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: