Anza Borrego

Indian Valley to Sombrero Peak

Sombrero Peak Facts

At 4229 feet Sombrero Peak is the highest point in the southern end of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. We have observed this impressive mountain over the years from various vantage points but never made the trek to the top. As Jerry Schaad describes it :

“Climbing Sombrero Peak is a feat attempted by relatively few people, but not because of its height (4229 feet above sea level), which is quite modest. Rather, the peak is remote from paved roads, and its boulder-guarded flanks discourage those who are not willing to put up with either a long march to its base (from the west) or a shorter but sweaty eastern approach up from the desert floor.”

The Drive To Indian Valley

With this quote fresh in my mind, Mary and I left San Diego with Indian Valley as our initial destination. We dropped down into Ocotillo around 3PM and headed north up the S2 towards the Indian Gorge turn off. The turn off itself comes up really quick so if you blink you will miss it.

Driving the FJ Cruiser into Indian Gorge - Anza Borrego
Driving the FJ Cruiser into Indian Gorge

We pointed the FJ Cruiser west and negotiated the sandy narrow trail through a thick forest of smoke trees which in the Spring will be covered with an impressive display of purple flowers. To the right is the turnoff to Torote canyon which we will check out someday, but today our goal was to find a camp site before dark. Indian Gorge opens up into the vast expanse of Indian Valley which is surrounded by large mountains on 3 sides. The jeep trail itself is pretty easy and for the most part can be navigated by a car.

Our camp in Indian Valley with the top of Sombrero Peak visible in the background.
Our camp in Indian Valley with the top of Sombrero Peak visible in the background.

There are some soft sandy sections and the occasional boulder to keep it interesting, but we stayed in 2-wheel drive until we reached our campsite. Interestingly enough for how huge this area is there are limited camping areas due to the thick Desert flora on both sides of the trail. We found a sandy section nestled next to some rocks and set up camp.

Desert sunset in Indian Valley - Anza Borrego
Desert sunset in Indian Valley

The Hike Begins

The desert sunset was amazing and became more intense as the sun dipped behind the mountains. We cooked dinner, had a few beers and turned in early in anticipation of the hike the next day.

The next morning we decided to to get an early start, so after breakfast we drove to the end of the jeep road donned our hiking boots and were off. The approach to Sombrero Peak is basically straight up the mountain. You find yourself climbing over huge boulders while trying to avoid being impaled by the various species of cholla, agave, and other cacti.

As we climbed further up the mountain we were able to see huge expanses of the southern Anza Borrego Desert. On one side you could see both forks of Indian Valley, while on the other side you could see Bow Willow, Mountain Palm Springs and Carrizo Creek in the distance.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Wisps of clouds floated above the otherwise clear desert sky. Lizards who had been peacefully sunning themselves on rocks quickly darted away in alarm upon our noisy arrival.

Taking a much needed break near the top of Sombrero Peak
Taking a much needed break near the top of Sombrero Peak

After two hours of bouldering, avoiding cholla and agave, and crawling through narrow crevices of catclaw, I found myself summiting Sombrero Peak. (Mary opted to stop about 400′ below) To my surprise there was a geo-cache at the top bolted to a rock. I signed the guest book contained inside the worn green canister, snapped a couple photos and proceeded back down the mountain.

The trek back down was a bit faster since we took a more direct route, still we found ourselves covered with numerous scratches when we arrived back at the truck.

Not what I would call an easy hike but well worth it.😉🌵

Photos from the hike to Sombrero Peak are here

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