Bottle Peak is the mountain that towers over the end of East Valley Parkway, which is a long, straight and busy road in eastern Escondido. I have seen that mountain there for decades, and I have always wanted to climb it. I finally did it last Sunday, Superbowl morning.
It looks simple enough. It’s not far away. Here is another photo taken from closer to the end of Valley Parkway:
You’d think there are busy hiking trails and scores of hikers who climb that mountain every day, and particularly on the weekends, sort of like Iron Mountain in Poway. But no, it’s actually almost impossible to find the trail. I googled and found a few hiker blogs who had been there, and I checked their instructions and maps. I did an exploratory drive almost around the mountain and found nothing but locked gates and no access to the various roads.
Here is one blog post:
Here is another one that was more helpful to me:
Bottle Peak, Tombstone Peak | Nate’s Hiking Blog (natehikes.blogspot.com)
A couple of weeks earlier I actually used Nate’s map in his blog and tried to find the trail starting at Lake Wohlford Road. I had his map and his pictures, and I scrambled around in the impenetrable thickets on that slope for an hour and I could NOT find the trail. I gave up.
For this hike, I went over to Oakdale Road to find the beginning of the alternate and shorter route he describes. When I got there, I found a locked gate and No Trespassing sign. This didn’t look like something I should mess with.
About a hundred feet up the road towards the west from the gate I found a little access trail, but again a No Trespassing sign. I respect private property, so I thought I should not enter there either.
Disappointed, I went back to the beginning of Oakdale Road, about a quarter of a mile, right by Lake Wohlford Dam and found a creek I could climb up in. I parked my car in a small dirt pullout by the creek. No signs here.
And up the creek bed I went for 5 or 10 minutes of heavy scrambling. Sometimes I needed to pull myself up on tree roots. This is definitely not the intended trail, but I didn’t technically “trespass,” right?
The creek reached the access road that started down by the gate, and I proceeded up that. Oh, well, trespassing again. And here the journey starts. Below is my map and you can see that it was not trivial for me to find the actual trail. I marked the gate for you where I should have started at the Private Property sign, because, as you might see, that’s how I hiked back out. My start route up the creek ended up simply meeting that private road.
Then you can see several false starts. I first missed the trail head up the mountain and I turned around. Once on the trail, I also missed the main trail and went on a left fork which fizzled into nothing and a pile of trash. Eventually I found the right trail to the peak.
Heading up the road there is a large boulder with graffiti on your left. That’s a landmark.
Shortly after that, I got to a ridge, a highpoint on this road, with a rusty remnant of a gate. The actual trail up the mountain starts at a clearing on the left just 50 yards beyond the rusty gate.
The first time I got there I missed the trail and soon reached this sign:
See the first box: No Trespassing.
There are lots of access roads and a lot of neat peaks to climb up there, as Nate describes in his blog. But to get there, I had to trespass. They definitely don’t want any hikers up there. I think I need to call the information number shown on the sign and find out what’s up with all the rules.
Important however: if you try to climb the mountain and you get to this sign, you have gone too far and you need to turn around.
This is the spot where the trail starts, heading due east up the mountain.
I took a waypoint to save any hikers the hour I tooled around before I found it. Here it is: N 33.16461 W 117.00577, Elevation 1643 ft.
A few steps along the trail there is a little footbridge, which I found odd in such a desolate area.
As I told when I showed the map above, I made a left turn at a Y which turned out to be wrong. I went up a fairly overgrown trail and there was lots of old trash. This is a car door with bullet holes in it. Who takes a car door up a mountain trail just to shoot at it? From the looks, it’s probably been there for 60 years.
Finally the trail fizzled out completely and I could go no further. That’s where I found this. Who carries buckets stuff up a mountain and then leaves it all there? What’s the point?
I suspect this was at one time a camp of undocumented migrants. I can’t think of any other explanation why somebody would carry cans and jars and blankets and all kinds of other plastic trash way up on this remote trail. I could have filled a dump truck with various trash just on this little side trail.
Finally I found the actual trail and it didn’t take me long to make it up the remaining 500 vertical feet to the peak. This photograph is near the peak. The boulders are huge.
Looking back, there was a good view of Tombstone peak on the left and Stanley Peak on the right. I have written about hiking Stanley Peak here.
Finally, the peak. There is a huge granite slab at the peak. The blue arrow points to the top, marked by a concrete platform that used to be the base of a lookout tower. Nothing but the slab remains. I left my poles at the base and scrambled up.
This is what’s called a Class 3 scramble: Moderate scrambling on steep, rocky terrain that requires handholds for upward movement and safety.
My hiking boots have good tread, but I needed my hands to pull myself up. I made use of the sturdy oak trees on the left side to pull myself up the first 6 feet, which was the steepest and most slippery. After I got past the tree, I just crawled up like a turtle until I got to the ridge, and then I walked the remaining 10 yards to the right to the top.
My 66-year-old self is not the same rock climber I was in my twenties, so I was quite proud of myself. But I was a bit nervous, because I was alone, and all it would take is a little slip of the foot….
I did come down on my butt, very slowly, and I would certainly do it again. It was worth it.
The view from the top is 360 degrees and priceless. I could see the Pacific in the far distance. The arrow points to Valley Parkway in Escondido, where the first picture in this post was taken.
Here is the same view in a full-sized format, so you can click on the picture and enlarge it.
I don’t have an exact mileage and altitude profile I can share, since I made so many little side trips finding the correct trail. I am baffled by how difficult it is to get there. I was out there for about two and a half hours and I did not see another soul. This was a Sunday morning, and nobody was on that mountain. It seems like a waste of nature, so close to the city, yet so far away from access.
I will find out from the Department of Parks and Recreation what the deal is and I’ll post this when I know.
All I can say is: I finally hiked Bottle Peak.
Disclaimer: I told you here that I had to go through several No Trespassing areas to get to this peak. I am not telling you that you should do that, too. However, I have not found any way up this mountain without trespassing – yet.