Objective: Summit Hot Springs Mountain, Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, California
Distance: 10 miles (out and back)
Peak Elevation: 6,553′
Elevation Gain: 2,500′
Hike to Hot Springs Mountain, the highest point in San Diego County, through the pristine Los Coyotes Reservation.
Directions to Trailhead
From the 15 S, merge onto the CA-79 S and drive southeast for 38 miles. At Warner Springs, turn left onto Camino San Ignacio. After 6 miles, stop at the Los Coyotes entrance station. Continue on Camino San Ignacio. Turn left at Sukat Road. Park at the Los Coyotes campground.
Directions to Summit
Trailhead: After the chained gate, hike on Sukat Road.
2.6 miles: At the junction, keep to the right to stay on Sukat Road.
5 miles: You have reached Hot Spring Mountain. Turn around and head back.
Seven young deer cross the road before the entrance. A giant black condor just landed by the trailhead. The Los Coyotes protect their land. The dirt road to the top is perfectly graded with a smooth surface and very little grit. A couple dudes in a jeep drive by to survey the route and check up on guests. They say they are from here. The land is completely green with plenty of trees and shade. A gentle breeze slowly coaxes you up the slope and past the pestering flies.
After passing a junction, the road levels off a bit. There is a bulldozer off to the side. Then the road becomes slightly rutted, but soon is smooth again. Next to a conjoined incense cedar covered with moss, three monarch butterflies flutter past.
Just below the peak, there is a ‘Z’ shaped couple of switchbacks. On the final stretch, a sailplane buzzes the watchtower. The wooden rungs to the dilapidated fire lookout tower have fallen to the ground. So, you can still have a great lunch spot at the disconnected base of the staircase. The 360-degree view from the summit is spectacular since you can observe mountain ranges many counties away in all directions. This is a perfect location for a fire lookout.
For day use, a $10 entrance fee is required and can be obtained at the Los Coyotes station. You will need to show a photo ID.
Hot Springs Mountain is within land belonging to Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians of the Los Coyotes Reservation. The Los Coyotes were removed against their will from their homes and transferred to this reservation after being conscripted as “Mission Indians” to build Mission San Luis Rey for New Spain.