OverviewDennis Poulin put up a great album/trip report that can be found here. This is just a formal page to back up his info. Great job by the way.
Near Warner Springs CA the highest point in San Diego County is a steep climb up an old jeep trail. You can hike, mountain bike, run, or drive all the way to the summit. The road becomes easier as it winds up the south slope of Hot Springs Mountain. Dense forests of black oak, Coulter pine and white fir greet you as you follow the ridge line. Higher, closer to the top, wildflowers beckon from sprawling meadows.
The peak is located within the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, and permission is needed to access the area.
Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla & Cupeno Indians
With nearly 25,000 acres of federally-recognized tribal land, the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation is the largest Native American reservation in San Diego County, and it rests in some of the most remote and inaccessible high mountain wilderness areas of Southern California. Los Coyotes Cahuilla Indian territory includes San Diego County's highest lookout point, Hot Springs Mountain. At 6,533 feet, Hot Springs Mountain peak is 21 feet higher than the more famous Cuyamaca Peak. On a clear day one can see the Pacific Ocean from the spectacular Hot Springs Mountain peak view point on the Los Coyotes mountain. The Salton Sea can also be seen from the reservation. An 80 mile drive northeast from downtown San Diego, Los Coyotes is located between Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the Cleveland National Forest. Los Coyotes is east of Mount Palomar mountain. A drive to Los Coyotes Indian Reservation from nearby Julian passes by the Kumeyaay Santa Ysabel Indian Reservation and the Mataguay Scout Ranch. Warner Springs, a small remote mountain village, is also a close neighbor of the Los Coyotes Cahuilla mountain community. In an effort to attempt to eke out a living off their beautiful pristine reservation land, the Cahuilla Indians established the Los Coyotes Campground on the reservation and opened their reservation up to tourists and visitors for camping, hiking trails, horse camping riding, biking, and four-wheel off roading activities.
Los Coyotes Band of Mission Indians — a Native American Cahuilla Indian tribe — is a sovereign tribal government, and is recognized as such by the U.S. government. The Los Coyotes Cahuilla band has about 288 enrolled tribal members of which about 74 tribal members currently reside on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. "The Cahuillas are Takic-speaking peoples who reside in Southern California in what are now Riverside and San Diego counties. Many, but not all, of the Cahuilla peoples live on reservations — Cahuilla, Agua Caliente, Santa Rosa, Torres-Martinez, Cabeson, Morongo, Los Coyotes, Ramona, and Saboba. "These reservations were established after many years of conflict with local and federal authorities in the 1870s. Today the Cahuillas number about 2,400 people. Prior to European intrusion, however, when they occupied the better part of Riverside County and the northern portion of San Diego County, they numbered from 6,000 to 10,000 people...".
Getting ThereFrom San Diego, take US 8 to the 79 North. After winding through Julian, you will approach Warner Springs. Turn right (east) at Camino San Ignacio which is approx 2 miles before Warner Springs.
From Los Angeles, take the US 10 or CA 91 to the 15 south. In Temecula exit and take 79 south. After Warner Springs turn left (east) at Camino San Ignacio.
From Orange County, take the CA 74 (Ortega Hwy) to Lake Elsinore. Continue on 74 until you reach US 15. Take US 15 south and follow route from above.
Once on Camino San Ignacio, take the road all the way in to the gates of the reservation. This road will alternate between dirt and pavement (depending on whose jurisdiction it is to maintain it). Have no fear, just stay on this road and you will eventually come to a second stop sign where you will be asked to stop, pay the fee, register, and be given a map and a bright yellow parking pass.
You will need to pay the $9 entrance fee at the gate house. They will also provide you with a map (which I have conveniently lost within 24 hours!) that will show you the trails leading to the summit. Very easy to follow.
If you plan to visit on a weekend, the gate house will be attended to, but if traveling on a weekday, you need to write or call ahead for permission to visit the reservation (as well as get someone to meet you at the gate house). During weekends, they attend the gate house from 9am - 4pm.
Also, if you plan to drive to the summit, a low clearance 4X2 will get you about 2/3 the way up and a 4X4 with high clearance will get you all the way to the top. There are two roads to the top and they are primarily used for logging right now, so there are lots of places to turn around, if you feel uncomfortable.
Access update: (March 2011) - "The reservation is open from 8am-4pm Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holiday Mondays. It is $9 per vehicle. The road all the way to the reservation entrance from Hwy CA-79 is paved (Camino San Ignacio Rd). The Hot Springs Mtn Rd (dirt) is easily passable by passenger vehicles up to 6,000 ft where the junction with the road up from the San Ysidro River meets it (provided the tree at 5,860 is removed from the road). As of March 2011, there is a really big tree blocking the road about half a mile past this junction. There is plenty of room for parking at the junction, so just park here. If you come to hike on a Saturday you do not need to be out by 4pm as the reservation is open to overnight campers on Saturday nights. The website says the reservation is closed to the public. It's from 2006, so it's out of date and wrong. Head on up here and enjoy the beautiful mountains that seem a world away from San Diego's spectacular beaches and chaparral country while supporting this tribe." (used w/ permission from CoHP member - thanks!)
CampingThere is a campground for use called Nelson's Camp. On the map it shows the camp is located next to a stream. The stream was dry in January (call ahead for conditions).
Rates and Rules
Overnight (hikers) $16.00
Overnight (horses) $26.00
Day use (hikers) $9.00
Day use (horses) $13.00
1) All campers must check in at station
2) Camp only in main campground
3) No hunting or guns
4) No motorized trail bikes or off-road vehicles of any kind
5) Quiet time is 10PM to 6AM
6) No cutting of firewood (see picture - sad...)
7) No metal detectors
8) Pets are allowed, but must be controlled
9) NO DIGGING FOR ARITFACTS
10) FIRES ARE ALLOWED BUT FIRE REGULATIONS WILL BE ADHERED TO
There are two points to the summit. East and West. The end of the logging road empties into a flat area between the two summits. On the west summit is where the lookout tower is perched (was used by Dept of Forestry to look for fires in the area). The east summit is a short scramble up a heavily wooded hill to a concrete slab perched atop a rock outcrop. From there you can sign the register and see the USGS marker (see photos).
Los Coyotes Tribal Office Address:
Los Coyotes Band of Indians
PO Box 189
Warner Springs CA 92086
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