Exploring Blair Valley, near Julian, California

Between February 22nd and March 4th, we stayed in The Blair Valley BLM area, which is located within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We came here at the suggestion of our fellow RVing friends, Mandy and Kevin from “188sqft.” They had spent a few weeks here in early February and thought we would enjoy the region, and they were certainly correct.

Hot off of our recent time spent in the Mojave and Colorado deserts while visiting Joshua Tree National Park and its surrounding areas, Blair Valley was the most fertile area that we had seen in many months. Blair Valley is a small valley nestled between some rocky desert hills in the lower regions of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. After the extremely damp winter months in many areas of southern California, Blair Valley was quite lush during our stay. Towards the entrance of the valley is a dry lakebed which was covered in a thick, luscious layer of grass. This was the closest thing to a field which we had seen for some time.

The dogs had a grand time running through the grass and amongst the other desert brush throughout our stay. Max and I specifically enjoyed some pretty intense frisbee sessions.

We enjoyed a very scenic and quiet site at the base of a rocky hill, which was located at the far end of an outcropping in the valley wall. A handful of cars and vehicles would pass by on the road near our site throughout the day, but otherwise, we mostly had our area to ourselves. We did notice that the valley was much busier on the weekend compared to weekdays, but this did not really affect our stay.

Blair Valley was also conveniently located as a launch point for day trips to San Diego (about a two-hour drive, which we visited on two separate occasions). Also nearby was the quaint mountain community of Julian, about twenty minutes away in the Cuyamaca Range. We made several visits to Julian while staying in Blair Valley, one of which was to a small cafe for lunch, coffees, some work on our laptops, and the most delicious apple pie that we have ever had.

On an off-day for us, we located a couple of hiking trails further into the valley which looked promising. We decided to try both The Pictograph Trail and Ghost Mountain Trail to Yaquitepec. Both were only a short 10-minute drive further into the valley. Both trails were also dog-friendly, so we were able to bring Max and Luna along with us.

We hiked the Pictograph Trail first, which was a fun 2.6-mile out-and-back hike. The trail passes a rock which contains some authentic, Native American pictograph inscriptions. This was the first time that I had ever seen pictographs or hieroglyphs (Sam had seen many in Bolivia), and while they were quite small, it was inspiring to consider that they were made by human hand many years in the past. (I’m fascinated by history and ancient culture.)

Past the pictographs, the trail came to an end at the top of a dry waterfall. This offered a beautiful panoramic view of the desert below.

After completing the pictograph trail, we jumped back in the Jeep and drove 5 minutes to the Ghost Mountain Trail to Yaquitepec trailhead. This trail was a 1.2m out-and-back trail with nearly 500ft in elevation gain, so it was a bit more strenuous than the last trail. However, this was well worth it as the trail ended atop ghost mountain and provided some brilliant sights of the valley and mountains below.

Also at the end of the trail were the ruins of the Marshal South homestead. This was the home of Marshal South, a mysterious writer, and his family between 1930 and 1947. The family apparently carried all of the materials to build their small desert adobe up the mountain by hand.
The ruins were quite mysterious and intriguing.

We also witnessed a variety of beautiful cactus and wildflower blooms along the trail, presumably also due to the winter rainfall.

We are normally very organized about coordinating our orders for various supplies, such as dog food, from Amazon or otherwise. However, while staying in Blair Valley we accidently ran out of Luna’s food. Since we couldn’t wait two to three days for an order of her food to arrive, we had to locate a local store which carried the brand that she eats. (She requires a very specific food due to allergies.) The nearest store which stocked her food ended up being an hour away. Great…

However, this wasn’t so bad, as the drive there was very scenic, and we wouldn’t have traversed those roads and areas otherwise. Also, we encountered the first Dunkin Donuts we’d seen in California! ? For us east-coasters, this was a pretty big deal.

We departed Blair Valley on a Sunday, bound for Los Angeles to undergo some impending repairs to our rig, and visit the city. Unbeknownst to us at the time, that weekend the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park was apparently the host of some sort of Desert Safari weekend, which is essentially a sort of huge off-roading gathering.

Our rig was unfortunately low on gas as we were leaving ABDSP, so we had to stop in Salton City to refill. Salton City and the gas station we stopped at were absolute madness… There were Jeeps, dune buggies, UTVs, ATVs, and many other RVs galore all zipping this way and that. I had to wait 30 minutes to fill at the gas station. In the end, I was just glad that I was able to make it out incident-free.

After filling gas, we continued north on I-86 for a brief and very refreshing stay at the lovely Oasis Palms RV resort before setting out for LA.

Got any Blair Valley or Anza-Borrego Desert State Park experiences of your own? Let’s swap stories in the comments below!

About Brendan Binger

Brendan BingerI’m Brendan, the other 50% of Life Among Pines, and a self-taught designer and marketer. I enjoy the singular privilege of waking up each day to spend my time doing what I love. Recently, I have been applying my time towards growing my freshly founded web design and digital marketing agency: Quarry Design Group. When not working, you can find me riding triple fins or seven-plys, face down in the pages of a new book, or exploring the wilderness of the US.