Pinyon Mountain—North Approach Trail

Julian, California

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Best done as a two-day backpack, this wide-ranging loop trip is still within the scope of an ambitious day-hike. Only about 10 percent of the total distance covered involves difficult terrain, and most of that is in the first half. If you’re backpacking, be sure to bring a 30-foot length of cord for lowering your pack down one or more dry falls. Several dozen bighorn sheep make their home in the Pinyon Mountains, and you may have a close encounter with one, as I did, in Bighorn Canyon. Since there was no easy escape route, the startled ewe clawed her way up a sheer granite wall to reach a safer stance on the steep, rock-strewn slopes above. When threatened, bighorn sheep prefer this kind of “escape terrain,” on which they’re more nimble than any other large animal.

Pinyon Mountain—North Approach Trail Professional Review and Guide

"Best done as a two-day backpack, this wide-ranging loop trip is still within the scope of an ambitious day-hike. Only about 10 percent of the total distance covered involves difficult terrain, and most of that is in the first half. If you’re backpacking, be sure to bring a 30-foot length of cord for lowering your pack down one or more dry falls. Several dozen bighorn sheep make their home in the Pinyon Mountains, and you may have a close encounter with one, as I did, in Bighorn Canyon. Since there was no easy escape route, the startled ewe clawed her way up a sheer granite wall to reach a safer stance on the steep, rock-strewn slopes above. When threatened, bighorn sheep prefer this kind of “escape terrain,” on which they’re more nimble than any other large animal."

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Julian
Distance: 14
Elevation Gain: 3,100 feet
Trail Type: Loop/Lollipop
Skill Level: Difficult
Duration: 10 hours
Season: November through April
Local Contacts: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Local Maps: USGS Whale Peak
Driving Directions: Directions to Pinyon Mountain—North Approach Trail

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May 2018