Quantcast
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

Discover spectacular desert views, sandstone sculptures, and marine fossils in the Domelands of the Coyote Mountains near Ocotillo.

Wind-cave aperture, the Domelands
Wind-cave aperture, the Domelands

Caught in the grip of faults and folds, the corrugated landscape of the Domelands exposes millions of years of geologic history. This is a good place to view marine fossils aplenty, but you can't collect samples. The area lies in the Coyote Mountains Wilderness, which protects all natural resources -- be they animal, vegetable, or paleontological.

Less than two hours' driving takes you there. Head east on Interstate 8 to Ocotillo, and then northwest on County Highway S-2 for 7.1 miles to the unmarked turnoff, which is a dirt road heading northeast (if you reach the San Diego-Imperial County line, you've gone 1.1 miles too far). Drive 2.0 miles on the somewhat bumpy dirt road to the foot of some yellowish clay hills, where a signboard announces your arrival at the wilderness boundary.

On foot, go uphill (north) on the eroded remnants of a jeep road. At 0.5 mile you pass over a small summit; at 0.8 mile, the remnant road veers right (east) up a sandy wash. At about 1.3 miles you'll see footprints veering left out of the wash and onto a terrace just north of the wash, where again you follow the remnant road. By 1.6 miles you reach the foot of a rocky slope, and your choices for further exploration include at least these two options:

Option 1: Follow a narrow footpath cut obliquely upward along the rocky slope and discover the wonderland of cavernous sandstone domes and outcrops less than a half-mile to the east. One cavelike feature has a sandy floor suitable for a siesta. Enjoy the view over the convoluted Carrizo Badlands to the north. This is surely one of the finest views our local desert has to offer.

Option 2: Veer south and work your way over a series of sharp little ravines 0.2 mile to the rim of a steep basin draining east. Descend from there into what soon becomes a deep cleft. You pass yellow and gray clay deposits, desert-varnished granitic boulders, and sandstone walls tinted various shades of tan and orange. At one point, huge chunks of sandstone have fallen from the walls, creating a "fat-man's misery" situation. Farther down the ravine, the walls separate somewhat, and you discover (among many others wonders) so-called "fossil reefs" -- marine sedimentary rock containing nearly as much fossilized shell material as cemented-together sand and silt. The shellfish represented by these fossils thrived in the warm waters of the ancestral Sea of Cortez, which covered this area during certain intervals over the past several million years.

North of the spectacular Domelands area, the Coyote Mountains Wilderness consists of a relatively unexplored maze of clay hills, or "mud hills," many of them shot through with narrow, sinuous mud caves. Days could be spent wandering here, either by the will of intrepid and informed travelers or lost souls endlessly wandering in search of a way out.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Olive Street pocket park weathers appeal by adjacent home owner

Will AIDS memorial draw thousands?
Wind-cave aperture, the Domelands
Wind-cave aperture, the Domelands

Caught in the grip of faults and folds, the corrugated landscape of the Domelands exposes millions of years of geologic history. This is a good place to view marine fossils aplenty, but you can't collect samples. The area lies in the Coyote Mountains Wilderness, which protects all natural resources -- be they animal, vegetable, or paleontological.

Less than two hours' driving takes you there. Head east on Interstate 8 to Ocotillo, and then northwest on County Highway S-2 for 7.1 miles to the unmarked turnoff, which is a dirt road heading northeast (if you reach the San Diego-Imperial County line, you've gone 1.1 miles too far). Drive 2.0 miles on the somewhat bumpy dirt road to the foot of some yellowish clay hills, where a signboard announces your arrival at the wilderness boundary.

On foot, go uphill (north) on the eroded remnants of a jeep road. At 0.5 mile you pass over a small summit; at 0.8 mile, the remnant road veers right (east) up a sandy wash. At about 1.3 miles you'll see footprints veering left out of the wash and onto a terrace just north of the wash, where again you follow the remnant road. By 1.6 miles you reach the foot of a rocky slope, and your choices for further exploration include at least these two options:

Option 1: Follow a narrow footpath cut obliquely upward along the rocky slope and discover the wonderland of cavernous sandstone domes and outcrops less than a half-mile to the east. One cavelike feature has a sandy floor suitable for a siesta. Enjoy the view over the convoluted Carrizo Badlands to the north. This is surely one of the finest views our local desert has to offer.

Option 2: Veer south and work your way over a series of sharp little ravines 0.2 mile to the rim of a steep basin draining east. Descend from there into what soon becomes a deep cleft. You pass yellow and gray clay deposits, desert-varnished granitic boulders, and sandstone walls tinted various shades of tan and orange. At one point, huge chunks of sandstone have fallen from the walls, creating a "fat-man's misery" situation. Farther down the ravine, the walls separate somewhat, and you discover (among many others wonders) so-called "fossil reefs" -- marine sedimentary rock containing nearly as much fossilized shell material as cemented-together sand and silt. The shellfish represented by these fossils thrived in the warm waters of the ancestral Sea of Cortez, which covered this area during certain intervals over the past several million years.

North of the spectacular Domelands area, the Coyote Mountains Wilderness consists of a relatively unexplored maze of clay hills, or "mud hills," many of them shot through with narrow, sinuous mud caves. Days could be spent wandering here, either by the will of intrepid and informed travelers or lost souls endlessly wandering in search of a way out.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Will San Diego survive a fall without classical music?

Just as symphony, Mainly Mozart, La Jolla Music Society were getting stronger
Next Article

Vista squeezes pot clinics with 4375 percent fee rise

While Oceanside ponders the storefronts
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
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
Close