Mile High is a summit in the lower Santa Rosa Mountains situated between Rosa Point and Villager Peak, within Anza Borrego state park. It gets its name from its elevation, just 60 vertical feet greater than being a mile above sea level. The views from Mile High are outstanding and include the Salton Sea (California's largest lake at 376 square miles!), the Coachella and Imperial valleys, and can extend into Arizona on a clear day. Keep in mind that the surface of the Salton Sea is below sea level, so from the Santa Rosa mountains there is a huge amount of relief in a short distance, making for quite a sight. The actual hiking on Mile-High is typical desert terrain – mildly loose, lots of cactus, and the occasional use trail. The lower Santa Rosa Mountains are riddled with sometimes indistinguishable canyons, washes, and ridges, making navigational skills essential for Mile-High hikers.
Park at mile 31.8 on Highway S-22, 12.5 miles east of the traffic circle in Borrego Springs. There is a turnout on the north side of the road, with a small brown sign "Pack it in, pack it out”. This is the same “trailhead” used for Rabbit Peak, Villager, and others. This
is what you would see looking north from the parking area.
There are many ways of reaching the summit of Mile High, the majority of which are class 2. If Mile-High is the sole objective, the south ridge is the most direct route so I will describe that route here.
Views of the Salton Sea
From the parking area, head approximately 1 mile NE to the mouth of Palo Verde Canyon. In my opinion, this is the only routefinding issue. Once you’ve identified Palo Verde you should be good to go. On paper it looks easy enough, but its not uncommon for people to hike into the wrong canyon. See this map
for a helpful GPS coordinate. Enter and follow the canyon for ~1.5 miles to a sharp bend, where you should be at about 1900 feet. From here, head west up the steep slope to gain the ridge that forms the west wall of Palo Verde Canyon, and follow this ridge north to the summit of Mile High Mountain. The actual summit (at least where the register is), is the northernmost of 4 bumps.
Total gain: 5500’
Roundtrip distance: 12.5 miles
This particular route is the most direct way to reach the summit of Mile High, though I would highly recommend combining Mile High with other peaks in the area. Rosa Point
, for example, may only add a total of 1–2 miles and 700 feet of gain. Villager is also an excellent option for hardy hikers and if done last, gives the added benefit of a much easier descent. If the latter option is chosen, keep in mind the terrain between Mile High and Villager is very steep, though never exceeds class 2. A descent (or ascent) could also be made through Rattlesnake Canyon, but be prepared to deal with class 3+ dry falls.
There are no reliable water sources around Mile-High mountain, so plan accordingly.
When to Climb
Fall through spring is best. Temperatures can reach well into the 100s (F) here in the summer. Mile High does receive snow on occasion in the winter, but it doesn’t stick too long.
Due to the possibility of flash flooding, it is highly recommended NOT to hike through desert canyons and washes when there is potential for rain.
Permits are not required to hike any part of Mile-High mountain.
Anza Borrego Desert SP