Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Undercover San Diego: Valley of the Moon

This is not technically a San Diego destination, but it makes a great day trip. It should take an hour to an hour and half to drive there. And the hike can take anywhere from a 4 - 8 hrs depending on how far you drive and how much exploring you want to do. It is pretty easy to get there especially if you have a good map (see below). Drive on 8 East and exit at In-Ko-Pah Park Road. Take 2 quick rights and continue south a few hundred feet on the frontage road to a dirt lot on the left. Once you enter the lot, take an immediate left onto the dirt road. Check out the Interactive map for the Valley of the Moon.

View Valley of the Moon Hike in a larger map
Now, you have a decision to make.
1) If you have a high-clearance vehicle (4WD would be helpful) you should be able to drive the 3 or 4 miles to the Valley of the Moon.
2) If you have a small passenger car or don't feel comfortable with the rough roads (which are rocky, rutted and steep for the first mile) there are a few turnouts to park on the road.

Check out the pictures below and make your decision. We parked at the first big turn-out because we were there to take a hike. (see White Explorer, click to enlarge pictures)
The hike up the hill is pretty steep, but that does mean downhill on the way home. When you make it up to the saddle you will see a spur trail marker on your left. I recommend taking this down to Smuggler's Cave and then walking through the wash to meet up with the Jeep road.

The next big fork in the road you will see a sign "154/155". To the left goes through more rocks on your way to the Valley. To the right leads you to the steep trail up to Elliot's Mine. Trust me GO RIGHT. The steep climb is worth looking through this old Quartz Mine which some maps call an amethyst mine. (click to enlarge pictures)

The mine has 2 entrances the lower goes about 100 ft and after a tight squeeze leads to the other (higher on the mountain) entrance. From here you can easily duck into the main mine. The mine has one large room to the left and then two more dead ends that are worth exploring to the right. Make sure to remember your head-lamps.

From the mine entrance take a right (East) and proceed down the trail and you will get to a great overlook of the Valley of the Moon. We then hiked down the side of the hill till we met up with the Jeep Rd again. You are now in the Valley of the Moon. So get out your lunch or climbing gear or crash pad and enjoy.

We did a bit of wondering through the canyons. The rock formations are truly amazing and are impossible not to climb around on. To get back to your car simply follow any Jeep Rd that is going west or print out the Valley of the Moon Google map.

Here is my Father-in-Law's Travel Pod Photo Album
(With way more pictures of the caves and rock formations)

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