Summits: 1340

February 26, 2012

Jacumba (SDC #84, 4516′) • mapdirections*

Looking for an easy hike this weekend, I set my sights on one of the only single-peak hikes I had left on the SDC list, Jacumba Mountain. Normally reached through Mortero Palm Canyon, I sought out something new since I had been up that way before, and started studying maps around the southern end of Jacumba. Jacumba seemed to be accessible from the south, assuming that I could navigate the maze of dirt roads just north of the 8 in the Table Mountain vicinity, and I was determined to make it happen.

I left home just after 8am, along with my friend Eris to keep me company. She wasn’t too interested in boulder hopping and dodging cactus, but she’d be fine keeping herself occupied while I thrashed about the southern ridge of Jacumba Mountain. Coffee in hand, we made the drive out on the 8 to the In-Ko-Pah exit, and looped back around and onto the dirt road that passed back underneath the 8. I had studied both my maps and Google Earth in an attempt to understand the network of dirt roads in that area, but luck and a sense of direction turned out to be more valuable. I just made sure to keep the obvious Table Mountain on my left until I was further north, and then just kept heading towards the south ridge of Jacumba, passing an obvious radio tower on its left side a little more than halfway there. We somehow got lucky and ended up exactly where we were trying to get to. The roads were not nearly as well groomed as they could have been, but proved to be no problem with 2WD and high clearance.


Crossing under the 8


Table Mountain


The radio tower (and small building) on the drive in


First sight of Jacumba (right of center) on the drive in

From where we parked, Jacumba appeared to be a jumbled mess of rocky points and I had a hard time deciding on an appropriate route. I kept my eyes fixed in that direction as I shoved some snacks and extra clothing in my backpack, and assured Eris that I’d be back soon. I studied the map while I walked towards the lower slopes, and decided to hike about half a mile to my right (east) before starting up, hoping to avoid a series of ups and downs while en route to the summit.


Jacumba from near the parking spot


The lower slopes of Jacumba – I ascended just outside the right side of the photo


The first real elevation gain of the hike

Initially the terrain was easier than it first appeared, with plenty of improvised pathways between cactus and rock, keeping the obstacle dodging to a minimum. I gained the first 500 feet or so rather quickly, but was eventually forced to traverse a boulder-strewn slope, requiring a more hands-on effort. Though it seemed longer, it took just 15 minutes of up-down, up-down, and squeezing between sections of rock and dense desert shrubbery, before finding myself at the bottom of a rock-capped and semi-steep slope leading to the upper ridge. Steeper but easier terrain, I worked my way up the 300 foot slope and landed on the upper plateau, where just ten more minutes of uphill effort got me to the highpoint, the benchmark, and the register.


Looking back the way I came


Traversing (looking back)


The upper part of the south ridge


Looking east from near the top of Jacumba


Jacumba’s survey marker


Looking out over Carrizo Gorge, Mt. Tule on the left


Southeast views

The views from Jacumba were impressive, looking into the upper reaches of Carrizo Gorge to the immediate west, and right down to the desert floor to the east. Most of the major southern Anza Borrego peaks were in view, and though the weatherman had predicted otherwise, it was quite comfortable on the rocky summit. The register was rather popular compared to other Anza Borrego peaks, I’m guessing due to Jacumba’s inclusion in the DPS peak list. After just 5 minutes on top, I swallowed a mouthful of energy gel and went back the way I had come up, reaching the truck just about 3 hours on the nose after leaving.



Eris, having done some writing in her notebook, dabbled in desert photography, and taken a nap, was happily relaxed upon my return. After getting a snack and replenishing some fluids, we began our exit on dirt roads the same way we had come in. About halfway back out to the 8, a guy on a quad came peeling around a blind corner, spun out, and came to stop with the help of my (stopped) front bumper. The damage was minimal, but we exchanged info and went on our separate ways.

Not letting that small incident affect our good day, we continued on to the town of Jacumba, the obscure community that I’ve visited once before. The place is full of interesting and bizarre sights, and I couldn’t resist showing Eris. From there we continued along Old Hwy 80 to McCain Valley Road, to scout future hikes to Mt. Tule and the Gasp and Groan benchmarks. I debated on hiking Mt. Tule right there, a mild few miles with minimal gain, but it made much more sense to loop it together with Gasp and Groan at a later date. Eris and I killed the rest of the day exploring a small cave in the area, and taking in the views of Carrizo Gorge (and a sliver of the amazing railway) at the Sacotone Overlook.


Farmland near Jacumba


Jacumba, CA


A cave in McCain Valley


The Carrizo Gorge and the Carrizo Gorge Railway


Jacumba stats: 4.8 miles roundtrip, 1350 feet gain/loss


The drive in to Jacumba’s south ridge – there are more dirt roads than what’s shown on the map

*- regarding the driving directions, Google gets you to the beginning of the dirt roads. It would be difficult to accurately describe the driving route from there, but to reach the south ridge of Jacumba, as a general rule of thumb, keep Table Mountain near to your left and pass the radio towers on their left, driving north turning northwest towards Jacumba Mountain. High clearance required.