Scheduled Hikes for 2010

 Azalea Glen Trail/Harper Creek/Cuyamaca Mts. Hikes

Date:  April 18th, 2010  09:00 AM -  05:00 PM
Hike Group:  San Diego Trail Tramps
Info. URLs:  Cuamaca Rancho State Park Interpretive Association
Maps to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Location: Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, in Eastern San Diego County
 Description:  Azalea Glen Trail/Harper Creek/Cuyamaca Mts. Hikes

Today we'll do two hikes: the 1st hike (about 2.5 hrs. roundtrip) will be to Azalea Glen Trail (Schad's book: Area M-7, Trip 6), the 2nd hike will be to Harper Creek (Area M-7, Trip 10). Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has about 25,000 acres, almost 90 percent of which were badly burned in the Oct. 2003 Cedar fire. To help with the recovery, the park has planted more than 5,000 trees using seedlings from stock gathered in the area. BTW, no dogs are allowed on the trails. Park Rules. Dogs are restricted to developed campgrounds, picnic areas, and paved roads, and must be on leash at all times.

How to get there: To reach Azalea Glen Loop Trail from the junction of Interstates 5 & 8 in San Diego, take I-8 east for 38 miles, to California 79 and turn left (north). Go north for 9 miles to Paso Picacho Campground (on the left) and use the parking lot just to the right (north) of the campground entrance. The marked trailhead is in the southwest corner of the parking lot.

1. Azalea Glen Trail. Trailhead and parking is at the Paso Picacho campground parking lot. Fee: There's a $6 fee for day-use parking. At the campground entrance, fill out an envelope to put on your dashboard and put the fee in the slot. This 3.6 mile loop hike goes along one of the few year-round streams in this park and gains about 550 feet of elevation with views of Stonewall Peak, several meadows, and a spring. Timber shades some of the trail during the summertime, although the Cedar fire damaged many of the timber stands. Features of the trail include varied indigenous vegetation rebounding from the 2003 fires, annual wildflower displays, and bird watching. During the months of May through July, the azaleas that survived the wildfires are in bloom. This hike includes a steep section, so the trail has a moderate rating and is not ideal for beginning hikers. No dogs are allowed on these trails, only in the campgrounds, on lease.

Bright-green pine seedlings are bountiful next to the blackened trunks of pines, cedars and oaks damaged during the 2003 Cedar fire in the park. Even more abundant are the bright-green twigs and branches on the bushy ceanothus, or wild lilac. The park's Azalea Glen Loop Trail offers a great look at the remarkable resilience of nature. It's also a wonderful walk through classic coniferous forest, past peaceful meadows and sonorous streams.

About a half-mile from the start of the Azalea Glen trail are two granite slabs dotted with the shallow grinding holes, called morteros, that were used by the Kumeyaay Indians for turning acorns into flour hundreds of years ago. The Azalea Glen trail passes through the meadow where the morteros are found, up through more forest and into a lovely glen of Azalea Creek. Bright-red branches of manzanita can be seen in the glen. The trail then climbs uphill through lots of rocks to reach Azalea Spring at the top. It offers sweeping views of Stonewall Peak and the sparkling blue of Lake Cuyamaca. Joining the Azalea Glen Fire Road for a short time, the Azalea Glen trail then continues downhill to its starting point.

Above: View of Stonewall Peak from the Azalea Glen trail.

2. The Harper Creek hike is 2.5 miles roundtrip. It's about a 200' elevation gain/loss and should take about 1.5 hours to complete. We'll start at the Visitor's Center in Green Valley, about 3 miles south of Paso Picacho Campground, and pay a quick visit to the museum there. Then we'll hike east across the Sweetwater River, and take the East Side Trail northeast, then turn east on the Harvey Moore Trail, along the north side of Harper Creek, into the narrowing canyon. Harper Creek has shallow, jewel-like pools that invite wading. The streamwater flows over bedrock slabs, often streaked with mineral deposits, and collects in small pools, two to four feet deep, fed by mini-waterfalls. The best bathing pools are about 0.1 mile upstream from where you leave the East Side Trail and head east up along Harper Creek, but the creek remains interesting for another 0.2 miles upstream. If any of our hikers are so inclined, they're welcomed to get wet.

We'll meet at 8:45 am in Hillcrest at the usual location for last minute info, directions and carpooling, then depart at 9:00 am. Refer to maps posted on our website Maps page for details on how to get to the area. (Click on links at top of this page.) For those driving in from other areas, we'll rendezvous at the Paso Picacho Campground Picnic Area to begin our hike of Azalea Glen Loop Trail at about 10:15 am.

Hiking Safety Reminders:
Mountain lions are occasionally encountered in the park. The following suggestions are based upon studies of mountain lion behavior:
• Stay calm if you come upon a lion. Talk firmly to it. Move slowly, never run away or turn your back on it. Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms, open your jacket if you are wearing one. Do not crouch or bend over. Do not approach a mountain lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most lions will avoid a confrontation; give them a way to escape. Contact the park Ranger if you see a mountain lion in the park.
• Always carry water with you when you go out for a hike.
• Always carry a park map with you when you go for a hike.
• Tell someone where you are going and when you plan on returning.