Current co-author Scott Turner has fully updated the book by re-hiking each of the routes contained within the book and adding (up to) 30 new routes to ensure that information for each trip is fully current.
About the Author
Scott Turner has been exploring the Southern California backcountry for more than a decade. He lives in Vista, CA, with his beautiful wife and temperamental cat.
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- Distance 16.2 miles (out-and-back)
- Hiking Time 11 hours
- Elevation Gain/Loss 3,800'/3,800'
- Difficulty Strenuous
- Trail Use Suitable for backpacking, dogs allowed
- Best Times November–May
- Agency CNF/PD
- Recommended Maps USGS Aguanga and USGS Vail Lake
- Optional Map Cleveland National Forest’s A Guide to the Agua Tibia & San Mateo Canyon Wilderness (does not cover entire route)
- Notes Navigation required, moderate–difficult (near the top) terrain, bushwhacking
On the way, you’ll cross a number of small streams that may flow in winter and spring, particularly during wet years. Remember that this water must be purified for drinking purposes.
Start off by descending sharply on the Cutca Trail into the shady depths of Cottonwood Creek, 0.5 mile. Climb to a saddle at 1.2 miles, then descend slightly to the Aguanga Trail junction at 2.1 miles. (The poorly maintained Aguanga Trail, which goes north, runs into private property near the Riverside County line.)
Continue over rolling terrain, through chaparral and oaks, crossing Long Canyon and two of its tributaries. These streambeds occasionally have water until early summer. Nearing Cutca Valley, you strike Cutca Road at 5.0 miles. Walk 0.4 mile north on the dirt road into Cutca Valley, then resume westward travel on the Cutca Trail. The valley, with its flat, open spaces, is a good spot to spend the night if you’re backpacking.
Rise out of the valley, cross the signed Agua Tibia Wilderness boundary, and follow a shady ravine with a seasonal, trickling brook. Sword ferns on the bank flutter in the cool and languid breeze. Switchbacks take you up to a junction with the Palomar-Magee Trail (7.6 miles), which is the old roadbed following the Palomar–Agua Tibia crest. From this junction, or from another point 0.2 mile west, you may make your bid for Eagle Crag. This involves a short, steep, cross-country climb through a ravine. Before the ravine reaches the crest, turn right to pass through thick and scratchy chaparral vegetation. Much of this vegetation burned during the Poomacha Fire, and large thickets of poodle-dog bush mingle with the skeletal remains of manzanita and other chaparral species. The rock pile at the apex of Eagle Crag’s sheer south face offers a dramatic platform for a vista unparalleled at any other site in the Palomar area.
FromI-15 at Temecula, exit at CA 79. Drive 18 miles east on CA 79 to reach the hamlet of Aguanga, at the intersection of CA 79 and CA 371. Continue on CA 79 for another 0.3 mile to reach a paved access road into the Rancho California RV Resort on the right. Head south on this road, which continues beyond the resort entryway as Forest Road 8S05/High Point Road. Drive a total of 5 miles south on this mostly unpaved and occasionally very rough road to the signed CUTCA TRAIL on the right. Note that Cleveland National Forest closes the road during and immediately after inclement weather.
Table of ContentsAcknowledgments
Introducing San Diego County
Health, Safety, and Courtesy
Using this Book
Overview of Hikes
Agencies and Information Sources
About the Authors