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

Schist and intrusions in Cool Canyon

The canyon walls show displacement in metamorphic rock.
The canyon walls show displacement in metamorphic rock.

Cool Canyon is unlikely to be cool most of the year as far as the daytime temperature is concerned, but it is definitely cool in the colloquial sense. Hike up this east-west–oriented canyon and observe the change from the Sonoran desert scrub vegetation of Earthquake Valley to the foothill chaparral transition zone where you will find junipers and manzanita in an otherwise arid desert setting. The geology is fascinating, with large exposed expanses of colorful metamorphic schist with numerous intrusions of igneous granite and quartz.

There are no signs other than warnings that dogs and horses are not allowed, and there is no official trail. From the end of the road, start walking up the sandy Cool Canyon wash. The vegetation near the start of the hike includes Mojave yucca, burrobush, cheesebush, creosote bush, ocotillo, and catclaw. Sunflower-like plants commonly in flower here include brittlebush and Parish’s goldeneye, and while in season, there may also be flowering desert apricot and a variety of colorful flowering cacti, including Gander’s cholla, beavertail cactus, hedgehog cactus, and California barrel cactus. Blooming wildflowers might include apricot mallow, tidytips, sweetbush, chia, and phacelia, along with many others. The first mile is easy walking in soft sand with occasional small dry falls. The canyon walls include frequent outcroppings of colorful metamorphic Julian schist, a rock formation that held the gold that attracted miners to the Julian area in the 19th Century.

There is a more formidable barrier about one mile from the trailhead where a series of somewhat larger dry falls are encountered. If concerned, this might be a good place to turn back. The dry waterfalls can be surmounted without climbing skills, but a little bit of care is necessary. The canyon branches beyond these obstacles. Take the canyon to the right that heads in a westerly direction. Here the sandy walk continues with only a modest amount of boulder-hopping. On your left is a beautiful old California juniper with a gnarled trunk and a big berry manzanita growing next to it. Junipers are common here, as is agave, but manzanita is relatively rare.

At a little over 1.5 miles from the start of the hike, there will be thick brush in the canyon bottom. One option is to navigate up onto the ridge on the right and continue to the point where Earthquake Valley can be viewed. A more adventurous alternative would be to hike to the top of Granite Mountain from here, but that is beyond the scope of this trip. This also may be the best place to turn around and head back.

  • Distance from downtown San Diego: 78.5 miles. Allow 1.5 hours (Earthquake/Shelter Valley). From SR-163N, merge onto I-8 E. Exit on SR-79N/Japatul Valley Rd. (Descanso), turning left, toward Julian, at the end of the ramp. After just under 3 miles, turn left to follow SR-79N to SR-78. Turn right/east on SR-78, away from Julian, and drive to Scissors Crossing, a distance of about 11 miles. Turn right on SR-2 and drive about 5 miles to an unsigned dirt road on the right/west, 1 mile past Stagecoach Trails RV Park. The Cool Canyon access road is a narrow and unimproved, mostly sandy road with a few rocks, but passenger cars should have no difficulty. Park at the end of the road, 1.3 miles from SR-2. There are no facilities or water.
  • Hiking length: 3 miles out and back.
  • Difficulty: Easy. Elevation gain/loss about 100 feet. Hiking is in a sandy canyon bottom with a few easy scrambles up dry waterfalls. Carry water.
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Another generation discovers Perry’s Cafe

Large portions of breakfast staples stand out beneath the freeway
Next Article

San Diego aggressive rollerbladers return in strength

Big Wheels invade Balboa Park, Liberty Station
The canyon walls show displacement in metamorphic rock.
The canyon walls show displacement in metamorphic rock.

Cool Canyon is unlikely to be cool most of the year as far as the daytime temperature is concerned, but it is definitely cool in the colloquial sense. Hike up this east-west–oriented canyon and observe the change from the Sonoran desert scrub vegetation of Earthquake Valley to the foothill chaparral transition zone where you will find junipers and manzanita in an otherwise arid desert setting. The geology is fascinating, with large exposed expanses of colorful metamorphic schist with numerous intrusions of igneous granite and quartz.

There are no signs other than warnings that dogs and horses are not allowed, and there is no official trail. From the end of the road, start walking up the sandy Cool Canyon wash. The vegetation near the start of the hike includes Mojave yucca, burrobush, cheesebush, creosote bush, ocotillo, and catclaw. Sunflower-like plants commonly in flower here include brittlebush and Parish’s goldeneye, and while in season, there may also be flowering desert apricot and a variety of colorful flowering cacti, including Gander’s cholla, beavertail cactus, hedgehog cactus, and California barrel cactus. Blooming wildflowers might include apricot mallow, tidytips, sweetbush, chia, and phacelia, along with many others. The first mile is easy walking in soft sand with occasional small dry falls. The canyon walls include frequent outcroppings of colorful metamorphic Julian schist, a rock formation that held the gold that attracted miners to the Julian area in the 19th Century.

There is a more formidable barrier about one mile from the trailhead where a series of somewhat larger dry falls are encountered. If concerned, this might be a good place to turn back. The dry waterfalls can be surmounted without climbing skills, but a little bit of care is necessary. The canyon branches beyond these obstacles. Take the canyon to the right that heads in a westerly direction. Here the sandy walk continues with only a modest amount of boulder-hopping. On your left is a beautiful old California juniper with a gnarled trunk and a big berry manzanita growing next to it. Junipers are common here, as is agave, but manzanita is relatively rare.

At a little over 1.5 miles from the start of the hike, there will be thick brush in the canyon bottom. One option is to navigate up onto the ridge on the right and continue to the point where Earthquake Valley can be viewed. A more adventurous alternative would be to hike to the top of Granite Mountain from here, but that is beyond the scope of this trip. This also may be the best place to turn around and head back.

  • Distance from downtown San Diego: 78.5 miles. Allow 1.5 hours (Earthquake/Shelter Valley). From SR-163N, merge onto I-8 E. Exit on SR-79N/Japatul Valley Rd. (Descanso), turning left, toward Julian, at the end of the ramp. After just under 3 miles, turn left to follow SR-79N to SR-78. Turn right/east on SR-78, away from Julian, and drive to Scissors Crossing, a distance of about 11 miles. Turn right on SR-2 and drive about 5 miles to an unsigned dirt road on the right/west, 1 mile past Stagecoach Trails RV Park. The Cool Canyon access road is a narrow and unimproved, mostly sandy road with a few rocks, but passenger cars should have no difficulty. Park at the end of the road, 1.3 miles from SR-2. There are no facilities or water.
  • Hiking length: 3 miles out and back.
  • Difficulty: Easy. Elevation gain/loss about 100 feet. Hiking is in a sandy canyon bottom with a few easy scrambles up dry waterfalls. Carry water.
Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Picking the perfect white elephant gift

Revisit the art of humorous gift giving
Next Article

Stuck on Russian ship in Ensenada, in Baja for the eclipse

Mexican cusswords, refugee on Coronados islands, Baja boom towns, woman pilots bring help, Orange Co. surfer adopted by farmers, Toyota crashes 300 miles south of San Diego, writer climbs 10K peak
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town 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 Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new 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 Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves 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 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