In-Ko-Pah Mountains HP P900 PD
Cleveland NF HP
Peak 6,260ft P300 PD

Tue, Apr 19, 2022
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile
Peak 6,260ft later climbed Wed, Apr 20, 2022


After dropping my wife off at the San Diego airport in the early morning, I headed east on Interstate 8 to the Laguna Mtns on the western edge of Anza-Borrego State Park. I planned to spend three days in the area visiting summits along the Pacific Divide, a long-term project of mine. It was a bit too warm in the lower reaches of the park for comfortable hiking, but around the 5-6,000-foot level, it was quite pleasant.

In-Ko-Pah Mountains HP

Most of the In-Ko-Pah Mtns are found on the east side of McCain Valley. It would have been better had the mapmakers left it to these lower elevations, as it is primarily a desert range. For whatever reason, they included other mountains on the west side of the valley that would have been better as part of the Laguna Mtns, whose elevation, composition and flora they more closely resemble. The highpoint of the In-Ko-Pah Mtns are found in this western section on BLM land, sandwiched between indian lands to the north and south. I've been wanting to do this one for more than a decade as it's a CA range highpoint, but so far had not found the opportunity to do so. There is an all-public route from National Forest lands to the west, and it was this route I used, described in some detail by Michael Sullivan in his PB report. From Interstate 8, the La Posta Truck Trail climbs into the National Forest heading northeast for 6-7mi to Thing Valley where a private ranch inholding is found. Any vehicle can navigate this well-graded road. A gate blocks access into Thing Valley. About a quarter mile before this gate, where the road goes over a saddle, there is gated utility road forking east. This is the starting point. The goal is to follow the southern and eastern boundaries of the ranch inholding to reach an old trail/road on the hillside east of the property. Hunters use this route semi-regularly, leaving a decent use trail through most of it. In his report, Michael mentions going "out of bounds" which I take to mean encrouching on the private property. I think this is not true. Some of the fencing is outside the property boundary, used to keep cattle in their intended areas, rather than to keep people out.

Starting from the utility road at 9:25a, I spent the first 30min on a leisurely stroll around the property, passing through an unsigned wire-gate on the south side of the property, around the end of another fence near the SE corner, and over a third fence in the dry creekbed on the east side. I think it would be fair at this point to continue north along the creekbed to pick up an old road that connects with the hiking trail, adding an extra half mile each way, but removing any need to bushwhack at this point. Not knowing this at the time, I did what Michael did on his return by ascending a grassy gully found shortly after the last fence, heading northeast. The grass give way to heavy brush about 100yds short of the trail. It's an ugly stretch, but I got through without much damage to skin or clothing. It took but 10min in the brush before I popped out on the trail overlooking Thing Valley to the west. The trail/road then climbs to a saddle and down into an adjacent drainage. After 30min on this, I reached a junction and turned north onto a more overgrown spur road. This heads up the drainage for about 25min to an old prospect on the west side of Pt. 5,664ft. Here the road becomes a very overgrown single-track that continues for another 20min or so, until due west of the highpoint. I left the trail here where the cross-country is not nearly as bad as it initially looks. Michael describes some of this as "stiff nasty brush" that "bruised and cut up my legs even with pants on", but I didn't think it was that bad at all. Still, it took about 40min once I left the trail to cover about half a mile, fairly slow going. If I learned anything from years in the Ventana chapparal, the brush dictates the pace for you. If you try to go faster, it is usually to your own detriment. Near the highpoint, I did what Michael had done, following from one rock outcrop to the next. It not only made for less brush, but it added some scrambling challenges for variety. I reached the highpoint just after noon, 2.5hrs after starting out.

During a short break taking in views, I left a register on the highest rock outcrop, then carefully retreated back the way I'd come. It was only marginally faster in the reverse direction, taking another two and a quarter hours. I made two deviations from my ascent route, but neither proved valuable. I tried a different line through the brush from the trail to the grassy gully, and then another option when traveling around the south side of the ranch. This second part proved obviously worse - better to stick closer to the fenceline on that side. Upon returning, it wasn't yet 2:30p, leaving me time for more adventuring.

Cleveland National Forest HP

I spent almost 45min driving back down to Interstate 8, then west to the Sunrise Hwy, taking that scenic road up into the Laguna Mtns. The highpoint of the Cleveland NF is on a minor bump of little prominence near the ex-HPS summit of Cuyapaipe Mtn (which lies to the east on Indian lands). A dirt road (Thing Valley Rd on the topo map - it connects to La Posta Rd but goes through the ranch property not open to the public) goes south, paralleling the PCT. I drove to a point west of the highpoint. There is a turnout on the west side just before the PCT crosses the road from the east to west side. I parked here and started north on the PCT. The route isn't very long, less than half a mile. I used a Garret Stoops GPX track from PB that was helpful. Upon leaving the PCT, the cross-country starts off easy, but eventually reaches the forest edge where the slope steepens some and the chapparal takes over. Ducks can be found to mark an old use trail that can help significantly in finding your way through the brush. With care and a slow pace, there should be very little heavy brush to wade through. It took me less than 20min to find my way to the rock outcrop serving as the highpoint. A red can held three small register pads, one left by Terry Flood in 2008, a second by Richard Carey in 2014, and a third by Mark Adrian in 2020. There are some views offered from the summit, southeast to Cuyapaipe and northeast to Peak 6,260ft. It was to this unnamed, but more impressive summit that I would next turn my attention after returning to the Jeep.

Peak 6,260ft

It was 4p when I returned to the Jeep, leading me to believe I had plenty of time for a last summit. Peak 6,260ft is a P400 lying on the eastern edge of the Laguna Mtns and the NF, overlooking desert BLM and state lands to the east. I had been on most of the route back in 2018 to visit the nearby Sawtooth Mtns Wilderness HP. Without bothering to save a track or reread the TR, I brashly assumed I still retained all the information needed to reach Peak 6,260ft. My overconfidence would be my undoing and I would be rewarded with impending failure. I parked at the Desert View Picnic Site I had used previously, and made my way south along the PCT to a water fountain at the NF/Indian reservation boundary. I passed through the barbed-wire fencing and made my way southeast along the old firebreak. Soon after this I made my major blunder by turning onto the remnants of another firebreak forking east. I followed this for about 15min until it turned downhill and disappeared. Realizing my mistake, I chose to forge ahead rather than backtrack since I knew the trail to be a short distance on the other side of the brush-filled gully I was descending towards. Big mistake. I thrashed through some of the thickest brush the area has to offer, taking far too much time and expending far too much energy before actually reaching the old trail. I spent another 20min or so following along the correct route, finding it progressively harder to follow, my pace getting progressively slower. It had been quite windy most of the day but it had picked up considerably on this last hike, so much so that I was blown over several times while trying to work my way through the brush. I still had more than a mile to go, it was after 5p, and I realized I would probably be returning in the dark. My pants were already partially shredded and I had to acknowledge I'd messed this one up. Better to return now and try again the next day. I returned back via the correct route, and visited Pt. 6,122ft as consolation since it was only a short distance off the route. It was 6:15p when I got back to the Jeep. It was far too windy and cold (about 48F now) to take an outdoor shower. I was happy to find that I could use the bathroom at the picnic site, featuring a drain in the concrete floor. Still cold, but at least no wind. Later, I found a quiet place to camp off the Sunrise Hwy where I could spend the night with cell coverage, even...


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Tue May 10 09:38:33 2022
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: