Trek to the rocky summit of Blue Angels Peak near Jacumba.

East of Jacumba, pressed against the California-Baja California border, is a series of scenic peaks and valleys in the Jacumba Mountains affording vistas of two counties (San Diego and Imperial) and two nations. Although American map makers consider this rugged area to be a part of the Jacumba Mountains, it is more closely associated with the 100-mile-long Sierra Juárez, Baja's northernmost link in the chain of Peninsular Ranges. Here you'll see great stacks of weathered boulders, with pinyon pines and other high-desert vegetation growing wherever sand or soil can collect.

Outcrop, Blue Angels Peak

On the five-mile round-trip hike to Blue Angels Peak described here, you'll reach the highest point in "Alta" California that is within six miles of the international border. The peak is surely one of the windiest spots in Southern California -- especially in May, when hot air rising up from the low desert to the east draws in a strong flow of cooler air from the coastal regions.

To reach the starting point, exit Interstate 8 at In-Ko-Pah Park Road (east of Jacumba). Drive southwest 0.2 mile along the frontage road, Old Highway 80, then turn left on an ascending dirt road. If driven slowly, ordinary cars may make it as far as a turnout 0.8 mile up this road. This is the assumed starting point for the hike. Four-wheel-drive vehicles with high clearance should have little trouble going farther, if desired.

From the turnout, walk up the road to a saddle at 3830 feet elevation. An old road branches left toward Smuggler's Cave, an old hideout of bandits and smugglers, now a fire-blackened, graffiti-emblazoned wreck. Proceed another 0.1 mile south and bear right (west). Continue south and finally east to the road end, staying left at two road junctions at 1.1 and 1.4 miles. An old mining prospect lies at the end of the road.

Blue Angels Peak, elevation 4548 feet, is to the southeast, hidden behind a false peak capped by a massive block of granite seemingly poised to roll. Scramble up over lichen-encrusted boulders and past scraggly pinyons to find the bench mark on the summit.

On the return trip, you can make a short detour to discover International Boundary Marker 231, a handsome ten-foot steel obelisk, just south and a little west of the peak. These markers are numbered consecutively along the border from #1 at the Gulf of Mexico shoreline east of Brownsville-Matamoros to #258 at the Pacific shoreline.

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