Whale Peak and the Pictograph Trail Falls

Are you going?

19 spots left


Pictographs Trail Head

unnamed Rd · Julian, CA

How to find us

From SR 78 from Julian and Ramona, head out towards the desert, turning S onto S2 at Scissors Crossing. Turn onto the Little Blair Valley dirt road and continue to end at Pictographs Trailhead. Similar from I-8 in Ocotillo, but w/ S2 North going N

Location image of event venue


DIFFICULTY: EASY 2.5 miles and/or HARD 8.5 miles
PLANT KNOWLEDGE: Beginner to Novice, Professionals always welcome!
ACCESS: Open to all, no charge
[SEVERE WEATHER CANCELS EVENT (Temps above 95F or storm/flood)]

Last year, we made a great loop about Anza Borrego State Park's Little Blair Valley, also known as the Mohave Pocket for the wide array of Mohavean species that survive there separated from their kin to the far North. Now, we're headed back for a two part trip to the falls on Pictograph Trail to the falls overlook (the Easy part), and then for the adventurous - a strenuous climb up Whale Peak and back (the Hard part).

Whale Peak is known for many odd desert species that grow there, some not known anywhere where else. The unique species for the area are Single leaved skunkbrush (Rhus aromatica var simplicifolia) and Borrego bedstraw (Galium angustifolium ssp borregoense). Other rare species we hope to catch in bloom will be Pygmy lotus (Acmispon haydonii), Desert ayenia (Ayenia compacta), Intermediate larkspur (delphinium parishii ssp subglobosum), Spearleaf (Matelea parvifolia), and Fairyduster (Calliandra eriophylla). The common species there are still interesting including the many cactus species like Opuntia basilaris, barrel cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus), cholla (Cylindropuntia sps), Calico cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii), and the cute fish hook cactus (Mammilaria dioica) and dozens of others.

For those that were present during the December Chapter Meeting for San Diego CNPS in Balboa Park (every 3rd Tuesday evening of the month), you might have heard Curator of Botany at the NAT Jon Rebman mention Whale Peak for some interesting ferns. We'll do our best to find the Viscid lace fern (Myriopteris viscida) and any other ferns that might be green in March.

In any case, this trip is geared for anyone looking to see plants they've never seen before on a quick morning trip along a great trail filled with natural history AND for those looking to add to our collection of botanical knowledge in the State Park and San Diego County. For the rare plants, we'll be taking diagnostic photos and posting to iNaturalist as well as adding any new plants not on the known Plant Atlas list that may pop up from the excellent desert rains this year.

Pack snacks and water for the short trip and a full lunch and suitable gear and clothing for the longer hike. The temperature could get hot even in March, or could be freezing cold with a stiff breeze, so keep an eye on the forecast. Keep a cautious eye out for rattlesnakes! The most dangerous thing we'll encounter will likely be cactus, falls, and the heat. For any desert trip, come prepared with plenty of water, sunscreen, and a good hat.

The road up into the trailhead at Pictograph Trail can be sandy, but I've seen low clearance vehicles park there too. High clearance with good tires is best.

I will provide my truck (black Toyota Tundra) with three seats from Fashion Valley Mall Transit Center parking area nearest Fashion Valley Rd (west end of the mall) from 6:45 to 7:00 AM. I will be gone for the whole time, so joining my carpool commits you to the whole day. Be prepared to drive if space fills up or you only intend to do the short hike. Parking at the Transit Center parking lot is free for 24 hrs and is occasionally patrolled by security. That being said, the same risks apply there as to regular street parking. Donations for gas are welcome, but not required. The roundtrip is about 160 miles. Expect to return to Fashion Valley about 6 PM, perhaps sooner.