A super short scenic hike to the Morteros in Anza Borrego Desert State Park


Anza Borrego Desert State Park: Morteros Trail

Date Hiked: April 12, 2009
Best Season: Spring Winter
Check Trail Conditions: Anza Borrego Desert State Park (760) 767-5311
  • Distance: 0.5 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 60 feet
  • Route Type: Out-and-Back
  • Trail Type: Dirt
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Morteros Trail is the second super short little “hike” we did on Easter Sunday 2009 after packing up our weekend campsite at Borrego Palm Canyon campground — right after hiking the Yaqui Well Nature Trail — and heading home via Highway 78 through Julian.  Although you won’t get a workout on this hike, it’s well worth visiting for the scenery as well as the historical and cultural significance.  If you want a workout, just tie it in with a series of short scenic hikes in a single day like we did.  But the truth is, after doing the Palm Canyon Hike the day before, we weren’t looking for anything particularly grueling, and this fit the bill!

What makes this short little jaunt so worthwhile? The morteros mark the site of a prehistoric village, where the indigineous Kumeyaay spent thousands of years grinding mortar stones into the massive boulders.  Plus it offers magnificent views of Little Blair Valley.

The Morteros are located on the Julian (west) side of Anza Borrego Desert State Park.  From the junction of California Route 78 and San Diego County Road 2 (S2), head south for 6.3 miles to the Blair Valley road cut-off, a dirt road that you follow for 3-1/2 miles to the Morteros pullout — a clearly marked little dirt lot.  On our most recent Anza Borrego trip over Easter weekend 2011 (traveling with friends in a large motorhome), park rangers advised us that motorhomes over 25 feet are too heavy for the dirt road and parking areas in Little Blair Valley.  But, regular vehicles, and mountain bikes, can make it just fine.

Note: This hike is practically right next to the scenic pictographs trail (blog post coming soon!), so you might definitely want to tie the two visits together.

Morteros Trail

Historical marker explaining the historical and archaeological background.

Mortero Trail

A peak through the massive split obelisk-like boulder that watches over the prehistoric village site.


A particularly deep mortero. One can image how extensively this spot was used to grind grains for the family meal.


A flat toppled chunk of boulder, laden with morteros... like a heavily-used table.


And more morteros.

Mortero Trail

The always present fields of cacti.

Morteros Trail

A young yucca plant.

Mortero Trail

A late bloomin' cactus! I think this is a cholla?

Morteros Trail

A look beyond at Little Blair Valley.

View the Morteros Trail in Anza Borrego State Park in a larger map



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