Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 33.31504°N / 116.57979°W
Additional Information County: San Diego
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 6533 ft / 1991 m
Sign the Climber's Log


Dennis 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

Hot Springs Mountain

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.


Cahuilla Indians

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 There

From 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.

Red Tape

Hot Springs Mountain

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!)


There 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


Hot Springs Mountain
Hot Springs Mountain

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).

External Links

Contact Information
Los Coyotes Tribal Office Address:

Los Coyotes Band of Indians
PO Box 189
Warner Springs CA 92086

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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NavySeabee - Jan 21, 2010 12:33 pm - Voted 10/10

Elevation Fact

Hot Springs is actually 21 feet higher than Cuyamaca. Thanks for sponsoring this page!

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - May 23, 2011 1:23 am - Voted 10/10

Just a few things

The road Camino San Ignacio is inside of Warner Springs city limits, not before or after. That part was confusing. Also, just a note, there are lots of signs saying no trespassing along the road- they are right next to the first stop sign and in other places. If you go there, you are exempt from these "no trespassing signs" as long as you get a permit at the kiosk.


mebo1126 - Sep 19, 2011 5:14 pm - Hasn't voted

Closed Indefinitely?

I made the trip out to Warner Springs this weekend (09/17/2011) with the hope of hiking Hot Springs Mountain, but I was informed at the information kiosk that this hike is closed. The woman there was unsure when it would reopen because a fire that took place in July burned down 1100 acres. If you can find a phone number before making the trip out, I would recommend doing so.

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Dec 9, 2015 4:40 pm - Hasn't voted

Out There Last Week

I was out there last week. We drove all of the way to the lookout tower, so there is no longer any blockage (was some minor snow). The road was in quite good shape. We did arrange special permission with a phone call in advance (sorry, I don't have the phone number). Despite that, though we were to be met at the gate on a Thursday, we weren't. The gate signs are confusing ("Don't Enter", "If booth unmanned, go to Tribal Office at [some address]". Without cell service, we did some snooping around. We went past the "Don't Enter" sign about 3/4 miles and found the manned Tribal Office on the south side of the main road. Even it was a bit difficult because the sign was up on the road, but there were several unmarked buildings and we were confused until a woman gave us directions. It's the second building as you drive down the hill. Enter from a door on the north side. They contacted the Chief of Police, gave us some entry permits to fill out, then we headed back to the main entry to meet the Chief of Police. He completed the permits, gave them back to us with instructions to place on dashboard. Then for a driver's license he gave us a key to the gate. We drove up, no problems, back down via Rough Road (to the campground), no problems, returned the key and received back the driver's license. He said they are doing that key/license swap now because of an accident a while back when a couple got locked behind the gate and in an attempt to exit the reservation via Jeep trails on the back side of the reservation, the male died and the female was found barely alive a week later. Hope this help. This was actually part of a Jeep trip into the desert that I was filming, but the information would seem useful for any hikers. Don't hesitate to message me if you have any questions. --mark d. P.S.--Charge per vehicle is now $10.


Lenny72 - Apr 8, 2019 12:22 am - Hasn't voted

Entrance Fee

The entrance fee is now $10 PER PERSON. Also note that the dirt road (Sukat Road) you drive or hike to the summit is currently roped off and in bad shape due to erosion further up. You can only hike or bike up it. Do not climb up the fire tower as it is in bad shape. Bring plenty of water as there are no water sources anywhere on the trail.

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