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Villager and Rabbit peaks remain difficult and remote hiking destinations

The views are pseudoaerial all around the compass

Villager Peak, Santa Rosa Mountains
Villager Peak, Santa Rosa Mountains

Spotted with weather-beaten piñon pines, Villager Peak in the southern Santa Rosa Mountains rises nearly a mile above the lowlands of Anza-Borrego Desert. Serious “peak baggers” from around the state are drawn to its summit, which due to its high elevation, steadfastly resists any easy approach.

Some people take a full two days to backpack the waterless 13-mile round trip route described here; others like to zip up and down in a single day. As the days grow ever cooler but shorter this season, the latter option only works safely for those who are in top physical shape and who are willing to hit the trail by dawn’s first light. Others are invited to try just the first part of the trek. Simply climb upward until you are “half-tired” and save the other half of your strength for the trip back down. The higher you go, the more rewarding the view. Don’t forget to take along plenty of drinking water.

Park in the north-side turnout at mile 31.8 on Borrego–Salton Seaway, 13 miles northeast of Borrego-Springs. On foot, proceed north toward the east end of a long, sandy ridge 0.5 miles away. North of the ridge, flash floods spilling out of the Santa Rosa Mountains have cut a series of braided washes in a swath about 0.6 miles wide. A faint path marked by small piles of stones takes you over this dissected terrain to the base of the long, ramp-like ridge that trends north. The route soon levels off to a steady gradient averaging about 1000 feet of elevation per mile. Stay on the highest part of the ridge to remain on route, which is at times marked by a rough, informal trail.

Glistening specimens of barrel cactus, hedgehog cactus, and silver, golden, and teddy-bear cholla cactus grace the slopes below 3000 feet elevation. A spiny gauntlet of agave thorns at 3000 feet to 4000 feet may hinder your progress a bit. At 4100 feet (4.3 miles), you walk along the brink of a spectacular drop-off overlooking Clark Valley.

Thereafter, the ridgeline you’re following becomes quite jagged. Piñon juniper and nolina — typical “high desert” vegetation — appear. At 6.5 miles, you finally reach the rounded, 5756-foot summit of Villager Peak. The views are pseudoaerial all around the compass. A clear, calm, moonless night spent here is an unforgettable experience. Despite the glow in the horizon of cities from Los Angeles to Mexicali, the stars above shine fiercely in a charcoal sky. At dawn, the silvery surface of the Salton Sea mirrors the red glow spreading across the east horizon.

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Villager Peak, Santa Rosa Mountains
Villager Peak, Santa Rosa Mountains

Spotted with weather-beaten piñon pines, Villager Peak in the southern Santa Rosa Mountains rises nearly a mile above the lowlands of Anza-Borrego Desert. Serious “peak baggers” from around the state are drawn to its summit, which due to its high elevation, steadfastly resists any easy approach.

Some people take a full two days to backpack the waterless 13-mile round trip route described here; others like to zip up and down in a single day. As the days grow ever cooler but shorter this season, the latter option only works safely for those who are in top physical shape and who are willing to hit the trail by dawn’s first light. Others are invited to try just the first part of the trek. Simply climb upward until you are “half-tired” and save the other half of your strength for the trip back down. The higher you go, the more rewarding the view. Don’t forget to take along plenty of drinking water.

Park in the north-side turnout at mile 31.8 on Borrego–Salton Seaway, 13 miles northeast of Borrego-Springs. On foot, proceed north toward the east end of a long, sandy ridge 0.5 miles away. North of the ridge, flash floods spilling out of the Santa Rosa Mountains have cut a series of braided washes in a swath about 0.6 miles wide. A faint path marked by small piles of stones takes you over this dissected terrain to the base of the long, ramp-like ridge that trends north. The route soon levels off to a steady gradient averaging about 1000 feet of elevation per mile. Stay on the highest part of the ridge to remain on route, which is at times marked by a rough, informal trail.

Glistening specimens of barrel cactus, hedgehog cactus, and silver, golden, and teddy-bear cholla cactus grace the slopes below 3000 feet elevation. A spiny gauntlet of agave thorns at 3000 feet to 4000 feet may hinder your progress a bit. At 4100 feet (4.3 miles), you walk along the brink of a spectacular drop-off overlooking Clark Valley.

Thereafter, the ridgeline you’re following becomes quite jagged. Piñon juniper and nolina — typical “high desert” vegetation — appear. At 6.5 miles, you finally reach the rounded, 5756-foot summit of Villager Peak. The views are pseudoaerial all around the compass. A clear, calm, moonless night spent here is an unforgettable experience. Despite the glow in the horizon of cities from Los Angeles to Mexicali, the stars above shine fiercely in a charcoal sky. At dawn, the silvery surface of the Salton Sea mirrors the red glow spreading across the east horizon.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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