I had left home in Medford, Oregon on Friday March 2nd and headed south to do some hiking, visit my dad, and attend a business conference in San Diego. On Saturday March 10, 2007 the business conference was over so I headed out to the desert and Whale Peak. I needed one more hike before heading back to Oregon.
I didn’t have any trouble finding Hwy 78 and driving east through Santa Ysabel and Julian. The Great Overland Stage Route was well marked and I took this good paved road south through Shelter Valley to Anza Borrego State Park. I had marked a waypoint in my GPS for the turnoff to the trailhead so I knew right where to turn off the pavement.
This dirt/sandy road is soft and relatively dust free. It is easy to follow and I could see Whale Peak ahead. I took it easy until the road got a little rocky at about 3.6 miles. I put my truck into 4WD just in case I needed it ahead. This rocky area requires High Clearance so I took it easy and moved ahead. The road looked well used but there were some interesting obstacles to go over. I was glad it wasn’t muddy.
Soon, I reached a saddle on the road that is north of Whale Peak. I was surprised to see a spur road heading directly to Whale Peak, so I drove down the spur road. It wasn’t any rougher than the main road, so I followed it until it ended at the bottom of a steep drainage. I picked my parking spot and got my gear ready.
I didn’t know if there was a trail or not to Whale Peak and in my research I couldn’t find any info about a trail. I decided to go directly at Whale Peak in the direction my GPS was indicating. Later I found that this was a mistake. I climbed a steep hillside, picking my way between boulders, brush, and cactus. I climbed up about 400 ft in elevation to a ridgeline and could then see a small valley ahead of me. I could see a trail down below also.
I headed down and picked up the trail to see where it would lead me. It was well ducked and looked well traveled. Since it was going in the general direction of Whale Peak, I decided to stay on the trail. This trail took me all the way to the summit. What a great hike.
The views from the summit on this clear day were extensive. I signed the register and climbed on all the boulders before heading back down. Just below the steep climb up to the summit, I met a group of 7 other hikers who had come up from the petroglyphs. They said they were already 3 hours into their climb.
I followed the ducked trail all the way back to my truck including climbing down the steep drainage. The total hike was about 4.75 miles, took about 2.75 hours, and gained about 1,500 ft in elevation. I didn’t see much wildlife other than a few lizards, a rabbit, and a few birds.