Agua Caliente Hot Springs/Moonlight Canyon Loop Hike

  Date: January 19th, 2014  09:00 AM - 05:00 PM (Martin Luther King Jr. 3-day weekend)
  Info. URLs: Agua Caliente Brochure in .pdf format, Campground Reservations, Current Weather for this area
  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.

When hikers depart from the Hillcrest carpool at 9:00 am, take Interstate 8 East to Ocotillo in the desert, then head 27 miles northwest on Highway S-2, and arrive at Agua Caliente Campground (on the left, near the landing strip) about 10:45 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. which will provide plenty of time to then go to the hot springs/spa to do a post-hike soak! (The spa closes at 5 PM.)


[Be sure to print out the two maps above, to carry along for reference while on the hike.]

Description: 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.

(Time permitting, some hikers may enjoy additional hike time on the adjacent Ocotillo Nature Trail or Desert Overlook Trail, just to the north of the park's entrance booth.)

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 Jerry Schad, 2007 Edition, Chapter 35: Agua Caliente Springs, Trip 1, Moonlight Trail, pp.395-398.

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. ;^)

Camping: For those interested in overnight camping at the Agua Caliente Regional Park during the 3-day holiday weekend, you can make reservations online. Here's the info. on Site Fees:

Tent Only Sites: 8 people max and 2 tents: $29/night (Includes $5.00 Reservation Fee)
(BBQ, fire ring, picnic table)

Partial Hookup Sites: 8 people max, 24' parking: $34/night (Includes $5.00 Reservation Fee)
(water, electricity, fire ring, picnic table)

Area is available from 2:00 PM checkin until 1:00 PM checkout.
Pets allowed in campground, but not on trails.