OverviewCombs Peak is the highest point of the isolated Bucksnort Mountain mini-range in northern San Diego County. The Combs Peak area is typical San Diego County chaparral country, with manzanita, scrub oak, buckthorn, red shanks and chamise densely clothing unburned areas of its mountain slopes. Recent fires swept through the eastern flanks and as a result have made the scramble and approach from the PCT much easier.
Combs Peak is only one of 10 named 6000-foot peaks in San Diego County and the 8th highest. It makes the list of California peaks with at least 1000 Feet of Prominence with 1,333' of clean prominence and is also the most remote 6000-footer as its nearest neighbor, Hot Springs Mountain, has an unmaintained fire road leading to its summit. The view from Combs Peak arguably gives you the best San Diego County views of Mts. San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, San Antonio and the other notable peaks in the northern counties on any given day due to its lofty status and geographic location. The view of Toro Peak and the Santa Rosas to the NE is nothing short of spectacular through the deep escarpment that separates the two ranges.
Getting ThereFrom the North - From I-15 South take the SR 79 South exit (signed 79S/Indio) and follow SR 79 towards the east. Follow SR 79 for approximately 26 miles and turn left onto Chihuahua Valley Road passing through Aguanga in 18 miles and Oak Grove Campground & Ranger Station in 23 miles.
From the South (East SD County) - From I-8, exit onto SR 67 North and follow for 24 miles into the city of Ramona where SR 67 becomes SR 78. Continue east on SR 78 for 15 miles to Santa Ysabel and turn north onto SR 79. Follow SR 79 for about 27 miles and turn right onto Chihuahua Valley Road passing through Warner Springs and Sunshine Summit.
On Chihuahua Valley Road - Follow this paved road for 6.4 miles. When Chihuahua Valley Road turns sharp right you will notice a wide gate straight ahead and a narrower dirt road to the right of it. This narrow dirt road is Lost Valley Road - take it. At about 4.8 miles (11.2 from the highway) Lost Valley Road meets the PCT and this is your starting point. There is room for 4 or 5 vehicles here.
The mileposts along Lost Valley Road are quite obvious so if you reach milepost 5, you went too far. One other note is there is a large gate about 1.5 miles along Lost Valley Road. If this gate is closed, your trip just got about 7 miles longer!
RouteThe standard approach starts along Lost Valley Road and follows a gently ascending and scenic section of the PCT for nearly 2 miles. This peak is easily "bagged" by anyone looking to add an easy scramble from a transit along the PCT. All other approaches involve a chapparal and manzanita clogged bushwhack which make you quickly question why you didn't use the PCT!
At ~5600 feet you will reach a prominent saddle on the mountain's ENE slope. Just after the trail crosses the saddle and turns sharply NW you should notice a large duck marking the beginning of the climbers trail. If you make your way to a notable drainage on your left you have gone too far (as I did the first time!). The trail from here is well ducked and the footsteps are easy to follow as you make your way in a westerly direction up to a minor bump on the slope. Use caution as the loose soil makes the steps slippery at times. From here the trail continues upward skirting right of one of the few rock outcroppings and then zigzags to the rounded summit where you will be greated with stunning 360 degree views. Look for the summit log in a rusty can near one of the summit benchmarks. Total distance ~4.5 miles. Total elevation gain 1200 feet.
The HPS guide lists the distance at 5.0 miles and Jerry Schad lists the PCT distance as 2.7 miles one-way. I'll let you be the judge.
Red TapeThere are no permits required to hike in Anza-Borrego State Park. Backcountry (desert) camping is allowed away from paved roads. There are no seasonal closures, though flash flooding could periodically close roads in the park. Also be careful around any flora found, since plants are very fragile and extra caution should be observed.
Call the Visitors Center at (760) 767-5311 or visit their website Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for more information.
When to ClimbCombs Peak lies in the transition region between the peninsular mountains and the desert so in essence it can be climbed year-round. It is not uncommon for snow accumulations to occur on Lost Valley Road and the peak from winter storms. Nor is it uncommon to have the temperature soar to near 100 in the summer. So bring warm clothing in the winter and light clothing and plenty of water in the summer.
External LinksFor more information regarding the Pacific Crest Trail visit PCT Southern California Section or Pacific Crest Trail Association websites.
Trip report from Bob Burd combining Combs with Beauty and Iron Springs Combs / Beauty / Iron Springs Mtn - 12/23/04
Weather ConditionsCurrent weather at Warner Springs
EtymologyNamed for Jim Combs, local pioneer miner, ca 1890's. He established nearby "Combs Camp" just south of this peak, an early social center when homesteading was opened in 1915, according to longtime area resident John Wentworth.
Name first appears on USGS Bucksnort Mtn. quad (1960).
-HPS Summit Signatures