The distance might be short, but it’s a rugged trail. The 1 mile trail up the Ghost Mountain ridge leads to Yaquitepec (3215’), the ruins of an adobe home built by poet, author, and artist Marshal South and his wife Tanya on top of waterless Ghost Mountain. Soon after the start of the Great Depression, the Souths began a 17-year homestead adventure that ended in 1947. The old homestead is now part of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The steep schistose trail up Ghost Mountain is much the same as that used by the Souths to haul up water and supplies. It is well-marked, beginning at an interpretive sign found at the trailhead.
As elevation increases with a widening view of Blair Valley and its playa, the yuccas gradually disappear as the trail wraps completely around the ridge turning to the northeast. A short climb over a boulder trail leads to the ruins and a spectacular view of the valley below and the Laguna Mountains to the west. A visit to the old South homestead is best during the cooler desert season from November through April.
Before you go, check to ensure the trail is open. More detailed information about plants, wildlife, history, and geology of the area can be found at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
You’ll catch a lot of views here. Ghost Mountain’s uplift is created by the Elsinore Fault Zone. A short walk southeast past the ruins of an adobe kiln, used by the Marshal South family in pottery making, reveals the undulating Vallecito Badlands to the east. Old agave roasting pits, used by both the Souths and the Kumeyaay who called this area home, are visible along the trail and near the adobe ruins. Look for Kumeyaay grinding morteros and slicks on the granitic rocks near the ruins. Some pottery shards may be visible.
Mojave yucca, creosote bush, ocotillo, California juniper, jojoba or goatnut, cholla, beavertail cactus, and desert agave line the many switchbacks heading in a general southwest direction.
All cultural and natural features on Ghost Mountain are protected by the state park and can’t be collected. Observe, but leave everything where it is for others to enjoy.
From S-2 go east at the Blair Valley turnoff, 5.9 miles south of CA-78. Follow the dirt road into and around Blair Valley for 2.7 miles to the Marshal South trailhead. The road can be muddy and/or sandy depending on recent weather conditions. Trailhead GPS: N33.00349, W116.38987
Looking for more great hikes? Check out our Canyoneers page or purchase the book, Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors.
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