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Bill Kenyon Overlook Trail

Get an aerial view of Anza-Borrego’s impressive Mescal Bajada

Bill Kenyon Overlook Trail with Pinyon Mountains and Mescal Bajada in background
Bill Kenyon Overlook Trail with Pinyon Mountains and Mescal Bajada in background

To get the full impact of the view from the top of the overlook of the Bill Kenyon Trail, do this hike during morning hours or later afternoon when shadows are most prominent on the Pinyon Mountains and the overlapping skirts of the alluvial fans flowing down from the mountainsides. The overlook offers a vast view of the surrounding area through which San Felipe Wash passes between Sentenac Canyon and Borrego Mountain. It is an easy loop hike with a variety of plants and interesting granitic outcrops. The trail is well marked with only one very short unmarked turnoff that leads to the viewpoint. This is an ideal trail for small children.

The viewpoint has a monument to William L. Kenyon, a former supervisor for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that set up ranger patrol districts that exist to this day. There is also an interpretive sign for the view of Mescal Bajada seen to the south on the opposite side of S-78. Mescal is another name for the agave, or century plant, that is abundant on the depositional material that flows down from the Pinyon Mountains. “Bajar” in Spanish means to go down or descend.

Because this is a loop hike, cars can be parked either at the pull-out or at the Yaqui Pass Primitive Camp area. A trail sign is at both locations. Dogs are not allowed on the trail. The elevation of the pass is 1750 feet with small variance in elevation throughout the gentle undulating trail over rocky slopes and down small gullies.

The granitic outcrops are dark with a desert varnish or patina covering. The reddish brown to black coating common in arid areas is thought to be caused by manganese-oxidizing microbes. Desert varnish forms on physically stabilized rock surfaces.

The elevation is high enough that jojoba or goat nut is found along the trail. The nutty fruit of this dioecious, evergreen shrub contains oil that is harvested commercially as a substitute for sperm oil. It is used in shampoos and to lubricate machinery. Look for a small rounded shrub with thick leathery leaves. The nuts are only on the female plants.

Plants seen on this hike are typical of desert scrub found on rocky slopes that include creosote, burro bush, brittle bush, staghorn and teddy bear cholla, beavertail, barrel cactus, agave, lavender, krameria, and indigo.

Bill Kenyon Overlook Trail map

Distance from downtown San Diego: 81 miles. Allow 2 hours. Drive to Julian via I-8 and S-79 or I-8 to S-67 and S-78. From Julian, go east on S-78 for 18 miles to S-3, the Yaqui Pass road. Turn north (left) on S-3 and drive 2 miles to the top of Yaqui Pass and park at the pullout about 60 yards from Mile Marker 2 on S-3 next to the San Diego County call box S3-18. Parking also available on the north side of the Mile Marker in the primitive camp area. No facilities.

Hiking length: 1.2 miles round trip.

Difficulty: Easy. Good for children.

Canyoneers are San Diego Natural History Museum volunteers trained to lead interpretive nature walks that teach appreciation for the great outdoors. For a schedule of free public hikes:

http://www.sdnhm.org/education/naturalists-of-all-ages/canyoneer-hikes/

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Bill Kenyon Overlook Trail with Pinyon Mountains and Mescal Bajada in background
Bill Kenyon Overlook Trail with Pinyon Mountains and Mescal Bajada in background

To get the full impact of the view from the top of the overlook of the Bill Kenyon Trail, do this hike during morning hours or later afternoon when shadows are most prominent on the Pinyon Mountains and the overlapping skirts of the alluvial fans flowing down from the mountainsides. The overlook offers a vast view of the surrounding area through which San Felipe Wash passes between Sentenac Canyon and Borrego Mountain. It is an easy loop hike with a variety of plants and interesting granitic outcrops. The trail is well marked with only one very short unmarked turnoff that leads to the viewpoint. This is an ideal trail for small children.

The viewpoint has a monument to William L. Kenyon, a former supervisor for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that set up ranger patrol districts that exist to this day. There is also an interpretive sign for the view of Mescal Bajada seen to the south on the opposite side of S-78. Mescal is another name for the agave, or century plant, that is abundant on the depositional material that flows down from the Pinyon Mountains. “Bajar” in Spanish means to go down or descend.

Because this is a loop hike, cars can be parked either at the pull-out or at the Yaqui Pass Primitive Camp area. A trail sign is at both locations. Dogs are not allowed on the trail. The elevation of the pass is 1750 feet with small variance in elevation throughout the gentle undulating trail over rocky slopes and down small gullies.

The granitic outcrops are dark with a desert varnish or patina covering. The reddish brown to black coating common in arid areas is thought to be caused by manganese-oxidizing microbes. Desert varnish forms on physically stabilized rock surfaces.

The elevation is high enough that jojoba or goat nut is found along the trail. The nutty fruit of this dioecious, evergreen shrub contains oil that is harvested commercially as a substitute for sperm oil. It is used in shampoos and to lubricate machinery. Look for a small rounded shrub with thick leathery leaves. The nuts are only on the female plants.

Plants seen on this hike are typical of desert scrub found on rocky slopes that include creosote, burro bush, brittle bush, staghorn and teddy bear cholla, beavertail, barrel cactus, agave, lavender, krameria, and indigo.

Bill Kenyon Overlook Trail map

Distance from downtown San Diego: 81 miles. Allow 2 hours. Drive to Julian via I-8 and S-79 or I-8 to S-67 and S-78. From Julian, go east on S-78 for 18 miles to S-3, the Yaqui Pass road. Turn north (left) on S-3 and drive 2 miles to the top of Yaqui Pass and park at the pullout about 60 yards from Mile Marker 2 on S-3 next to the San Diego County call box S3-18. Parking also available on the north side of the Mile Marker in the primitive camp area. No facilities.

Hiking length: 1.2 miles round trip.

Difficulty: Easy. Good for children.

Canyoneers are San Diego Natural History Museum volunteers trained to lead interpretive nature walks that teach appreciation for the great outdoors. For a schedule of free public hikes:

http://www.sdnhm.org/education/naturalists-of-all-ages/canyoneer-hikes/

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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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