San Diego Trail Tramps Scheduled Hikes for 2008

Agua Caliente Hot Springs/Moonlight Canyon Loop Hike

Date:    January 20th, 2008  09:00 AM -  05:00 PM (Martin Luther King Jr. 3-day weekend)
Group:    San Diego Trail Tramps
Brochure:    Agua Caliente Brochure in .pdf format
Location:    Agua Caliente Regional Park is located in the Anza Borrego Desert, about 111 miles East of San Diego. Agua Caliente Springs lies off Highway S-2, 27 miles northwest of Interstate 8 at Ocotillo, and 22 miles southeast of Highway 78. Driving time is about the same along either route from the central San Diego and South County areas.

If hikers leave from the Hillcrest carpool about 9:15 am and take Interstate 8 East to Ocotillo in the desert, then head 27 miles northwest on Highway S-2, they'll arrive at Agua Caliente Campground (on the left, near the landing strip) about 11 am. (There's free parking at the gravel pit on the right, just before the entrance booth. We'll rendezvous and start the hike from there. Walk over to the booth to pay any possible day-use fees.) The hike is of easy to moderate difficulty with a 350' elevation gain/loss and will take about 1-1.5 hrs.


Best known for its geothermally heated springs, it attracts visitors eager to soak in the soothing mineral waters. But Agua Caliente offers far more than therapeutic pools. There are spectacular vistas that await campers and picnickers alike, and hikers will enjoy miles of trails that meander through the park's canyons and across its hillsides. During the height of its season, September through May, this is one of the county's most popular parks.

Two naturally fed pools provide different ways of enjoying the park's mineral water: a large outdoor springfed spa is a natural 92°, and an indoor spa is heated to 102° and outfitted with Jacuzzi jets. Many of the 140 campsites have full or partial hookups, and spring-fed warm showers are available. A caravan area can accommodate large groups. A small picnic area is perfect for day users. Hiking trails offer the visitor more recreational options in the 910-acre park, which is open from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

The Moonlight Canyon loop hike is 1.5 miles long. This well-marked but somewhat steep and rugged trail climbs over a rock-strewn saddle, drops into a small wash named Moonlight Canyon, descends past some seeps and a little oasis of willows in the wash bottom, and finally circles back to Agua Caliente Springs. After the hike, plan a relaxing visit to one of the mineral pools! (Don't forget to bring a bathing suit and towel!!) For more detailed info. on the area, refer to "Afoot and Afield in San Diego County" by J.Schad, 1998 Edition, Area D-10: Agua Caliente Springs, Trip 1, Moonlight Trail, pp.321-323.

While you're there, be sure to stop by The Store at Agua Caliente Springs. It's leased by one of our members, Ben Shultz, who owns and operates The Desert Tower in Jacumba. The Store is operated by Mark (in the white shirt), so stop in, say hi and show your support with a purchase or two. ;^)