Hiking Cougar Canyon, Borrego Desert
  Cougar Canyon Travelogue ] Maps ]

16-Apr-00 Borrego Desert

Cougar Canyon is located in the Borrego Desert about 50 miles east of San Diego.  The canyon is 12 miles north-west of Borrego Springs as the crow flies.  For complete instructions on how to get there, consult the Maps page.  You will find a complete set of road, jeep trail  and hiking maps (topographic and elevation profile) there. 

Our day hike crew set out from San Diego about 7AM on an April Sunday.  The drive out takes about 2.5 hrs and, depending on route chosen, goes from urban coastal environs at sea level, over 5,000 ft pine forested mountain roads, finally descending to the Borrego Desert floor, leveling off at 1,500 ft.  While the road out is very scenic, Cougar Canyon decidedly more so.

The jeep trail to the mouth of Cougar Canyon winds north from Borrego Springs, then cuts west arriving just short of the canyon's mouth at the 9 mi. mark.  There are several wet crossings along the way and some stretches of rocky terrain that require 4WD.

The hike into Cougar rises steadily some 900 ft over a 1.5 mile length.  However, don't let the short distance fool you into thinking that it is simple enough that it won't rate on the difficulty chart.  No, the going is slow in spots, requiring some degree of perseverance and fearlessness.  A reasonable amount of hand and toe work is required to make it to the upper pool.

There is water in Cougar Canyon year round.  The volume is substantial even in the summer months so one does not have to carry much water as refills are readily available to those

packing a filter.  As you will see from the travelogue page, the canyon is interesting from several points of view.  There are ancient Indian artifacts to be found, interesting rock formations, lots of vegetation, and serene pools fed by waterfalls, plus a surprise or two.  There are two substantial palm groves that can give refuge from the heat.

Bottom line: Cougar Canyon gets a high rating as an interesting way to spend a day in the desert.  I recommend it to anyone looking for weekend adventure.

Questions and/or feedback welcome: gary@stowell.org

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