El Centro Field Office

Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness

View of the Sawtooth Mountains, the area looks deserted in the background but covered in vegetaion in the front.
Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness

Location: San Diego County; 35 miles south of Borrego Springs, California (Note: Boundary set backs from roads or trails are 30 to 300 feet)

Sawtooth Mountains locationArea Description: 33,612 acres. Ridges and valleys alternate here rising from 1,400 feet to 5,600 feet. The ridges extend like fingers from the Laguna Mountains into the desert, creating the alluvial valleys of Vallecito, Inner Pasture and Canebrake Canyon. Wildlife residents include the San Diego horned lizard, spotted bat and willow flycatcher. Historically, Peninsular bighorn sheep made their home here, and today transient sheep use the area. Prairie falcon, golden eagle and Cooper's hawk span their wings above the desert floor. More than 200 species of plants are believed to grow within this wilderness, where vegetation transforms from a dense chaparral at the higher elevations along the Laguna Mountains to low desert creosote brush. Many of the plant species are under review for listing as threatened or endangered.

Getting There: Although State Route 2 winds along the northern side of the wilderness, there is no legal access due to private lands along the boundary. The only access is from the Pepperwood Height Trail at the end of the McCain Valley. To reach this trailhead, exit Interstate 8 at the Manzanita Boulevard exit, follow State Route 94 east to McCain Valley, and follow this road 13 miles to Cottonwood Campground.

Nonfederal Lands: Private lands may lie within the wilderness area. Please respect the owner and do not use these lands without permission.

Additional Information: Signs indicating "Wilderness" and "Closed Road" or "Closed Route" are placed at various intervals. Vehicles can be parked outside the wilderness boundary; however, the boundary is set back 30 feet from unmaintained dirt roads and 300 feet on paved roads.

Mechanized or motorized vehicles are NOT PERMITTED in a wilderness

Hunting, fishing, and non-commercial trapping are allowed under state and local laws.

Pet are allowed, but please keep your pets under control at all times.

Horses are permitted, however you may be required to carry feed.

Removal, disturbance, or attempting to remove archaelogical materials is a felony. Selling, receiving, purchasing, transporting, exchanging or offering to do so is prohibited by law.

CAMPING: Camping is permitted, limited to 14 days. After 14 days, campers must relocate at least 25 miles from previous site.

Help BLM preserve California's fragile deserts. Please park your vehicle or set up camp in previously disturbed sites.

Gathering wood for campfires, when permitted, is limited to dead and down materials. Do not cut live vegetation.

The BLM encourages all desert recreationists and travelers exploring public lands, not only within southern California but through the west, to use propylene glycol based antifreeze/coolant in their touring and recreation vehicles. Proven safer, it will have minimal impacts on the wildlife and the environment should a leak occur.

Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness


Legal Description

Wilderness Addition


Leave no trace, center for outdoor ethics.

Know Before You Go 

Wilderness List

National Conservation Lands

Contact Us

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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