The Mountains of California
Potrero Peak • SoCal Peninsular Ranges
• San Diego County

Potrero Peak as seen from the road that goes to and from the Potrero County Park and campground

Summit is kind of visible from the far east end of the ridge

Getting closer...

...and closer...

The sticks indicate the top

Stick Scott leans up against a distant relative on the summit

View looking down into the town of Potrero

Date: February 14, 2015 • Elevation: 3,344 feet • Prominence: 764 feet • Distance: 3 miles • Time: 90 minutes • Gain: 1,164 feet • Conditions: Clear


Potrero Peak is in southern San Diego County, in the rocky hills about 45 miles east of San Diego. The town of Potrero lies to the south and east of the peak, sitting in a valley hemmed in by the hills. I was in the area for the weekend, planning to attend the memorial hike and get-together in rememberance of Adam Helman.

I had arrived into the area yesterday afternoon. I planned to hike Potrero Peak when I first arrived, which was about 1 p.m., but when I drove to the presumptive trailhead, a clearing on the south side of Round Potrero Road, I saw a sign that read "No Trespassing, Property of San Diego County". This seemed odd, so rather than chance a ticket, I decided I would come back tomorrow, and instead drive a little more and hike Tecate Peak, which I had originally planned for tomorrow. Basically, I reversed the planned order of my hikes.

My hike up Tecate Peak went well, and after I was done, I returned to the town of Potrero, and drove to the Potrero County Park, where I had reserved a camping space. While checking in, I asked the ranger at the desk about Potrero Peak, and he mentioned people hike it all the time. The sign is a bluff at best, or possibly to give the county a means to fight the occasional squatter or trash-dumper.

The campground is very nice, mainly catering to RVs. The tent area is just a grassy park, with vehicles forced to park nearby in a small lot. Since I was camping in my vehicle, I had no actual use for the tent space that was designated as mine for the night. The night was dark, with no moon, and full of stars. I was tired after my long drive and hike up Tecate Peak, so I was asleep by 9 p.m.

The next morning, I hung around the camp area for an hour or two, in no real hurry. I had Potrero Peak on the agenda, and later in the day, Stonewall Peak. I didn't have that much driving to do, and the hikes wouldn't be long, so I had some time to relax. I walked around the park a little and explored some roads and trails. I didn't leave until nearly 9 a.m. The drive to the trailhead was just a few miles. I pulled in and parked to the side, got my shoes on and my pack in order, and started up the trail.

The trail goes uphill a little, then cuts left and traverses east until it gets to about as far east on the ridge as possible, before turning right and gaining steeply onto the main crest. Down low, the scrub oak and manzanita grows to about 10 feet in height, but as I gained in elevation, just a hundred feet or so, it shrunk to about waist-high. The trail was well-trodden with boot prints and patches of mud from recent rains. It looked like the type of trail that could get real slick when wet, but there was no chance of that today. It was clear and dry, and a little warm.

After a short, steep push, I bypassed some rocks and could then see the summit, or very close to it. I kept to the trail and climbed up and past a couple more false summits, none more than a few dozen yards apart, until reaching the actual top, which is rocky and features an upright wooden plank. I stopped here briefly to survey the surrounding land, take a few photos and relax, but I didn't spend too much time, perhaps no more than 5 minutes. Tecate Peak stood to the southwest, and Otay Peak farther back, plus ranges in old Mexico. I could see Cuyamaca and Stonewall Peaks to the north, rocky Lyons Peak, and I think San Jacinto way off to the north, covered in snow. The one-way hike covered about 1.5 miles with about 1,150 feet of gain, taking me 45 minutes.

The hike down went fast, taking 30 minutes. Back at my truck, I changed into dry clothes and relaxed, then started the slow and scenic drive north toward the Cuyamaca and Stonewall Peaks area.

I enjoyed the easy and fast hike up Potrero Peak. It was a good workout, and definitely one to do if you happen to be in the area. I also enjoyed the people out this way. It's not like stereotypical San Diego. Out here, they're more grizzled and beardy, but cool. Everyone was friendly.

(c) 2015 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.