DISTANCE
13.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
3,113 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Point to Point

dogs on leash

birding

mountain biking

nature trips

off road driving

scenic driving

trail running

views

off road driving
28 days ago

I've done this trail at least a dozen times, mainly due to it passing through BLM territory where some friends and I do some routine target shooting. There's a lot more areas that are now gated/fenced off that weren't a year or two ago but even with the off-limit areas, there's plenty to explore.

First and foremost, you don't need a special rig to get through this trail. I've completed the main trail in a RWD Nissan Xterra, FWD Lexus NX200, AWD Ford Escape, AWD Subaru Outback, 4WD 2017 Ford Expedition, 4WD 2018 F150 Raptor. All stock, no issues. With that said, there are tons of side trails, many of which are deserving of the "hard" label, some of which I've only been able to complete in the Raptor and others that I haven't even attempted because they're too tight for my truck. If you stick to the main trail, anything with half way decent ground clearance will do just fine.

With that said, the roads in many areas are quite narrow with a near vertical drop to what would likely be your death if you aren't paying attention. Traffic flows in both directions and there's only room for 1 vehicle at a time. There are several areas along the trail where you can pull to the side to let another vehicle pass. Make a mental note anytime you pass one because you never know when you'll encounter an oncoming vehicle that may require you to reverse your vehicle back to that spot so you can safely pass each other.

If you're going on a Saturday or Sunday, traffic is light but not what I would call "remote" you'll almost certainly encounter other off-roaders at some point along the trail and possibly a Border Patrol vehicle or two. If they come up behind you just pull over to the side as soon as it's safe for you to do so and let them pass. They know the roads well and drive vehicles that aren't theirs so they typically like to haul ass.

Bring water and some protein bars. The main trail will take about an hour to complete but you can easily be up there all day if you stop to take photos or decide to explore some of the side trails. Most of the side trails will lead to a dead end or link back up with the main trail. Some side trails aren't really side trails but another main trail. If you make a wrong turn you can find yourself heading way down south all the way to the 905 just a few city blocks away from the border. I like to bring my drone with me for the times I want to explore a side trail I haven't been on before. I take the drone up to get a good look at the trail difficulty and see where it goes before committing myself and my vehicle to it.

One last thing... If you enter from Otay Lakes Rd (aka Pio Pico) and exist from Marron Valley Rd and then head north on Campo Rd, you will have to go past a Border Patrol check point. The line is usually pretty short. I've rarely waited longer than 5 minutes, but something to consider. There is no stopping necessary if you're going South on Campo Rd, so some people may opt do the trail in reverse by entering through Marron Valley Rd and exiting Pio Pico.