Combs Peak

When we recently had a day with cooler temperatures (mid May 2020), I took the opportunity to hike Combs Peak, which lies in the higher elevation back country of San Diego County’s north-eastern quadrant (interestingly, this area is part of Anza Borrego Desert State Park).

It can be reached via the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Lost Valley Road in a relatively short and easy chaparral hike. The only difficulty is the steep and narrow use trail that leads from the PCT to the summit. On the 100 Peaks list, it is peak number 1.

The other difficulty is just getting there – the fastest approach from San Diego is actually via Temecula and then Highway 79! In addition to that, from the paved Chihuahua Valley Road, one has to drive about 8 miles on the unpaved Lost Valley Road to the point where the PCT crosses it. A small turnout provides parking space for three, maybe four vehicles.

The wind was surprisingly chilly and I kept wearing my soft shell jacket for the entirety of the hike; at the summit I even added my rain jacket temporarily, as an additional wind breaker. The PCT through-hikers that I met along the trail were happy about the cool temperatures, hauling their big and heavy packs in shorts and t-shirt. I must have been an odd sight to them with my daypack, long pants and jacket!

While researching the hike with GaiaGPS, their web app immediately offered me a “known route” to the peak (exactly the one that I intended to take anyway). I didn’t look close enough and mistook the distance as one way, when it was already given as the total for hiking out and back. When I reached the use trail that leads to the summit I realized my mistake, and that my timing was way off.

Clouds from a trough that passed San Diego County Monday night into Tuesday decorated the sky, in particular to the south and west, and so I took my time to enjoy the views from the summit. Originally I had planned to spend the (late) afternoon in the back country waiting for the sun to be lower, depending on how the vegetation at “my tree” would look perhaps for sunset even, but even though I took a lot of time at the summit and on the way back (photographing plants), I didn’t have the patience to kill 4 1/2 hours.

The summit register was a mess of more or less deteriorating small notebooks. I just didn’t feel like untangling it and adding to the deterioration, so I refrained from adding my name to it. My photo of the summit marker is proof enough for me. 😉

Here are some impressions from the trail (they’re not in the order I photographed them, I brought them into an order that would make sense to document the hike). On small-screen devices like phones or tablets, you can just scroll down. On larger screens, you may also click on any image to open it in the slideshow gallery view – for the best effect, I suggest switching your browser to full-screen mode (Windows: F11, Mac: ^⌘F).

I am a professional photographer. Please respect my copyright. These photos are available for licensing. If you would like to use them, for whatever purpose (commercial or personal), you MUST obtain a license and/or written permission from me. More information on my page about image usage. Thanks.

3 thoughts on “Combs Peak

  1. For me there is a lot of good memories, but also tremendous sadness knowing what the Peak once looked like with beautiful pristine desert edge forest. Off and on there would be periodic fires up there, often by people, but sadly the very worst came in 2005 down Coyote canyon witha Lightning fire. That just about wiped out what there was of most of the large trees. The regrowth was not very impressive as far as bouncing back. Probably the climate issue and the four years incredibly severe drought that hit all of California. Sometimes a memory of what once was can be a curse of sorts.


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