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

Explore the wilds of Cougar Canyon, tucked into a remote, northern corner of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Anza-Borrego's Cougar Canyon is a place where new worlds open up at every turn. There are more gorgeous sights to see along a half-mile of this canyon than in a full day's hiking in most other parts of our local desert. November is the first and April is the last decent month of the year for avoiding the area's furnace-like heat.

For about 15 years now, the approach by road to Cougar Canyon and neighboring Sheep Canyon has been getting increasingly difficult. A rough, steep section of the Coyote Canyon road leading in has become ever more eroded and rocky, so that even the toughest of high-clearance, 4-wheel-drive vehicles have trouble negotiating it. Most Cougar-bound hikers choose to park their cars in Coyote Canyon, below Lower Willows. This adds several miles of round-trip walking just to reach Cougar's mouth, and it argues for the benefit of turning the hike into a weekend backpack trip, overnighting at either Sheep Canyon Primitive Camp or at the mouth of Cougar Canyon. Whatever your plans, bring along all the water you'll need. Or carry a liter or two for the trip in and filter (or otherwise purify) the stream water in the canyon, which is abundant from the first autumn rains until at least April. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park rangers (760-767-5311) can help with planning.

To get to the trailhead, drive north from the end of the paved DiGiorgio Road in Borrego Springs onto the unpaved, 4-wheel-drive road up along the east side of Coyote Canyon. After 5.6 miles and two or three wet (after winter rains at least) crossings of Coyote Creek, you reach a point, below Lower Willows, where the road turns sharply left to climb a steep ravine. Limited parking space can be found just below the steep grade.

On foot, follow the boulder-strewn road west over a pass and across the spacious Collins Valley. Out on the valley floor, a parallel horse/hiker's trail on the left provides a slight short-cut, though it runs through soft sand. After 3.6 miles, Sheep Canyon Primitive Camp lies ahead and a spur road for parking lies on the left (south). Follow a well-traveled trail for 0.7 mile past the end of the spur road to the wide mouth of Cougar Canyon. Less distinct paths lead you into and up the narrowing canyon, mostly to the right of the stream, for the next several hundred yards. Ahead (as far as your scrambling skills will carry you) you'll discover limpid pools, silvery waterfalls, feathery cascades of spray, a pocket palm grove, and on one rock a fading psychedelic "eye" -- circa 1970 rock art. Motivated climbers working their way up the canyon can bypass a waterfall at 2300-feet elevation by climbing high on the ridge to the left (south) side of the canyon.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

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

Previous article

Mainly Mozart does drive-up at Del Mar Fairgrounds

Fiddle music, Billy Joel, and Purcell trumpet sonata
Next Article

Local teacher defends his profession

Pageantry of the classroom has been replaced by Zoom tiles

Anza-Borrego's Cougar Canyon is a place where new worlds open up at every turn. There are more gorgeous sights to see along a half-mile of this canyon than in a full day's hiking in most other parts of our local desert. November is the first and April is the last decent month of the year for avoiding the area's furnace-like heat.

For about 15 years now, the approach by road to Cougar Canyon and neighboring Sheep Canyon has been getting increasingly difficult. A rough, steep section of the Coyote Canyon road leading in has become ever more eroded and rocky, so that even the toughest of high-clearance, 4-wheel-drive vehicles have trouble negotiating it. Most Cougar-bound hikers choose to park their cars in Coyote Canyon, below Lower Willows. This adds several miles of round-trip walking just to reach Cougar's mouth, and it argues for the benefit of turning the hike into a weekend backpack trip, overnighting at either Sheep Canyon Primitive Camp or at the mouth of Cougar Canyon. Whatever your plans, bring along all the water you'll need. Or carry a liter or two for the trip in and filter (or otherwise purify) the stream water in the canyon, which is abundant from the first autumn rains until at least April. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park rangers (760-767-5311) can help with planning.

To get to the trailhead, drive north from the end of the paved DiGiorgio Road in Borrego Springs onto the unpaved, 4-wheel-drive road up along the east side of Coyote Canyon. After 5.6 miles and two or three wet (after winter rains at least) crossings of Coyote Creek, you reach a point, below Lower Willows, where the road turns sharply left to climb a steep ravine. Limited parking space can be found just below the steep grade.

On foot, follow the boulder-strewn road west over a pass and across the spacious Collins Valley. Out on the valley floor, a parallel horse/hiker's trail on the left provides a slight short-cut, though it runs through soft sand. After 3.6 miles, Sheep Canyon Primitive Camp lies ahead and a spur road for parking lies on the left (south). Follow a well-traveled trail for 0.7 mile past the end of the spur road to the wide mouth of Cougar Canyon. Less distinct paths lead you into and up the narrowing canyon, mostly to the right of the stream, for the next several hundred yards. Ahead (as far as your scrambling skills will carry you) you'll discover limpid pools, silvery waterfalls, feathery cascades of spray, a pocket palm grove, and on one rock a fading psychedelic "eye" -- circa 1970 rock art. Motivated climbers working their way up the canyon can bypass a waterfall at 2300-feet elevation by climbing high on the ridge to the left (south) side of the canyon.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

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

BrainLeap helps kids pay attention with The Attention Arcade

“Eye movement is tied to attention”
Next Article

Chalk talk for Chief David Nisleit

Protestors call for the resignation of Nisleit and the officers involved in the July 9 shooting of Richard Price
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 — 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