Among the live oaks in southeastern San Diego County is Cottonwood Campground. The campground offers a tranquil and refreshing experience. Cottonwood Campground is an excellent starting point for day hikes, overnight backpacking trips, and equestrian use. The campground is located in the McCain Valley Resource Conservation Area.
A trail out of the campground leads to the Sombrero Peak Area, Upper Bow Willow Canyon, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The Pepperwood Trail and Sombrero Peak Trail are both rated moderate to strenuous. The trails are sandy in composition and meander through public, state, and private lands.
A sign on the north side of the east loop of Cottonwood Campground marks the trailhead. The Pepperwood Trail is a 4.2 mile hike (one-way) that eventually leads to a spring surrounded by cottonwoods. A rocky knoll near the end of the hike offers views of Canebrake Canyon and the In-Ko-Pah Mountains.
The Sombrero Peak Trail branches from the Pepperwood Trail. It is a 5 mile hike (one-way) that eventually leads to a rocky peak that overlooks the desert. Trail users should remember to hike safe by bringing appropriate clothing, food, water, and a map. More information on safety can be found on the Desert Safety handout.
Elevations range from 3,000 to 4,500 feet. This makes the area an excellent escape from the hot summer temperatures of lower elevations. Most precipitation is received from December through April. Thundershowers are common during July and August. Winter temperatures range from the 50s (F) to below freezing, with occasional snowfalls. Summer temperatures range from 60 to 95 degrees (F).
Cottonwood Campground is a year-round facility with 25 developed campsites. Fire rings, tables, and vault toilets are found in the campground. Horses are allowed only in the east loop of Cottonwood Campground. No group camping sites are available. No off highway vehicle (OHV) use is permitted in Cottonwood Campground or on McCain Valley Road.
A $6.00 per campsite fee is required for camping at all BLM campsites. All sites are available on a first come first served basis. Except for backpacking, all camping in McCain Valley must be in a designated campsite. A campfire permit may be required. Contact the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for regulations.
Please review California Desert District Final Supplementary Rules.
From Interstate 8, take the Boulevard exit.
Proceed south to the first stop sign.
Turn left/east on Old Highway 80.
After approximately 2 miles, turn left on McCain Valley Road.
A sign with mileage information is located at the junction of McCain Valley Road and the road to Sacatone overlook.
Bureau of Land Management
El Centro Field Office
1661 S. 4th Street
El Centro CA 92243
Phone: (760) 337-4400
Fax: (760) 337-4490
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., M-F
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