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

Tecate Peak as viewed from the summit of nearby Potrero Peak

Where I parked

The border fence clearly delineates the United States (left) and the city of Tecate, Mexico (right),

The fence ends here

The towers on top are visible, but I still have a long walk ahead of me

A segment of the road

The top as seen from a higher portion of the road. Unseen is a Border Patrol vehicle, parked about 15 feet behind me

I walked up some more, turned around and shot this image of the BP vehicle

Rounding a bend, the top is near

And this is the top

Another view of the border

I return to my truck just as the shadows engulf it

At times, I was about 30 feet from the Mexican border. Those are the backs of homes that abut the border fence

Tecate, CA, and the important signs

Zoom image of Tecate Peak, as seen from Potrero Peak

Montage of summit views, including of the big building up there

Date: February 13, 2015 • Elevation: 3,885 feet • Prominence: 1,885 feet • Distance: 9 miles • Time: 3.25 hours • Gain: 1,625 feet • Conditions: Lovely


Tecate Peak rises above the Mexican city of Tecate, but the summit lies within the United States, just barely. A decent-quality dirt road leads up to the summit, and the Border Patrol use it to keep an eye out for border crossers. Hikers are not discouraged, and are generally safe here.

I first spied Tecate Peak back in 2008 while hiking on Otay Mountain with Adam Helman. I assumed the peak was in Mexico, but Adam corrected me, and I noted it as a peak I'd like to visit in the future. This past December, my wife and I camped in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and I planned to hike Tecate Peak during that visit, but backed off when I sensed it may eat up most of a day to get there and back. About two weeks later, I learned of Adam's death, and a month later, returned to Southern California to attend a memorial in his honor. I chose to hike Tecate Peak while visiting on this trip.

I left home on Friday the 13th, driving through Yuma and El Centro, then onto the higher-elevation hill country of San Diego County. I followed State Route CA-94 through the town of Campo, arriving in the town of Potrero about 1 p.m. My plan was to hike Potrero Peak, camp at the nearby Potrero County Park, and then hike Tecate Peak early the next day. However, I altered those plans on the spot and immediately drove toward Tecate Peak, intending to hike it today. I still had time and I was feeling energetic.

From Potrero, I followed CA-94 another couple miles to a little spur road (CA-188) to the Tecate Border Crossing. On the American side, the town of Tecate is just a tiny hamlet with a few buildings and homes. However, I could see the many homes and buildings on the Mexican side, where Tecate is a fairly large city of about 70,000 people. The access road to Tecate Peak starts near the "International Border 1500 Feet" sign. I went right, then right again near a school, following the gravel road to a four-way junction. I went right again, passed one Border Patrol vehicle and about three mobile flood lights.

The road then gets near the actual border, paralleling it for about a mile, sometimes to within 50 feet. The border here is a sequence of corrugated metal slabs. On the other side I could see the tops of homes. It must be interesting to have your backyard fence be the border between two countries, although I imagine that accidentally tossing your frisbee or wiffleball over the fence means you aren't getting it back.

Closer to the base of the peak, the road passes by two small homesteads. In one case, a dog was barking at me and its owner was nearby. I waved to her and she waved back. The road then bends right away from the border, passes through an open gate, then angles left (west). I parked in a clearing near a water tank as shown on the topographical map. Just as I was getting ready, a Border Patrol truck drove by and stopped. I told the guy I was going to hike to the top and he said "okay".

Although my truck was in the open, it was on north-facing slopes and only visible when immediately nearby it. Also, I was now "known" to the Border Patrol so they'd know why a truck was parked here. I locked it all up as usual, but did not feel like I was taking undue risks. I started walking at about 1:30 p.m. The day was clear and slightly warm, but very nice.

The road meanders through the lower foothills, and at one point gets to within a couple hundred feet of the border fence. By this point, the buildings had stopped, and soon, so would the fence, simply ending partway up the slope. I looked around but didn't see anyone. Otherwise, I walked at a quick pace up the road, following the long switchbacks. The hillsides are covered in dense woody scrub plants, so that trying to save time by going directly up slope seemed like a bad idea. I was content to follow the road, even though it was tedious at times.

Way high up, there was a Border Patrol vehicle parked at a bend, giving it a birds-eye view of the city of Tecate and its surrounding countryside. I walked up and when I was close, I said "hello" and waved, but got no response, which was fine with me. I just walked on by. At another bend not too much farther up, I could see the top and its buildings. Keeping my pace, I was on the summit at about 3 p.m., a 90-minute walk covering about 4.5 miles, with 1500 feet of gain.

The views were very nice, including views of the ocean, and of the surrounding peaks. I snapped a couple photographs but didn't really stop. I tagged the top rocks, and immediately started the hike down.

The hike down took a little over an hour. I fast-walked the road, even jogging at times, and was back to my truck at about 4:30 p.m., just as the shadows were starting to engulf my truck. I took some time to relax, added some oil to the engine, then drove out and back to the town of Potrero. I felt I should celebrate, so I bought a six-pack of Tecate beer, and had a peaceful evening at the Potrero County Park.

The next day, I hiked Potrero Peak and Stonewall Peak, then the following day, met up with everyone for a memorial hike and get-together for Adam.

I was happy to be successful on Tecate Peak. It was a scenic hike and a good workout, and I felt it was a nice way to partly honor Adam. He had hiked it and probably would have been happy to know that all of us coming out to honor him were getting some peaks while at it.

(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. .