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

Inner Pasture view via Moonlight Canyon

The Sawtooth Mountains loom above the Anza Borrego Desert’s Inner Pasture.
The Sawtooth Mountains loom above the Anza Borrego Desert’s Inner Pasture.

The Inner Pasture is a remarkable geographic feature of the Anza-Borrego Desert. It is a large, isolated, almost flat plane that appears to be completely surrounded by mountains. The jagged Sawtooth Mountains rise steeply on its southern and western boundary while the Tierra Blanca Mountains rise up sharply on its northern and eastern flanks. In the recent past cattle ranchers used it as a secure place to graze their cattle, but prior to that era it was home, perhaps a thousand years, to a band of Kumeyaay. During your visit to this remote location you can enjoy a silence and solitude you are unlikely to find in San Diego. Keep in mind that generations of people once lived here. Evidence of their presence is easily found in the sands and rocks of the Inner Pasture. All artifacts are protected by law — enjoy and leave them where they are found. There is also a chance to see bighorn sheep and abundant wildflowers in a wet year.

Moonlight Canyon is in the Tierra Blanca Mountains near Agua Caliente County Park. The canyon runs roughly east and west. The hike begins at the northern end of the Moonlight Canyon Loop Trail, next to campsite 140. The well-marked and heavily traveled loop trail takes you up an unnamed canyon to a saddle, then down a Moonlight Canyon tributary before it enters the named canyon. The loop trail continues to the east down the canyon, eventually returning to the campground.

To get to the Inner Pasture you need to go right at the saddle of the loop trail, in a westerly direction where a large sign is posted stating “DO NOT ENTER.” The sign warns of a 30-foot dry fall a short distance up the canyon that is not climbable and very dangerous for the average boulder hopper. Don’t try it! Instead, if you have gotten this far, go back the way you came to a small narrow canyon on your left. Here you will see a small red flag and ducks (man-made stack of stones) marking a little-used trail that leads up and over the ridge dividing this canyon from Moonlight Canyon, reaching Moonlight Canyon at a point above the unclimbable dry falls.

Now that you have been warned, you can avoid this problem by taking a somewhat easier, improvised trail that leads off to the right as you start to descend from the saddle, 0.8 mile into the hike. Again follow the ducks and keep a close eye on the faint trail, and it will also lead you to Moonlight Canyon further up from the dry falls barrier. From here the trail is easily followed, though it involves periodic boulder hopping and a few dry falls to climb, but also with long stretches of easy walking through sand. At about 2.5 miles into the hike you suddenly come to saddle overlooking the Inner Pasture and the end of Moonlight Canyon. This is a good place for lunch and perhaps a rest while enjoying the view. Return the way you came.

Distance from downtown San Diego: 115 miles via I-8 and Ocotillo; 96 miles via I-8 and SR-79; 98 miles via I-15 and SR-78. Allow about 2 hours driving time. Fastest route is I-8 to Ocotillo and then north 27 miles on SR-2 to Agua Caliente County Park. Full facilities including camping, hot springs, and store. For more information on the park visit: sdparks.org. Fee for day use — pay at the ranger station. The trailhead is next to campsite 140, across from the shuffleboard court where day use parking is available. This is also the trailhead for the Moonlight Canyon Loop Trail.

Hiking length: 5 miles out and back.

Difficulty: moderately strenuous. Elevation gain/loss 840 feet. Must carry drinking water. Trekking poles recommended. Ticks, cactus spines, heat, and rattlesnakes are the main hazards.

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

Previous article

Two poems by Julia Wehner

A reminder of how richly good it is to feel, and to live
The Sawtooth Mountains loom above the Anza Borrego Desert’s Inner Pasture.
The Sawtooth Mountains loom above the Anza Borrego Desert’s Inner Pasture.

The Inner Pasture is a remarkable geographic feature of the Anza-Borrego Desert. It is a large, isolated, almost flat plane that appears to be completely surrounded by mountains. The jagged Sawtooth Mountains rise steeply on its southern and western boundary while the Tierra Blanca Mountains rise up sharply on its northern and eastern flanks. In the recent past cattle ranchers used it as a secure place to graze their cattle, but prior to that era it was home, perhaps a thousand years, to a band of Kumeyaay. During your visit to this remote location you can enjoy a silence and solitude you are unlikely to find in San Diego. Keep in mind that generations of people once lived here. Evidence of their presence is easily found in the sands and rocks of the Inner Pasture. All artifacts are protected by law — enjoy and leave them where they are found. There is also a chance to see bighorn sheep and abundant wildflowers in a wet year.

Moonlight Canyon is in the Tierra Blanca Mountains near Agua Caliente County Park. The canyon runs roughly east and west. The hike begins at the northern end of the Moonlight Canyon Loop Trail, next to campsite 140. The well-marked and heavily traveled loop trail takes you up an unnamed canyon to a saddle, then down a Moonlight Canyon tributary before it enters the named canyon. The loop trail continues to the east down the canyon, eventually returning to the campground.

To get to the Inner Pasture you need to go right at the saddle of the loop trail, in a westerly direction where a large sign is posted stating “DO NOT ENTER.” The sign warns of a 30-foot dry fall a short distance up the canyon that is not climbable and very dangerous for the average boulder hopper. Don’t try it! Instead, if you have gotten this far, go back the way you came to a small narrow canyon on your left. Here you will see a small red flag and ducks (man-made stack of stones) marking a little-used trail that leads up and over the ridge dividing this canyon from Moonlight Canyon, reaching Moonlight Canyon at a point above the unclimbable dry falls.

Now that you have been warned, you can avoid this problem by taking a somewhat easier, improvised trail that leads off to the right as you start to descend from the saddle, 0.8 mile into the hike. Again follow the ducks and keep a close eye on the faint trail, and it will also lead you to Moonlight Canyon further up from the dry falls barrier. From here the trail is easily followed, though it involves periodic boulder hopping and a few dry falls to climb, but also with long stretches of easy walking through sand. At about 2.5 miles into the hike you suddenly come to saddle overlooking the Inner Pasture and the end of Moonlight Canyon. This is a good place for lunch and perhaps a rest while enjoying the view. Return the way you came.

Distance from downtown San Diego: 115 miles via I-8 and Ocotillo; 96 miles via I-8 and SR-79; 98 miles via I-15 and SR-78. Allow about 2 hours driving time. Fastest route is I-8 to Ocotillo and then north 27 miles on SR-2 to Agua Caliente County Park. Full facilities including camping, hot springs, and store. For more information on the park visit: sdparks.org. Fee for day use — pay at the ranger station. The trailhead is next to campsite 140, across from the shuffleboard court where day use parking is available. This is also the trailhead for the Moonlight Canyon Loop Trail.

Hiking length: 5 miles out and back.

Difficulty: moderately strenuous. Elevation gain/loss 840 feet. Must carry drinking water. Trekking poles recommended. Ticks, cactus spines, heat, and rattlesnakes are the main hazards.

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

Luna Bay Booch's San Diego origin story

Woman owned hard kombucha brand brewed elsewhere, now sold locally
Comments
4
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
May 29, 2018
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
July 6, 2018
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
July 11, 2018
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
July 11, 2018

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