In the Jacumba Mountains
California fan palms
Jacumba Wilderness is a 31,358-acre property bounded on the south by the US-Mexico border. The wilderness area includes a portion of the Jacumba Mountains which extend southward into Mexico. This area is on the eastern flanks of California's coastal ranges. The Jacumba Mountains are the result of the Pacific tectonic plate's inexorable subduction beneath the North American plate. The mountains are a series of parallel ridges that descend to the Colorodo Desert. Those ridges break the property into four transitional zones.
The highest zone, on the west side close to Smuggler's Cave, has a lot of wildlife in it. Kangaroo rats, mule deer, golden eagles and peninsular bighorn sheep. The Myers Canyon-Pinto Valley section offers small oases of California fan palms. Davies Valley, the largest valley in the wilderness, is separated from Myers Valley by a high ridge with large stretches of surface cobbles on the ground. One the east side is Skull Valley, a secluded basin with a small dry lake bed.
There is reported to be one trail in the wilderness area, in Davies Valley. It's an eight-mile trail with a couple opportunities along the way to loop back to the trailhead. Be careful: the trail is often faint. And this close to the border, you never know what you'll find along the way.
Most folks who do legally go to vist Jacumba Wilderness use Interstate 8 to get there. One exit is at IN-KO-PAH Park. From there follow the Smuggler's Cave Road up the hillside. You know you'll need high-clearance 4WD from the Interstate exit, right? There's an exit for Ocotillo, too. From there go south on State Route S-2 to US Highway 98. Turn east on Highway 98 and go 0.7 miles to a BLM sign marking the dirt access road. Follow that road to the wilderness boundary at Davies Canyon.
Typical dry wash in the Jacumba Mountains
Upper left photo courtesy of Brian Murdock, BLM, CCA 2.0 License