Otay Mountain P2K SDC
Otay Mountain Wilderness HP
Peak 2,712ft
Peak 1,750ft P500
Otay Mesa

Apr 7, 2018
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 Profile


In the San Diego area for the weekend, I got up early with my wife as she prepared to head out to ref a volleyball tournament. I headed south towards the border with Mexico to tag a few summits, primarily the Otay Mountain Wilderness HP. I had been to Otay Mtn years ago, but had neglected the Wilderness HP at that time, and never wrote a TR. The weather was mixed with cool temps and partial clouds, but it made for fine hiking conditions and I enjoyed it much better than that first visit when it was much warmer.

Otay Mountain/Otay Mountain Wilderness

Both of these are close to drive ups, even in low-clearance vehicles. The Otay Mtn Truck Trail is in pretty decent shape and I had no trouble driving the van on it. Starting from the north off Otay Lakes Rd, I drove almost six miles until I reached a junction northwest of the Wilderness HP. The rougher road leading to the highpoint requires high-clearance, but the hike was only a little more than half a mile in length. The top is a rock outcrop with a small solar-powered instrument located there, not sure if it still works. Oddly, the road I hiked and which seems perfectly legal to drive, goes right through the Wilderness boundary as defined on wilderness.net and depicted on the topo map. Because one can actually circumnavigate the highpoint in a vehicle, it shouldn't really be within the Wilderness boundary. There is a second point, slightly lower and just south of Otay Mtn that used to be considered the Wilderness HP, but it too, suffers from the same problem of being able to drive around it. I suspect the Wilderness boundary will get an update sometime in the futher at which time a new Wilderness HP will need to be selected. The views from the top were quite nice, looking into Mexico to the south where fog partially filled the valleys. To the west lies the higher Otay Mtn where I headed next.

Back at the van, I drove a little more than a mile west on the main road to another junction forking off to Otay Mountain's telecom facilities. I hiked this easy quarter mile to the summit where the highpoint is found outside the fenced areas in a clump of rocks to the south. I then wandered through the mild brush to the south in search of the "old" Wilderness HP (called "Otay South on PB), finding a duck but little else. Just for fun, I continued scrambling down the slope through the brush to return to the van, though it probably would have been easier to go back via the road.


To the west of Otay Mountain lies the Otay County Open Space Preserve, for which there appears to be almost no information online. It seems to be a patchwork of federal and state lands with a portion managed as the Otay Mountain Ecological Reserve by the CA Dept of Fish and Wildlife and most of the rest BLM lands. A Border Patrol agent had stopped to check on me when I was doing the Wilderness HP, and when he found I was just out hiking he recommended a trail to the west of Otay Mountain that starts from an old concrete bunker. I found on PB that this leads out to Peak 2,712ft, within the OSP, Terry Flood having provided a short TR and Mike Sullivan a GPX track. I decided to go check it out and found it an enjoyable hike, a little less than a mile each way. From the truck trail, a road leads out to two additional bunkers that appear to be old jails of some sort. There is a larger one down the slope to the west from the road but I didn't go check that one out. The road ends at the bunkers where a clipped use trail continues to Peak 2,712ft, about 300ft below the starting elevation at the truck trail. There were many discarded plastic water jugs and bottles, as well as a few small day packs, clothing and other stuff cast off by folks coming over the border. The sometimes overgrown trail can be hard to follow at times, but for the most part it works nicely to keep one from floundering in the heavier brush that covers much of the landscape. The summit has little prominence, but it has a decent view overlooking the OSP and the sprawling city of Tijuana to the southwest. Another summit within the preserve about 2mi to the WNW caught my attention and I looked it up on PB while I rested atop Peak 2,712ft. On the way back I picked up two discarded daypacks and filled them with empty bottles left along the trail. Not yet pristine, but at least it's a little cleaner now.

Peak 1,750ft

I drove another 6mi west on the Otay Mtn Truck Trail, descending from 3000ft to about 800ft where a minor dirt road forks off to the north. This minor road was a bit too rough for the van, so I parked the van off the truck trail and hiked the road, following another of Mike Sullivan's GPX tracks picked up off the PB website. It turns out that this "preserve" is open to OHVs, shooting and most forms of recreation - about the only thing being preserved is the land from development. I followed one road (a steep 4WD road to be sure) up from the southeast and went down another to the southwest, the two routes converging at the bottom in O'Neal Canyon at the base of the mountain. Some easy scrambling gets one atop the summit rocks with nice views - more than 500ft of prominence on this one. The outing was less than 4mi roundtrip, taking about an hour and half to complete.

Otay Mesa

Only a quarter mile further down the road, the truck trail meets pavement at Alta Rd. Quite to my surprise, there was a locked gate barring my exit with a No Trespassing sign facing Alta Rd. Evidently this isn't considered an access point for the truck trail though there are perfectly legal ways to drive on both sides of the gate. I really didn't want to drive back 14mi of the truck trail to return the way I came and wondered how long I might have to wait for a Border Patrol agent to come by this way. I figured I should at least check out the collection of chained locks holding the gate closed, and was elated to find one of them unlatched, allowing me an easy exit. After driving through the open gate, I replaced the locks the way I'd found them and headed off in search of one last summit, Otay Mesa. I drove south and west for about 2mi before pulling off the pavement of Enrico Fermi Rd at the east end of SR11 where it dead-ends against a high mound that constitutes the highpoint. It's not much of a summit and the views are weak, at best, but it's a short, easy hike to the top that appears to be public lands. It was 12:30p by now and I decided to call it a day and head back to Ranch Bernardo where I was staying for the weekend...


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Mon Apr 16 09:34:49 2018
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: snwbord@hotmail.com