Location: Campo (51 Miles / 1.25 Hours East of Downtown San Diego)
Features: The Beginning of the 2,650 Mile National Scenic Trail at the U.S. – Mexican Border Fence
Pacific Crest Trail Highlights: The beginning of the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail begins in Campo, CA, which is an hour’s drive east of downtown San Diego. Officially called the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, it is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Pacific Coast Trail or the West Coast Trail. It begins at the border fence with Mexico and continues north through desert and mountain terrain in California, Oregon, and Washington before reaching the end in British Columbia, Canada. Hikers will start their journey in late spring and finish their arduous trip before the winter snows arrive.
In the San Diego section of the Pacific Crest Trail, hikers will traverse the Anza Borrego Desert and the mountains of the Cleveland National Forest. Hikers often work with the Pacific Crest Trail Association to plan and document their adventures. You can view a map of the suggested first day’s hike, starting in Campo, at the Backpackers Magazine web site. A Google map showing you how to reach the start of the Pacific Crest trailhead is noted in the Directions section below. It’s a nice place for those who want to take a picture for their vacation albums to show friends back home that you saw the Mexican border and the start for the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. However, don’t expect anything more than the fence, a trail sign, and distant views, since there is no visitor center or any other special recognition.
Despite its remote location, you can make a nice day trip to Campo by driving along the scenic SR-94, which is part of the old stage coach trails and wraps around the mountains in the area. Once you are in Campo, you can spend a few hours visiting the Motor Transport Museum, the San Diego Railroad Museum, and the Gaskill Brother’s Stone Museum.
Campo occasionally experiences unusual weather extremes despite its proximity to temperate San Diego. So, take a look at the Mountain Forecast if you are visiting during the winter and the Desert Forecast if you are visiting during the summer to get an idea of what to expect.
Food – Your options are limited in this remote location. The Campo Diner is very close by. You’ll find a few more diners off of the I-8 freeway and along SR-94.
Directions from Google Maps to 31123 1/2 SR-94 in Campo, CA 91906. (This address puts you a mile away from the trailhead. As you head south on SR-94, take a right on Forrest Gate Road. Go straight two miles on what becomes a dirt road. (Do not turn right when you reach the large power transmission lines.) When you approach the Mexican border fence, those without a 4-wheel drive will need to park and walk about 100 yards up the dirt road that ascends to the left, up to the Pacific Crest Trailhead.
For those visiting from Downtown San Diego and nearby areas, Google Maps will recommend SR-94 most of the way, which is a two lane country road. You may want to re-route the map (by dragging the blue line) to use highway I-8 instead. Or, you might want to take the SR-94 out to Campo to enjoy the scenery and curvy roads and take highway I-8 back. Both routes will take about the same amount of time since the distance is a little longer using highway I-8.
Traffic – Travel to Campo is relatively easy whether you use the I-8 or SR-94.
Transit - There are no transit options to get you to Campo on weekends.