Agua Caliente County Park near Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is definitely one of the more remote County Parks in San Diego, but it has a lot to offer. Besides a fully-equipped campground with a variety of tent, RV, and cabin sites, it offers several therapeutic pools and spas fed by naturally occurring mineral springs. The indoor spa, heated to a relaxing 102 degrees, is an awesome way to relax after a day of desert hiking. The campground is surrounded by numerous springs which attract all kinds of interesting desert wildlife, making it a great spot for bird-watching.
Of course, most important to our interests, are the several hiking trails contained within the park. Our first adventure here was along the Moonlight Canyon Trail. We found the trailhead at the southeast edge of the campground next to campsite #140, just past the shuffleboard and horseshoe pits (does anyone actually play shuffleboard)? Peak 1882, a potential side trip from this trail, rose before us.
As we continued on, I found much of my attention occupied by the rocky trail and, but while watching my footing, I caught a glimpse of some movement along the shadowy slope to my left. Looking up I saw two bighorn sheep, a male and a female, among the rocks.
We moved slowly and cautiously up the trail, watching the sheep on the rocks above us, and trying to get a better angle from which to photograph them (preferably without wiry Ocotillo branches in the way). The sheep moved quietly along the mountainside ahead of us, maintaining a constant distance. When we stopped to shoot more pictures, they stopped, as if to pose for us.
Eventually, the male wandered off in the opposite direction. The female continued ahead of us for a little ways, always keeping a close eye on our whereabouts. But she, too, quickly grew weary of our presence and bounded off.
Upon hitting the sandy canyon floor, we paused to admire the tall rock walls on either side of us. It was dark and shady in the narrow confines of the canyon, but in the distance we could see the late afternoon sun illuminating the valley beyond.
Take Highway 78 east to Scissors Crossing. Turn right (south) onto S2, and continue for 22 miles to Agua Caliente County Park on the right. Pay the parking fee at the campground entrance, then drive around to the Day Use Parking area near campsites 7 and 8. The trailhead is located in the southeast corner of the campground near the horseshoe and shuffleboard area, just past campsite 140. map
|Total Distance:||1.5 miles|
|Difficulty:||Easy – Moderate|
|Total Ascent:||394 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Dogs not allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes not allowed|
|Facilities:||Bathrooms and water at campground|
|Fees/Permits:||$3 parking fee per vehicle|
For more information, visit:
County of San Diego Parks & Recreation: Agua Caliente County Park
Park Map with Trails
View route or download GPX in CalTopo