San Diego County High Point Trip Report

Hot Springs Mtn

Date: December 23, 2000
Author: Ken Akerman

This county high point is considerably easier to get to than the route described by Gary Suttle in his book. According to Suttle, the ascent requires a round-trip hike of 5.6 miles, but one does not have to do much hiking in order to get to this summit. Suttle does write, "Dirt road access the summit, making a 'drive-up' possible". However, he does not describe this drive-up route. This report describes the drive-up route, which is the fastest and easiest way to get to the summit of this mountain.

Drive to the entrance gate of the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. I stopped and checked in at the entrance gate, and one of the Indians wrote down my license plate number and said that I could pay the $10.00 fee on my way out. At the check-in station, I picked up a brochure from Los Coyotes, showing a map of campgrounds and recreational areas in the reservation.

Drive 0.2 miles from the check-in station, then turn left at a sign pointing to Hot Springs Mountain. This road ascends 7.8 miles to a parking area on the summit. The first 6.0 miles are generally smooth, good for any passenger car, and the road gets somewhat rougher in places beginning at 6 miles. A high-clearance vehicle may be needed in some places over the last 1.8 miles, but 4WD is not necessary.

I parked my vehicle on the summit in the flat area between the summit lookout and the highpoint. I first ascended the summit lookout. The lookout tower is barely standing, so one must take care when climbing to the top of the tower. There are great views from this lookout. I then descended the tower and hiked up to the highpoint, located to the east of the parking area. It takes only about five minutes to hike from your vehicle to the highpoint. The actual highpoint is atop a rock with a benchmark and a concrete platform on it. According to Suttle, the concrete platform once supported a radio antenna, and now provides a summit nook.

After signing the register and taking pictures, I returned to my vehicle and drove back down the road to the check-in station. Here I paid the $10.00 daily entrance fee. The total driving time from the Phoenix metropolitan area to the summit of Hot Springs Mountain is about 7 hours, so from the Phoenix area it is possible to ascend Hot Springs Mountain as a day trip.

[Webmaster's comment: with 14 hours of driving and nearly zero hiking, the suggested day trip from Phoenix, although possible, seems appropriate for someone more interested in driving than hiking.]