Marshal South Cabin/Ghost Mountain (Anza Borrego Desert State Park)

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View of the desert from the Marshal South Homestead site on Ghost Mountain

Marshal South Cabin/Ghost Mountain (Anza Borrego Desert State Park)

  • Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park southeast of Julian.  From Highway 79 head southeast on San Felipe Road (4.3 miles north of the junction with Highway 76 and 4.3 miles south of Warner Springs.)  Go 16.3 miles to Highway 78 at “Scissors Crossing” and turn right.  Take your first left to continue southeast on Highway S-2 (“Great Southern Overland Stage Route”).  Go 5.9 miles and turn left on a dirt road signed Blair Valley.  High clearance vehicles are recommended but not necessary.  These roads are popular with RVs and campers so exercise caution as you make your way toward the trail.  Follow the signs for 3.2 miles to the Marshal South Cabin trailhead.  The coordinates are N 33 0.200, W 116 23.383.
  • Agency: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
  • Distance: 1.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 450 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Best season: October – May
  • USGS topo map:  “Earthquake Valley”
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; sun hat
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
  • More information: Trip description here; Everytrail report here; video of the homestead here
  • Rating: 7
0:00 - Marshal South Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
0:00 – Marshal South Trailhead (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

This hike mixes panoramic desert and mountain views with interesting local history.  In addition to vistas of the Blair Valley, Granite Peak, the eastern end of the Laguna Mountains and more, this hike provides a glimpse into the past, visiting the ruins of Yaquitepec, the Marshal South homestead.  South was a writer who “lived off the land” with his family in the 1930s and 40s and is somewhat of a local legend.  Though short (park signage and several guidebooks list the distance as a mile each way, but Everytrail measures it as 0.6 for a round trip of 1.2 miles) the hike packs in a pretty good workout.

0:12 - Looking south from the ridge (times are approximate)
0:12 – Looking south from the ridge (times are approximate)

From the parking area, begin hiking up the north side of Ghost Mountain, making switchbacks, occasionally climbing over rocks. At 0.3 miles you reach a ridgeline where you get good views to the south. Head east, staying level for a short distance before continuing your ascent. You climb a “natural staircase” through the rocks, again with some light scrambling, and then you find yourself at the homestead site.

0:16 - Climbing the "natural staircase"
0:16 – Climbing the “natural staircase”

Here, you can see the remains of South’s cabin, including a rusted mattress, water tanks and other heavy items that were carried up. The views in all directions are excellent, but it’s not hard to imagine that living here must have been a tough existence. For more information about Marshal South, click here.

0:22 - View of Grainte Mountain from just below the homestead
0:22 – View of Grainte Mountain from just below the homestead

Text and photography copyright 2014 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

0:25 - Ruins of the Marshal South Homestead
0:25 – Ruins of the Marshal South Homestead

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