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

Harper Canyon

A long and leisurely ramble up the sinuous course of Harper Canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park leads hikers to Harper Flat, a four-square-mile valley hidden from casual view by rock-strewn ridges and peaks. The reward for the trek, which takes about three hours for each direction, is the sense of splendid isolation you get all along the way and at the destination itself. Note that there’s no water available on the route, and navigational skills may be required (using map and compass, and/or GPS equipment).

To get to the starting point, first drive out to the central part of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, east of Julian on Highway 78. At mile 87.1 on Highway 78 (about 28 miles east of Julian), turn south onto the dirt road leading to Harper Canyon and the “Cactus Garden.” Proceed 1.6 miles, turn right on Kane Springs Road, and drive 0.1 mile west to the Harper Canyon access road that leads south toward Harper Canyon’s mouth. Unless you have a sturdy off-road vehicle, Kane Spring Road is the spot to park your car and start hiking on that road.

In the first mile south of Kane Springs Road, you skirt the Cactus Garden, an area where most common species of cactus in the Anza-Borrego Desert area are represented — especially the barrel cactus. Some barrel specimens near the road are seven feet tall.

Beyond the road end, about two miles in, the walls of Harper Canyon narrow, then widen again as tributary canyons split off on both sides. A more descriptive name for Harper Canyon would be “Ironwood Canyon.” Hundreds of slow-growing ironwood trees line the sandy canyon floor for three miles, providing welcome, if somewhat thin, shade during the middle of the day. Want to confirm that these trees have an iron-like aspect? Just try knocking on their wood.

Desert lavender also grows abundantly in Harper Canyon. Starting after the first rains in December or January, the shrub’s tiny purple blossoms exude an ineffable, perfumelike aroma.

At about 3.5 miles, the canyon narrows, and you climb over the bases of some sharply eroded fins of granitic rock that soar along the canyon wall. Smoke trees and desert-willow shrubs begin to appear. At 4.5 miles (and after nearly 1500 feet of elevation gain) you reach the upper end of Harper Canyon, and discover the broad expanse of Harper Flat. Curiously, Harper Canyon drains most, but not all of Harper Flat, a clear indication of ongoing tectonic activity in the region.

If you are backpacking and plan to make camp in Harper Flat, there are several options for further exploration or travel at your leisure. Peak 2628 lies directly to the north (scramble up 400 vertical feet), offering superb views of both Harper Flat and landmarks to the north, including the Santa Rosa Mountains and the Salton Sea. The whole of Harper Flat is rich in archaeological evidence of Indian use, and can be easily investigated on foot.

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.

Harper Canyon
After a long canyon trek, discover one of Anza-Borrego’s most spacious valleys.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 90 miles
Hiking length: 9.0 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

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

Previous article

Moved to tears by Dave’s Hot Chicken

Nashville hot chicken ranges from no spice, to hot, to the indemnified “reaper”
Next Article

Kahlee310’s snitch rapper reactions

“He’d literally do anything for the money or fame”

A long and leisurely ramble up the sinuous course of Harper Canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park leads hikers to Harper Flat, a four-square-mile valley hidden from casual view by rock-strewn ridges and peaks. The reward for the trek, which takes about three hours for each direction, is the sense of splendid isolation you get all along the way and at the destination itself. Note that there’s no water available on the route, and navigational skills may be required (using map and compass, and/or GPS equipment).

To get to the starting point, first drive out to the central part of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, east of Julian on Highway 78. At mile 87.1 on Highway 78 (about 28 miles east of Julian), turn south onto the dirt road leading to Harper Canyon and the “Cactus Garden.” Proceed 1.6 miles, turn right on Kane Springs Road, and drive 0.1 mile west to the Harper Canyon access road that leads south toward Harper Canyon’s mouth. Unless you have a sturdy off-road vehicle, Kane Spring Road is the spot to park your car and start hiking on that road.

In the first mile south of Kane Springs Road, you skirt the Cactus Garden, an area where most common species of cactus in the Anza-Borrego Desert area are represented — especially the barrel cactus. Some barrel specimens near the road are seven feet tall.

Beyond the road end, about two miles in, the walls of Harper Canyon narrow, then widen again as tributary canyons split off on both sides. A more descriptive name for Harper Canyon would be “Ironwood Canyon.” Hundreds of slow-growing ironwood trees line the sandy canyon floor for three miles, providing welcome, if somewhat thin, shade during the middle of the day. Want to confirm that these trees have an iron-like aspect? Just try knocking on their wood.

Desert lavender also grows abundantly in Harper Canyon. Starting after the first rains in December or January, the shrub’s tiny purple blossoms exude an ineffable, perfumelike aroma.

At about 3.5 miles, the canyon narrows, and you climb over the bases of some sharply eroded fins of granitic rock that soar along the canyon wall. Smoke trees and desert-willow shrubs begin to appear. At 4.5 miles (and after nearly 1500 feet of elevation gain) you reach the upper end of Harper Canyon, and discover the broad expanse of Harper Flat. Curiously, Harper Canyon drains most, but not all of Harper Flat, a clear indication of ongoing tectonic activity in the region.

If you are backpacking and plan to make camp in Harper Flat, there are several options for further exploration or travel at your leisure. Peak 2628 lies directly to the north (scramble up 400 vertical feet), offering superb views of both Harper Flat and landmarks to the north, including the Santa Rosa Mountains and the Salton Sea. The whole of Harper Flat is rich in archaeological evidence of Indian use, and can be easily investigated on foot.

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.

Harper Canyon
After a long canyon trek, discover one of Anza-Borrego’s most spacious valleys.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 90 miles
Hiking length: 9.0 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

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

“I Come From the Andromeda Galaxy”

Alfred Howard, James Brady, Me, Myself and Eye, Orchid Mantis, Puttin’ on the Fritz
Next Article

Is Midway the new Soccer City?

Fresh chapter unfolds in San Diego's well-lobbied Sports Arena muddle
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