The Mountains of California
Otay Mountain • Highpoint: San Ysidro Mountains
• San Diego County

The Wilderness Boundary sign

Walking the road

Doghouse Junction

Date: October 4, 2008 • Elevation: 3,566 feet • Prominence: 2,086 feet • Distance: 1.8 miles • Time: 45 minute hike, 2.5 hours total • Gain: 260 feet • Conditions: Hazy with clouds • Teammates: Adam Helman


Otay Mountain tops the San Ysidro Range in south San Diego County. The summit lies a couple miles north of the Mexican border, and from the top, one can see a lot of Tijuana. A decent road goes to the top, so hiking it is simple. I was here on a quick weekend trip to hike nearby Cuyamaca Peak and this peak, being joined by Adam Helman, graciously repeating these ascents for my benefit.

I camped at the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park the night before and we had a successful hike up Cuyamaca Peak this morning. Finishing there about 9 a.m., it took us 90 minutes to drive south toward Otay Mountain. We followed Japatul Road to Lyons Valley Road to Honey Springs Road, putting us on state route CA-94 a few miles east of the town of Jamul. The drive was scenic and remote. We located ourselves a little past the locale of Dulzura, then onto Marron Valley Road.

On Marron Valley Road, we passed a few homes, then went west up a rougher road. Adam parked his truck here, then rode with me. I proceeded south along a rough road briefly, which merged in with a better road. Turning right (west), we were now on the main road heading up to the top. This road was about one car-width wide, but well maintained. The Border Patrol use these roads looking for crossers.

The drive to Doghouse Junction took about 30 minutes. This is where other roads coming in from the north and west meet. I wanted a little hike, so parking here left about a mile hike to the top. There was plenty of room to park. So I parked.

The hike went quickly. The last spur to the top is paved, but steep and narrow. In time, were were on the summit, and Adam celebrated with pastrami sandwiches for both of us. Looking east, big rounded Tecate Peak stood high. South was a lot of mountains in Mexico. West, we could see the patchwork of suburban San Diego, then a very distinct line, and south of that line, an incredibly dense collection of roads and buildings, this clearly being Tijuana. The ocean was even visible far to the west.

We stayed up here for 30 minutes, then hiked leisurely back to my truck. The drive down was fun, and we were down and back to Adam's truck by 3 p.m. Clouds had moved in and it looked like it could rain, so we got back onto paved roads without too much delay. In Jamul, I topped the gas while Adam bought us some ice cream treats, a tradition of his after any successful climb.

I stayed at Adam's place that night. For fun, he let me read his Ph.D. dissertation. I left early the next morning for Arizona. The "storm" had brought lots of clouds and some mist but not much rain, but driving up and over the high passes on Interstate-8 east of San Diego, I encountered thick fog. Then, once down into Imperial County, the clouds ended and I had clear, dry and lovely conditions for the drive back home.

(c) 2008, 2019 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.