Ascent of Agua Tibia Mountain on 2016-04-15

Climber: Brad Stemm

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Friday, April 15, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Agua Tibia Mountain
    Elevation:4779 ft / 1456 m

Ascent Trip Report

Agua Tibia Mountain is located in northern San Diego county in the Palomar / Agua Tibia Range, within the borders of the Cleveland National Forest. From the I-15 Fwy at Hwy 79 South exit, it's ~10.4-mile drive to trail head parking at Dripping Springs Campground. Vail Lake recreation area is near Dripping Springs Campground, and is visible from the trail to Dripping Springs and Agua Tibia Mountain.

In the summer of 1989, the Vail Lake fire consumed almost 16,000 acres of chaparral in the Agua Tibia range, including 6,800 acres in the Agua Tibia Wilderness. Vegetation along Dripping Springs Trail, including California Sycamore, manzanita, Live Oak and Cottonwood trees that shaded the trail were lost to the fire. Regrowth along the trail is dense; from the trail-head at 1,625' up to 4,000' I encountered scrub oak, red shank, flowering chamise and ceanothus which encroach the trail. The red shank makes off trail hiking near impossible; DS trail is well maintained though, and switchbacks are relatively short. The low vegetation makes the views over the wilderness easier to take in and photograph. Area water source Arroyo Seco Creek and it's tributary canyons appeared dry, but flowering white ceanothus and chamise, and colorful penstemon and other flowering plants were present after recent rains.

Although the Dripping Springs Trail was fairly well maintained, 6 miles into the hike the Palomar-Magee Trail that leads to Agua Tibia and wilderness high point Eagle Crag(5,077') was lush and overgrown. In addition to shrubbery, Live Oak and Coulter Pine with their large, heavy cones shaded the trail and reduced the scenic views to trail only. A mile of pushing through tall shrubs led to a saddle at 4,700' just north of Agua Tibia Mountain. A low rock cairn in the middle of the trail points the way to a peak access trail, and although low in places that trail was easy to follow to the summit plateau. In addition to several summit boulders, two directional benchmarks point to a third central benchmark where a register can was located. I was 31st to sign the register so far in 2016, AT is a popular peak! After a leisurely lunch I returned to Dripping Springs CG via the route ascended, Garmin etrex-20 stats were ~15.8 miles round-trip with ~3,425' gain.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3424 ft / 1043 m
    Extra Gain:135 ft / 41 m
    Round-Trip Distance:15.8 mi / 25.4 km
    Route:DS Trail-Palomar Magee Rd-Peak Access Trail
    Trailhead:Dripping Springs CG  1625 ft / 495 m
    Grade/Class:Class 1
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 30 Minutes

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