Mortero Wash

Anza Borrego Desert State Park / Mortero Wash

San Diego Desert Camping

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Primitive desert camping close to SD – yipee!

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Interstate 8 EAST from SD / exit Ocotillo. SD county road # S2, the south end near the State Park boundary. Gorgeous every season but summer. Great winter camping close to SoCal. ThisĀ  dirt road in in a desert wash area, which starts west – off the paved road. The signed white desert wash is a suitable drive for passenger cars (most years). But you best have 4×4 f the rain gets going good. Low riders should watch for the ridge lines – as the are naturally rockier places and could take out an oil pan of a mini SUV (at a high rate of speed).

The large morterro boulders at the far end of this route have nice views of the Imperial desert floor. Better from the top of the boulders too; numerous primitive camp sites surrounding the big boulders too. No toilets; no shade; no water; minimal vegetation. At night the stars are heavenly, but you can see city lights from Calexico and Mexicali. From the boulder you can hike or mountain bike up to the “old goat trestle” and numerous historic train tunnels @ Carizo Gorge (not to be confused w/ Carizo Plains in Kern Co). Moderate hike, all day adventure. Bring lunch and water!

SAN DIEGO Backcountry Map
this waterproof map has the entire State Park covered

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When you decide to stop the car, look around for the best spot. Park off the road way and preferably in a turn out or camp spot. Turn off the engine, get out of the automobile, stretch your legs, breathe, look, close your eyes – tight and breathe deeply, then look around you again. This particular place is special, you can just feel it. Walking around the boulder area, be cautious of snakes. On the boulders – closely examine them, climb on them, get to the top; you will find the (NativeAmerican) Indian grinding holes.

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great side trip option: Across the paved road (SD County Road S2) on the opposite side of the valley is a nice hike to Sand Dollar Hill. (I’m sure this isn’t the real name, but I will add that later). Dirt road leads up to a dirt parking area for hikers. Busy lil place sometimes. These desert dirt hills have wind caves and chunks of sand dollars scattered all over them. The real ocean floor way out here, east in the Anza SD desert… how cool is that?

great side trip option: Canon Sin Nombre is just up the road a piece, N on S2, on the EAST side of the road. Amazing viewpoint turn out, right on the highway, overlooking the impressive topography and badlands. If you have a high clearance SUV or any truck you can drive down into the sandy tight, rocky wash. It meets back up with another main wash way back there. Tons to explore back here. Off roader should think Tread Lightly on this turf and primitive car campers should use a Leave No Trace approach. White sand, deep sand, caves, smoke trees, and the best slot canyon climbing & hiking this side of the Anza State Park.

Mount Able

Camp-O-Alto

MOUNT ABEL, California

So many misspell Abel like Able, its a wonder anyone can find this place.

But what a nice find it is! Camp O Alto Campground, among the giant trees. RV friendly

Cerro Noroeste / Mt Abel / Noroeste Peak
Los Padres mountains, camping on the back roads, mountain biking, hiking, exploring. This gorgeous 8286′ mountain peak sits just to the west of Mount Pinos @ 8831′ (the tallest peak in Kern County). Home of the Jesus Tree, the best sunset spot for miles and the infamous motorcycle road out west, this mountain is one of the lesser known in Southern California. Oddly shaped, Jefferey and Ponderosa pines towering above have their tops stunted and enormous branches hanging down. Maybe from lightning strikes, or maybe from a historic Tejon earthquake that snapped them?

Camp-O-Alto is the official name of this primitive open, FREE campground. First come basis. This place is a perfect option B, instead of the busier Mt Pinos Recreation Area that is located to the east. RV campers love this camp, as there is plenty of room to spread out in between the sites. There is also a large group site at the west end of the campground – available to whomever can grab it first, but you must have a large group to utilize this spot.

Just south of Apache Saddle, there is a faded, large sign that reads Westside Park, but this is the only reference we can find and no one locally calls this mountain by this name. The Cerro Noreste Road gate (near Camp Condor), closes seasonally for winter snow and rock slides.

Once you are past this gate & start climbing from the saddle, there is a great viewpoint a few miles up on the right side, overlooking red dirt beauty of Quatal Canyon. You can see the mountains out near the coast, as well as the high desert, natural wash on the left side and the faint graded dirt road paralleling it to the right side, all mixed up amongst the pinyons & junipers. The Chumash Wilderness is on the left side.

DIRECTIONS TO MOUNT ABEL:

To get here from Interstate 5, exit Frazier & head west, thru Frazier Park, thru Cuddy Valley, turn right on Mil Potrero Hwy (forest road #9N05) & past the golfing community of Pine Mountain Club; continue west to Apache Saddle. At this intersection, turn left on to Cerro Noroeste (#9N25) & drive 10 miles to the top of the mountain.

To get here from Hwy 166, take the Cerro Noroeste Road turn off just east of Hwy 33. Continue 20-something miles up to Apache Saddle ranger station. At this intersection, turn right on to Cerro Noroeste (#9N25) & drive 10 miles to the top of the mountain.

Los Padres Trail # 21W03 / Chumash Wilderness

Hiking Trails / Mountain Bike SoCal

This area is very popular among mountain bikers and sunset seeking couples. The “Peak to Peak” hike is an all day adventure of 6.5 miles, that should be planned well in advance – with another shuttle car at the Pinos parking lot. This is a moderately, strenuous hike that can take up most of the day – with awesome views over the San Joaquin Valley, Lockwood Valley, Pine Mountain Village and San Emigdio range. The area located in between Pinos & Abel is called the Chumash Wilderness.

Trail 21W03 Mt Pinos