With so many epic stunners strewn across across Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, it’s pretty easy to overlook the little guys like Mine Peak. Part of the problem is that the effort required to reach the park virtually guarantees that people will try to get their money’s worth with a juicy, all-day hike. However, if you are camping in the south side of Anza-Borrego, especially around the Bow Willow area, consider this short route to a highpoint on the Coyote Mountains overlooking the Carrizo Badlands.
From Mine benchmark, more informally known as Mine Peak, you can obtain views over the corrugated badlands with a relatively trifling amount of effort. Adventurous hikers with an appetite for Anza-Borrego’s incredible sunrises can easily reach the summit via a short scramble from the ruins of an old dolomite mine in time to watch the colorful transition from star-speckled skies to vivid, fiery dawn colors.
From a large flat at a bend in the Dolomite Mine Road, park your car and head northwest along the road toward the ruins of the mine. This large, flat area also doubles as an excellent campsite. At the base of the mine, the road takes a half-loop to the right to climb to a spot just above the ruins. From the end of the road, locate an informal trail that follows a northeast-trending ridge.
This step segment of trail picks up 500’ of elevation in the space of .5 mile. This breathless stretch is the only challenge on the route, but the path flattens out once you gain the main ridge of the Coyote Mountains. From here, you can walk due north for .1 mile to a spot that offers the best sunset vistas. To reach the peak, turn due east and walk for another .2 mile to Mine benchmark. An informal summit register awaits.
If you reach the summit before or at sunrise, be sure to spend time looking north and east across the expanse of the Carrizo Badlands. The low angle of the rising sun highlights and contrasts the dramatic relief of a landscape carved out of an ancient sea bed.
The first portion of the route follows the Dolomite Mine Road. Beyond the mine, you follow an informal path that often becomes a cross-country route to the crest of the Coyote Mountains. Up top, it's easy cross-country walking.
The nearest developed campground is at Bow Willow, but you can also camp at the trailhead for free. No ground fires - burn in a metal container. Also, pack everything out.
From San Diego, take I-8 east toward El Centro. Exit at Imperial Highway at the town of Ocotillo, and turn left to head north and northwest. Proceed for 11 miles to the signed Dolomite Mine Road, and turn right. Follow the road until a junction, and turn left. Continue to a large, flat area on the right where you can park and camp. Note that Google Maps does not display Dolomite Mine Road. Maps routes you to the turn-off for Dolomite Mine Road.