Hot Springs Mountain Trail Guide (San Diego)
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||10.5 miles (16.9 km)|
|Hike Time||4-6 (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||2,500 feet (762m)|
|Highest Elevation||6,535 feet (1992m)|
|Fees & Permits||Entry Fee|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Los Coyotes Reservation|
Hot Springs Mountain, the highest point in San Diego County at 6,535 feet, would be worth hiking just for that fact, but there’s so much more to enjoy. After a tough initial climb, the trail is peaceful and scenic as it winds through conifers, giving the feel of a higher alpine area. And at the summit, you get to visit the oldest standing fire tower serving Cleveland National Forest, dating to 1942, and then enjoy a ladder climb up to the actual summit. It’s a fun and beautiful hike that’s tough but not too tough.
Where is the Hot Springs Mountain Trail?
This hike is on the Los Coyotes Reservation, a remote and peaceful part of eastern San Diego County. The reservation allows hikers, but the hours can vary. And there is a $10 per person, cash only, charge to enter. Please check the Los Coyotes Reservation website before leaving to confirm the current details. And please be respectful when visiting. Use this trailhead address:
Los Coyotes Reservation Campground, Camino San Ignacio Road, Warner Springs, CA, 92086
Gear For the Hike
- You’ll be in a remote spot, so proper hiking gear with the essentials is a must.
- Trekking poles will help on the steep slopes.
- Bring at least 2L of water.
Garmin inReach Mini
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost.
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI
My Review & Guide
How is this Different than a GPS?
Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated January 2022.
No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.
Hot Springs Mountain Trail Maps
The hike to the summit is on old fire roads, but don’t let that put you off; the hike is beautiful. Overall it’s easy to follow and pleasurable.
Some trip reports follow other routes to the top. The course described here is the official one that the ranger office requested that all visitors take. Please be respectful.
Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File
If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.
How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
- The official name of the Los Coyotes Band is the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians.
- The Cahuilla once lived in an area that stretched from San Gorgonio to the Salton Sea. In 1875 most were relocated to a reservation near Anza.
- The Cupeño, a much smaller tribe, lived in the area around Warner Springs. Their removal from their land in 1903 was the last “official” eviction of natives by the US government. Most Cupeño were sent to Pala.
- Today a small number from each tribe live together in the Los Coyotes Band on this reservation.
- Because of its remote location and environmental significance, there isn’t much opportunity for development at the reservation. The band is supported by proceeds from other casinos, and is in the process of building their own casino near Barstow. Today the band generates a modest income from hikers, campers, and even music festivals.
- Before their way of life was destroyed by the Americans, most of the local native people would summer up around Hot Springs Mountain, harvesting acorns for the winter spent back down at lower altitudes.
- The reservation sits in the middle of Cleveland National Forest, and was still a part of it until 1914, when the land was officially transferred to the Los Coyotes Reservation.
- The fire tower on Hot Springs Mountain dates from 1942, and is the oldest standing fire tower serving Cleveland National Forest. It’s in bad shape today and falling apart.
Hot Springs Mountain Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
Sukat is the Cahuilla word for deer.
This guide last updated on April 16, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
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