Cottonwood Canyon Trail

Mount Laguna, California 91948

Cottonwood Canyon Trail

Cottonwood Canyon Trail Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"V-shaped Cottonwood Canyon once provided Kumeyaay Indians with a direct, but very steep passage between the desert floor and the lush meadows of the Laguna Mountains. Springs and seasonal flows of water in the canyon undoubtedly served its travelers well. For a time Cottonwood Canyon was mistakenly believed to have been the route of the Jackass Mail (part of a pioneering mail route between San Antonio and San Diego)—hence the naming of Pioneer Mail Picnic Area. Later research showed the true route of the Jackass Mail to be Oriflamme Canyon. Like hikes into the Grand Canyon from the rim, this route is a down-and-back-up affair. Since private land lies on the desert floor below Cottonwood Canyon, you should retrace your path after descending. Unlike hiking the Grand Canyon trails, there’s no established path, so even the downhill part is slow going. There are lots of tricky little descents—especially if you’re carrying extra gear—over small waterfalls."

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Trail Information

Mount Laguna
Nearby City
2,000 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Skill Level
5 hours
October through June
Descanso Ranger District, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Local Contacts
USGS Monument Peak
Local Maps

Trail Log