At Scissors Crossing go south on SR-2 about 6 miles and turn left into the Blair Valley turnoff. Follow the dirt road into and around Blair Valley 2.7 miles to a signed junction with the Ghost Mountain turnoff. Go left or east 2.4 miles, following the sign to Morteros and Pictographs that leads to the Pictograph trailhead in Little Blair Valley. No facilities or water. A vault toilet is at the entrance to Blair Valley.
Hiking length: 1.6 miles out and back with the option of adding an additional mile. Difficulty: Easy with little gain/loss of elevation. Good for children.