Blue Angels Peak is the highest point in California's Imperial County. It lies in the very southwest corner of the county, only 1/8 mile from the Mexican border. The peak lies just west and adjacent to the Jacumba Wilderness Area, so designated as part of the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. A broad range, the Jacumbas are really a series of almost parallel ridges separating valleys, with each ridge successively lower than the next, forming a great staircase descending eastward from the into the Colorado Desert.
The terrain is rocky, dry, and desolate, a classic southern California desert landscape, with outstanding views in all directions. The hike from the parkinglot is only 5 miles roundtrip, making this an easy half day venture.
Blue Angels Peak is climbed far more often by illegal immigrants using it as a lookout point to avoid the US Border Patrol, than by citizens of the United States. It's original name was Smuggler's Peak (which is inscribed on one of the three USG markers found near the summit), testifying to this.
Exit Interstate 8 at IN-KO-PAH Park, driving to the south side of the highway and a short distance west. A large dirt lot with an information kiosk for the Jacumba Wilderness can be found here. Drive east and then south until you pass under the overhead power lines. Park here if you have a passenger car. A private residence where parakeets are kept in cages outside has numerous signs about his property. Don't park near his property even if unsigned or you may be towed. Vehicles with 4WD and good clearance can continue up Smugglers Cave Road, which winds steeply up the hillside, and drive about 2/3 of the distance to the peak.
Follow the road as it heads in a southerly direction, bypassing a radio installation atop a nearby peak on the east side. Where the road forks, stay right until you are on the southeast side of the installation. Follow the road as it forks south along the ridge connecting the installation with Blue Angels Peak to the south. The road ends about a mile short of the peak. Numerous use trails braid all over the area, most of them across the border, not to the peak. To avoid bushwhacking, take the most prominent trails around the north and west side of the peak, approaching the summit from the west or better yet the southwest.
There are no fees or permits of any kind. Most of the land is under control of the BLM. A radio installation on a peak near the highway is off-limits to the public.
When To Climb
Fall through Spring are the best times, when desert temperatures are milder. In summertime it is often both windy and very hot - be prepared for dessicating conditions if hiking at this time.
No fees or permits for camping in the adjacent Jacumba Wilderness. There is no water available most of the year, so camping is a dubious undertaking. It is probably not a wise choice to camp so close to the Mexican Border that you are likely to draw attention of the Border Patrol to your campsite. Though not illegal, it may be annoying to be roused from sleep in the middle of the night.
Mountain ConditionsWeather info
for the Jacumba Wilderness
"Blue Angels Peak derives its name from the famed Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. A naval air facility in nearby El Centro has served as the Blue Angels' winter home, because of the excellent flying weather."
- Gary Suttle, Californian County Summits