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Panoramic views prevail atop Pinyon Ridge, overlooking Borrego Springs and much of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Pinyon Ridge stands just high enough on the Anza-Borrego desert rim -- and therefore gets just enough rain -- to support a sparse growth of pinyon-pine trees. Hiking along this ridge, you get expansive views stretching to the Salton Sea and beyond, framed by picturesque foregrounds of eroded boulders and gnarled pinyons.

Some two decades ago the Wilson Trail, an old jeep road along the crest of the Pinyon Ridge, was closed to motorized travel. That is the route you hike on today -- or at least its remnants, which are of trail width in some places. With an average elevation exceeding 4000 feet, the hike features tolerable temperatures on most days through mid May. Bring plenty of drinking water with you.

To reach the trailhead, turn west on the unpaved Old Culp Valley Road from mile 10.4 on Montezuma Highway (east of Ranchita and west of Borrego Springs). The road becomes progressively more uneven and rutted as you climb, so you may want to stop short of the trailhead if the going gets too rough for your vehicle. At 1.1 miles from Montezuma Highway, a turnout near Cottonwood Spring (easily identified by tall cottonwoods) offers the last easy place to turn around and park if you decide to drive no farther. Whether you decide to drive or walk at this point, go another 1.9 miles to the intersection of the Wilson Trail, on the left. (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park requires that you have a parking permit for day use, which costs $5 daily or $50 annually. For information, call the park at 760-767-4205 or 760-767-5311.)

Wilson Trail's eroded track meanders south and east over and around a series of rocky knolls. Along the way you'll see what biologists call transition-zone vegetation: chamise, sage, mountain mahogany, scrub oak, sugar bush, manzanita, Mojave yucca, buckhorn cholla cactus, juniper, and pinyon pine, to name a few. This mix of high desert and chaparral vegetation exists along a narrow belt between the mountains and the desert floor.

After 4 miles you'll pass north of "Wilson" peak, elevation 4573 feet, the high point on the ridge. This is a good spot for a panoramic view. Scramble up over the rocks, discover a surveyor's benchmark, and take a look around. Palomar Observatory's dome gleams on the dark Palomar ridge to the west. The broad sweep of the Santa Rosa Mountains in the northeast serves as a backdrop for Borrego Valley and Coyote Mountain. Far to the east are the Salton Sea and the Chocolate Mountains of Imperial County. The Vallecito Mountains rise to the southeast; and the Laguna and Cuyamaca Mountains stand to the south and southwest.

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Pinyon Ridge stands just high enough on the Anza-Borrego desert rim -- and therefore gets just enough rain -- to support a sparse growth of pinyon-pine trees. Hiking along this ridge, you get expansive views stretching to the Salton Sea and beyond, framed by picturesque foregrounds of eroded boulders and gnarled pinyons.

Some two decades ago the Wilson Trail, an old jeep road along the crest of the Pinyon Ridge, was closed to motorized travel. That is the route you hike on today -- or at least its remnants, which are of trail width in some places. With an average elevation exceeding 4000 feet, the hike features tolerable temperatures on most days through mid May. Bring plenty of drinking water with you.

To reach the trailhead, turn west on the unpaved Old Culp Valley Road from mile 10.4 on Montezuma Highway (east of Ranchita and west of Borrego Springs). The road becomes progressively more uneven and rutted as you climb, so you may want to stop short of the trailhead if the going gets too rough for your vehicle. At 1.1 miles from Montezuma Highway, a turnout near Cottonwood Spring (easily identified by tall cottonwoods) offers the last easy place to turn around and park if you decide to drive no farther. Whether you decide to drive or walk at this point, go another 1.9 miles to the intersection of the Wilson Trail, on the left. (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park requires that you have a parking permit for day use, which costs $5 daily or $50 annually. For information, call the park at 760-767-4205 or 760-767-5311.)

Wilson Trail's eroded track meanders south and east over and around a series of rocky knolls. Along the way you'll see what biologists call transition-zone vegetation: chamise, sage, mountain mahogany, scrub oak, sugar bush, manzanita, Mojave yucca, buckhorn cholla cactus, juniper, and pinyon pine, to name a few. This mix of high desert and chaparral vegetation exists along a narrow belt between the mountains and the desert floor.

After 4 miles you'll pass north of "Wilson" peak, elevation 4573 feet, the high point on the ridge. This is a good spot for a panoramic view. Scramble up over the rocks, discover a surveyor's benchmark, and take a look around. Palomar Observatory's dome gleams on the dark Palomar ridge to the west. The broad sweep of the Santa Rosa Mountains in the northeast serves as a backdrop for Borrego Valley and Coyote Mountain. Far to the east are the Salton Sea and the Chocolate Mountains of Imperial County. The Vallecito Mountains rise to the southeast; and the Laguna and Cuyamaca Mountains stand to the south and southwest.

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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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