Reaching a height of 4,187 feet, Viejas Mountain rises above the surrounding hills in San Diego County and looms in the north over the small town of Alpine, CA. Located near the southern end of the Cleveland National Forest, just north of Interstate 8, this triangular shaped mass clearly stands out to those traveling both east and west on the interstate.
A rocky, partially overgrown use trail leading up the west slope offers the only straightforward passage to the summit. The trek up this pathway is definitely tedious and unrewarding during hot or hazy weather, but it's well worth it on a cool, crystal-clear, late fall or winter day. With excellent views from the summit in all directions, this climb is well worth the 1.75 miles jaunt to the top. To the northeast lies the Cuyamaca Peaks, the southeast: the Viejas Casino, to the south: Mexico, to the west the endless stretches of the Pacific Ocean and to the northwest the large granite outcropping of El Cajon Mountain and it's sheer southern face, El Capitan.
Years ago there existed on the summit of Viejas Mountain an arrangement of stones interpreted by anthropologists to be a winter-solstice marker, used for ceremonial purposes by the Kumeyaay Indians. The marker was a T-shaped array of stones that pointed precisely to Buckman Peak on the southeastern horizon about 16 miles away.Legend has it that at the solstice there would be dancing on the step peaks that lead up to the top. Each step would have a night of dancing and on the night of the solstice there would be dancing on the peak. Near winter solstice (December 19 through 23) the sun comes up directly behind this peak. Unfortunately, the marker was thoughtlessly destroyed by campers in the mid-1970s. In it's place several windbreaks were constructed, including one large one with a small lean-to and fireplace for those seeking shelter during overnight stays.
To reach the start of the use trail, exit Interstate 8 at Tavern Road, go south 0.1 mile, then east on Alpine Boulevard through the community of Alpine. After 1.5 miles, turn left (north) on East Victoria Drive, passing under I-8. Proceed 1.1 miles north to Anderson Road. Turn right and continue northeast 0.5 mile to a large water tank and gate (which could be closed, blocking motor traffic. If it is closed, you'll have to park just short of the gate and continue on foot 0.3 mile uphill to the trailhead.)If the gate is open, follow the road 0.3 miles to where it becomes level and a small turnout appears on the left-hand side of the road. Park here and look to your right(east)for the unmarked beginnings of the use trail leading up the brushy western slope of Viejas Mountain. If parking here, an Adventure Pass must be displayed.
More-or-less, the route heads straight up the mountain with a few brief switchbacks near the top. When the trail tops out on the ridge, you'll look to the north and see the true summit about .25 miles away. Turn left(north) and follow this trail as it traverses a few rock piles along the ridge and eventually leads to the windbreaks on the summit. The rocky trail up the slope is covered in knee-high chaparral, manzanita, and yucca so wear long pants and sturdy shoes.
Red TapeLocated within the Cleveland National Forest so an Adventure Pass is required to park a vehicle at the trailhead. To learn more about the Adventure Pass click Here
Though there is a fireplace/ring on the summit, No Campfires are allowed
Be sure to drink and carry plenty of water.
CampingCamping is allowed on Viejas Mountain but permits are required for overnight back country camping. Check with the Ranger District Here for all back country camping restrictions.
External Links and TopoPeakbagger's Viejas Mountain Page
Schad's Reader article on Viejas Mountain