A Respite from the Heat: Stonewall Peak, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Since I didn’t get to join last weekend’s Hikes & Hops adventure up Stonewall Peak in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, I decided to make the trek on my own. With temps in the Borrego Valley soaring into the 100-105F range, it was a good choice!

If you’ve never been to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, go. Seriously, it’s lovely. I never saw Cuyamaca before the Cedar Fire in 2003, but even after the fires went through, the landscapes are breathtaking. The fire succession plants are filling in nicely and the burned remnants of trees and shrubs make for a stunning sight against the bright green new growth and the vast blue sky.

This was my first visit to the park that wasn’t through my windshield, so I didn’t really know what to expect, other than a cool respite from the desert heat and some beautiful green trees. It was so much more! For some reason, I made the ridiculous assumption that since there were no wildflowers in Anza-Borrego this year, there were not really any flowers anywhere. I have no idea where this assumption came from, but the sight of all the flowers blooming along the trails was really the best surprise I could have gotten!

As I hiked higher and higher, through delightfully welcome patches of cool shade afforded by deciduous trees along the trail, I was awarded with views that were breathtaking in a couple different ways. First, all around Stonewall Peak there is evidence of the Cedar Fire, and seeing fire scars and dead trees in every place my eye could find was a startling reminder of how devastating fire can be and how unmanageable it can get in a short time. After immediately noticing the burned flora, my eye went to the color green, and found it everywhere! This ecosystem is restoring itself, with the help of the Cuyamaca Reforestation Project. And to top it all off, the landscapes surrounding Stonewall Peak are varied- you can see what’s left of the conifer forests, open meadowland, oak woodland, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and the Salton Sea. I’m told on a clear day, one can even see into Mexico.

The hike is a moderate one, doable for most people if you simply take your time… there are plenty of lovely spots to sit and take a rest along the trail. The most interesting part of the hike, aside from the amazing views and interesting botany, was the very end of the trail. The final push to the peak is a trek up some very interesting stairs, complete with a guardrail and interpretive signs informing the uneducated viewer like me what they are seeing. All in all, a wonderful little adventure in the mountains, and a welcome respite from the heat of Anza-Borrego. And now for a montage of nature photos!