Otay Mountain Wilderness
Guide

Introduction

Located in Southern California near the United States and Mexico border, you will find Otay Mountain Wilderness. This wilderness consists of nearly 17,000 acres of land and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. As you can tell by the name, there is a beautiful mountain range, along with plenty of endangered animals that roam the land.

Many people visit the Otay Mountain Wilderness to see such endangered animals or even experience a Bigfoot sighting. There are also more traditional activities that you can take part in such as hiking, rock climbing, fishing, backpacking, and more. There are a handful of nearby camping spots where you can park the RV or set up a tent to get some rest in between days of exploring the wilderness.

Many of these campsites are secluded and peaceful. Because they are far from the city, they make the perfect spot to enjoy a bit of stargazing. Otay Mountain Wilderness is part of the No Trace Left Behind protocol, encouraging visitors to take their mess with them and pick up any trash to help preserve the land.

RV Rentals in Otay Mountain Wilderness

Transportation

Driving

When you're traveling throughout Southern California near the border of Mexico, you may experience quite a few different landscapes and terrain. The area around Otay Mountain Wilderness is quite mountainous and might be a bit difficult for high profile vehicles such as camper vans and RVs to navigate through.

That being said, if you drive cautiously and take your time, you can still use a vehicle like an RV or a truck pulling a trailer for your adventures in the area. Because of the location, you won't have to worry about driving through blizzards or much rainfall in general. You may want to print out directions of your route and alternative routes before heading out the door.

Cell phone coverage is a bit scarce in this part of California and you wouldn't want to get lost without knowing where to go. While you're at it, on the days closer to your trip it can be a good idea to check for road closures and detours to save you stress later on.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Otay Mountain Wilderness

Campsites in Otay Mountain Wilderness

Reservations camping

Otay Open Space Preserve

If you're looking for a free place to camp with the whole family, Otay Open Space Preserve is a great option. The public vehicle access and restrooms are open from morning until evening every day. The park is closed on Christmas Day, but open the rest of the year. If you're looking to camp in a cabin, reservations are required.

If you're camping in an RV or tent, reservations are not required. When you're not resting, you can enjoy kayaking or renting a motorboat from the nearby rental shop. It is important to note that campers can stay for a maximum of 14 days per month. After this time, you'll have to relocate at least 25 miles from where you last camped.

There are picnic tables and restrooms available for your convenience. It is encouraged that you park your vehicle or set up your tent in an area that has been previously camped in. This can help preserve the land. When it comes to firewood, you are allowed to use dead and down wood, but cutting vegetation is not allowed.

Green Valley Area Campground

Another great camping option is Green Valley Campground. There are 81 campsites in total, the majority of them tent-only sites. It is open from the beginning of May until the end of October. You can make a reservation between two days all the way up to six months in advance.

There are no hookups available at the campsites, but there are picnic tables and fire rings. You will find restrooms with flush toilets, a campfire circle, tap water, showers, and a dump station. When people stay here they enjoy going for a hike or taking a dip in one of the many swimming holes in the area.

Each site is allowed one motorized vehicle and a maximum of eight people per site. You'll be surrounded by lush trees and beautiful meadows when staying here. Down the road, there is an additional campground for equestrian camping that has a total of 15 campsites.

First-come first-served

Paso Picacho Campground

Last but not least, Paso Picacho is a beautiful campground located in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. There are 85 campsites available and the campground is open from the beginning of spring through fall. Reservations are only required on the weekends, but otherwise available on a first-come, first-served basis.

There are eight people allowed per campsite, along with one motorized vehicle. The maximum RV and trailer length at this campground is between 20 and 30 feet. When you camp here you will have access to a picnic table, a fire ring, showers, a dump station, flush toilets, tap water, a campfire circle, and more.

It may be important to note that showers are available at an additional cost. Several people enjoy how secluded and peaceful this campground is. Many campers spend some time exploring one of the nearby hiking trails or heading over to the nearby lake to enjoy a day out on the water, boating or fishing.

Seasonal activities in Otay Mountain Wilderness

In-Season

Hiking

Hiking is easily one of the most popular activities that people enjoy when visiting Otay Mountain Wilderness. The main trail is just over 15 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of almost 3,000 feet. You can easily access the trail at Pio Pico Campgrounds.

The hike is generally easy, but there are some steep areas throughout the trek. It is important that you pack several liters of water to help you stay hydrated, especially in the spring and summer.

Climbing

If you want to take your hiking experience to the next level, consider giving rock climbing a try. You will have to bring all of your own equipment and it is suggested that you have plenty of practice before hitting up the cliffs.

This can be a great way to get exercise and once you reach the top, you'll have a beautiful view of the entire wilderness. Be sure to check the weather and the sun schedule to make sure that you're not climbing during shaded hours or in poor weather conditions.

Backpacking

If you're looking for an adventure, you may also be able to backpack while visiting Otay Mountain Wilderness. You can explore the area using the same trails for hiking. It is encouraged to bring along a backpack loaded with things such as survival gear, cooking apparatus, food, and more.

This is a great way to set out on an adventure, all while being able to see amazing views along the way. It is suggested that if you plan on backpacking, you carry the proper animal deterrent or know what to do in the event that a wild animal approaches you.

Off-Season

Photography

If you're a creative person, there is plenty to photograph while visiting Otay Mountain Wilderness. You can take photos of several things, such as the landscape of rolling hills and towering mountains.

You may be lucky enough to catch a shot of a wild animal in its natural habitat. Taking photos of you and your camping buddies can be a great way to take a bit of the trip home with you and share a little of Otay with your loved ones!

Wildlife Viewing

There are a plethora of animals to spot at Otay Mountain Wilderness. There are protected species such as the southern bald eagle and mountain lion present. There are also endangered species such as bighorn sheep, arroyo toads, and Quino checkerspot butterflies.

While it is normal to see a lot of mule deer in the area, there are a few animals that people don't see quite as often, such as coast horned lizards, orange-throated whiptail, and California gnatcatchers.

Yeti Searching

Yes, you read that right. Many people visit Otay Mountain Wilderness in hopes of seeing a creature that some consider Bigfoot, Sasquatch, or a Yeti. Several people have claimed to see it with their own two eyes.

There are many spooky stories and tales about ghosts and supernatural creatures. While there hasn't been any solid evidence of this happening, the various reports are quite compelling. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, you'll enjoy exploring Otay Mountain Wilderness.

Find the perfect campsite.