Saturday, May 27, 2017

Coyote Mountain

Hiked: 5/21/2017
Distance: 5 miles round trip on use trail and cross country
Summit Elevation: 3192'
Prominence: 1592'
Elevation Gain: 2650'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 2.12
Round trip time: 3 hours
Recommended water: 52 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free on Rockhouse Trail
Difficulty: Moderate

I drove to the east side of Coyote Mountain (SDC #71), near Borrego Springs, to hike the main southeast ridge route. I took Rockhouse Trail, a good dirt road that can be driven with a sedan, and parked off the road with quick access the ascent ridge. I expected a steep, non-technical ridge walk. I got that, but I also got an unexpected challenge in the form of an extreme headwind blowing from the north. It didn't start that way. I headed out cross country toward the ridge a little before sunrise, but there was already plenty of light to see. A breeze blew, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary with the wind. A short distance up the ridge, I found a good use trail to follow. As I passed the second bump on the ridge, the wind roared to life. It blasted head on at a steady 30-40 mph with gusts in the 60+ mph range. The wind speeds are just my estimates based on other experiences I've had. This was easily the most savage wind I had encountered on a mountain.

The trail climbed quickly and views into Clark Valley and surroundings expanded proportionally. Across the valley was the long ridge to Villager and Rabbit, and the rest of the Santa Rosas. The ridge was mostly clear of obstacles, though there were always several varieties of cactus nearby. The sun illuminated the summit like a beacon before the rest of the mountain got sun. I stayed on the use trail, except in spots where it clung to the edge of the ridge. That's where the wind was the strongest. On one of these sections, a gust caught me slightly off balance and toppled me, my left hand coming down on a small cactus. I pulled it away with half a dozen needles. I stayed down and crawled just below the ridge, stopping on a boulder to remove the needles with my pliers. I tried to stay about 15' down slope of the ridge to try to minimize the wind. It didn't help much. I couldn't hear myself breathe or hear anything other than the wind. Every step forward was an act of will. I briefly considered turning around, but it was early and I didn't think I would be going near any areas of cliff exposure. I decided to just power my way up. Slowly, deliberately.

Coyote Mountain from the start

The first two bumps

The summit beacon

About half way, summit far left

Looking back into Clark Valley

I kept going over bumps on the ridge until the summit was in view. A leaning pole marked the summit and the register was under a pile of rocks there. A few feet away was the Coyote benchmark. I took some pictures and a 360 video. I didn't disturb the register, fearing that it would blow away or get damaged by the wind. The benchmark photo was enough for me. The views were fantastic and it was sweet to stand on the summit, knowing that I overcame the wind conditions. The wind was not nearly as much of an issue during the descent. It would still gust and was still strong in naked areas, but having the wind at my back made a big difference.


Toro Peak


On the way back through Borrego Springs, I drove out to the Desert Art display of metallic sculptures. They were impressive, especially the dragon whose body goes under the road. I would have liked to find a coyote among the sculptures, but I think there were some I missed. Definitely worth a visit if in the area.

Coyote Mountain from Borrego Springs

Would you like to know more...?


  1. I might invent a full-body device shaped like your elevation chart that should help deflect the wind next time. Thanks for the visceral report!

    1. Sean,

      It was quite unexpected. I've read other reports of brutal wind in the desert. I guess I got a taste of it. That full-body device would have come in handy.