Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness
Guide

Introduction

Located in the eastern part of San Diego County, California, the Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness includes 32,136 acres (50.2 square miles) of land about 35 miles (56 km) south of Borrego Springs. Included in the Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness Area are ridges, valleys, and canyons, within which you can encounter a variety of plants and animals. The Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness Area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, having been included among the National Wilderness Preservations System when the United States Congress passed the California Desert Protection Act of 1994.

As a result of private lands along the boundary of the Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness, the only public access to the area is from the Pepperwood Height Trail, which is located at the end of the McCain Valley. Within and around the area are numerous trails for hiking, walking and other activities, with the longest trail being Canyon Road, which is 18 miles (30 km) long.

If you are looking to explore the desert landscape in the southern California area, the Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness and its surrounding area are a perfect place to visit. Load up your RV and be ready for a unique outdoor adventure!

RV Rentals in Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness

Transportation

Driving

Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness Area is located 35 miles (56.3 km) south of Borrego Springs. While State Route 2 travels along the Wilderness Area to the north, the land is private and thus access is restricted. The only way to access the Wilderness Area is by the Pepperwood Height Trail which can be found at the end of the McCain Valley. You can access the trailhead by taking Interstate 8 and exiting at Manzanita Blvd. Take State Route 94 east to McCain Valley, where you will proceed for 13 miles (20.9 km).

Parking

The Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness Area can only be accessed by taking the Pepperwood Height Trail on foot; there is no parking with the Wilderness Area.

Public Transportation

Public transportation is not available to the Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness Area.

Campgrounds and parking in Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness

Campsites in Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness

Reservations camping

Borrego Palm Canyon Campground

A great option for camping when visiting the Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness Area is the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, located in the Anzo Borrego State Park. The campground offers 120 campsites, including those for tents as well as for RVs and trailers (vehicles of up to 35 feet can be accommodated).

Those with an RV or trailer can choose a site with or without full hookups, and sites include a picnic table, grill, and fire pit. Drinking water, restrooms, and showers are all available at the campground, making it an excellent home base for those looking to explore the area.

Tamarisk Grove Campground

Also located in the Anza-Borrego State Park is Tamarisk Grove Campground, which offers 27 sites and once served as a prison camp. The campground’s tall tamarisk trees offer shade to campers, as do the covered picnic tables located at each site. There are also charcoal grills and fire pits, and sites can accommodate RVs and trailers that are up to 21 feet long.

The campground has non-potable water, flush toilets, and coin-operated showers, ensuring you will have what you need to be comfortable during your stay. A small store and visitor information area are run by campground hosts and the campground is located near a Kumeyaay Indian Village Site.

Vern Whitaker Horse Camp

Equestrians visiting the Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness Area can choose to camp at the Vern Whitaker Horse Camp in the Anza-Borrego State Park, which is next to 30 miles of trails that are appropriate for horseback riding.

About eight miles from downtown Borrego Springs, the campground includes 10 developed sites that can be utilized for camping in a tent, RV or trailer (RVs and trailers up to 35 feet can be accommodated). Within the campground, there are 35 horse corrals and the campground offers restrooms, showers and drinking water. Sites offer a fire ring and typically include a small tree for shade.

Seasonal activities in Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness

In-Season

Visit the Anza-Borrego State Park

Not far from the Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness Area is the Anza-Borrego State Park. Borrego is the Spanish word for sheep, with the park named in part for the bighorn sheep that are native to the area.

The Anza-Borrego State Park is the largest state park in California and includes 600,000 acres (937.5 square miles) of land. Visitors can take in badlands, slot canyons, and hills with native cactus. This remote area is a perfect place to explore for those looking to get away from it all.

Check Out The Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

About an hour and 15 minutes from the Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness Area is the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Home to 26,000 acres (40.6 square miles) of land, the park hosts pine, fir and oak trees and the Cuyamaca Peak (at 6,512 feet/1,985 meters the second-highest point in San Diego County).

There are plenty of recreation opportunities at Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, for example) as well as an exhibit featuring the Stonewall Mine, a former gold mine in the area.

Enjoy a Hike in or Near the Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness

There are plenty of opportunities to hike in and around the Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness Area, where you will traverse a wide range of elevation and encounter more than 200 species of plants that grow within the area. The longest trail in the Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness Area is Canyon Road, which is 18 miles (29 km) in length.

There are 42 trails to explore in and around the Wilderness Area of a variety of lengths and levels of difficulty. Choose one or more and experience the beauty the area has to offer.

Off-Season

Explore the Galleta Meadows Estate

This desert estate, which is privately owned, has more than 130 large metal sculptures by artist Ricardo Breceda. The sculptures were commissioned by Dennis Avery, who owned Galleta Meadows and placed the sculptures there.

The land is open to the public and visitors can explore the grounds and take in the sculptures year-round. The sculptures have different themes; for example, prehistoric animals and desert animals. A visit to Galleta Meadows will offer visitors the opportunity to spend time outdoors while also viewing unique artwork.

Visit the Borrego Art Institute in Borrego Springs

Located in Borrego Springs, the Borrego Art Institute includes a gallery, pottery studio and workshop, ArtFarm gardens, KidsArt programs, and even an on-site restaurant. You can visit the Borrego Art Institute for classes, shows or events, where you can participate in creating art or take in artwork created by others. Located in the main business district of Borrego Springs, this is a great place to visit when seeking something different from your outdoor adventures!

Check Out the Jacumba Hot Springs Resort and Spa

Located less than an hour and a half from the Sawtooth Mountain Wilderness is the town of Jacumba Hot Springs and the Jacumba Hot Springs Resort and Spa. A perfect place to escape, you can relax in mineral springs water, which is known for having a positive effect both physically and mentally.

In addition to swimming and soaking in spring-fed pools, you can check out the resort’s restaurant and bar after a full day of adventure!