Moonlight Canyon Trail

Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness, California

Elevation Gain836ft
Trailhead Elevation1,318ft
Elevation Min/Max1293/1647ft
Elevation Start/End1318/1318ft

Moonlight Canyon Trail

Moonlight Canyon Trail is a hiking trail in San Diego County, California. It is within Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness. It is 1.5 miles long and begins at 1,318 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 3.1 miles with a total elevation gain of 836 feet. Near the trailhead there are a shelter and parking. Along the trail there is an information sign.

Moonlight Canyon Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Hiking California's Desert Parks (Falcon Guides)
Bill & Polly Cunningham
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"Although this trail lies outside of the Anza-Borrego boundary, and there is an entry fee to the county park, it is definitely worth a visit. Interesting erosion formations, intermittent watery spots, and cozy side canyons combine for a series of discoveries as you follow the well-marked trail through its circular route in the canyon. The trail begins inauspiciously by climbing to a low ridge; it quickly drops to the stream bottom, which goes up a rocky draw and into the canyon itself. Side washes and small canyons periodically invite further exploration as the main wash winds downward. There are occasional steep slopes requiring only simple scrambling on this otherwise easy hike. The rock formations, courtesy of centuries of water and earthquake activity, are endlessly fascinating. The variety of colors of the rocks is also noteworthy. Sudden splashes of greenery where water exists, tamarisk and willow patches, punctuate the trip."
101 Hikes in Southern California: Exploring Mountains, Seashore and Desert (Wilderness Press)
Jerry Schad and David Money Harris
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"Take in a deep breath of clean, dry air. Bask in the larger-than-life brilliance of the desert sun. Sink into the womblike comfort of warm spring water. At Agua Caliente Springs you can have your cake and eat it too—hike first, then enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot springs. A San Diego County park has been established here in the midst of state park lands at the foot of the Tierra Blanca Mountains."
Day & Overnight Hikes: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (Menasha Ridge Press)
Sheri McGregor
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"The relaxing experience of a brief stroll on an easy trail with a few steep areas and some hops down boulders seems days away from civilization when you take in the quiet. You may see campers out for this stroll at twilight, when the moon begins to rise. Perhaps the short trek is called Moonlight Canyon Loop because it lends itself to friendly chatting as the sun sets. Outstanding Features: Sandy wash, interesting boulder and erosion formations."
Afoot & Afield: San Diego County (Wilderness Press)
Jerry Schad
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"The well-traveled, somewhat-steep-in-places Moonlight Trail climbs over a rock-strewn saddle, drops into a small wash dubbed Moonlight Canyon, descends past some seeps and a little oasis of willows in the wash bottom, and finally circles back to Agua Caliente Springs. You’ll find the main trailhead at the south end of the campground. Although moonlight treks on this trail are possible, a good flashlight wouldn’t hurt after dark. True to their name, the Tierra Blanca (“white earth”) Mountains that surround Agua Caliente and the Moonlight Trail are composed of light-colored and extensively fractured granitic rock—especially, in this instance, because the Elsinore Fault is here to help with the job of slicing and dicing it. The component mineral crystals of the rocks have broken down into the coarse sand that you’ll be walking on."

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Trail Information

Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness
Nearby City
Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness
Skill Level
Agua Caliente Regional Park
Local Contacts
USGS 7.5-minute Agua Caliente Springs
Local Maps

Trail Log