Smugglers Cove/Jacumba

March 10th 2018


Last minute trip, I ran this last year. 


Best Times: Spring or Fall, This is a day trip.  Bring a lunch. Smuggler's Cave (aka Elliot Mine) is an easy trail in Jacumba. It can be completed in stock vehicles with 4 wheel drive without risk of body damage. While the trail is not difficult, the end contains a few caves to explore, and some spectacular views.  After that we'll do the Jucumba Loop trail and the going gets tough.

Historical, Rugged and Sensitive! This is the best way to describe the area surrounding the small town of Jacumba, California. Jacumba is about 65 miles east of San Diego off Highway 8. During the heat of the summer months, the Indians moved their camps from the shores of the ancient Lake Cahuilla (now the Salton Sea) into the Jacumba Mountains. Even today darkened soil from animal fat can still be seen around their ancient roasting pits. During the mid to late 1800's, an Overland Stage route passed through Mountain Springs and Jacumba on its way to San Diego. The old stage route winds up the mountain from the north side of Highway 8. The early settlers in the area struggled with cattle rustlers, smugglers, bandits, Mexicans and Indians. Then in 1912, the first dirt road was blasted through the rugged area. Automobiles could now travel a rough and rocky road between El Centro and San Diego.

A few years later, the San Diego and Arizona Railroad built its railroad through Carrizo Gorge. The 11 mile journey went through 16 tunnels, of which two are one-half mile long, and crossed 14 wooden trestles. One of the trestles is the tallest wooden span in the world at 186 feet above the sandy wash below. Visit the restored railroad station in La Mesa and Campo. The railroad museum at Campo is open 10a.m. to 5p.m. and offers a short historic train ride (619?)697-7762. The tracks through Carrizo Gorge are currently being repaired.


Run Checklist

Always Required

  • HAM Radio on 146.550 MHz
  • Full-Sized Spare Tire
  • Seat Belts
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Battery Tiedown
  • Working Brakes
  • Tow Straps
  • Tow Points

Run Requirements

  • 33+ Sized Tire
  • 2+ Suspension Lift
  • 4LO Transfer Case
  • Rear Axle Locker

Run Recommendations

  • Front Axle Locker

Trail Rating

Trail Rating 3

Difficulty Level: 3

Trail Rating 1 Graded road; Any 4x4 vehicle or higher clearance 2x4 vehicle with no other modifications
Trail Rating 2 Road rarely maintained; 4x4 with no low bumpers. Anti-sway bar disconnects recommended. Minimum 30" tires and some off-road experience is helpful
Trail Rating 3 Difficult terrain and road rarely maintained; 33" tires, Suspension lift, Off-road driving experience, body armor and Rear locker recommended. Stock vehicles will likely take damage
Trail Rating 4 Very difficult terrain, road never maintained; 33" tires, sway-bar disconnects, Rear locker, and Rock sliders required. 35" tires, front locker, Full cage, and 4:1 transfer-case recommended. Chance of mechanical failure and body damage
Trail Rating 5 Extremely difficult terrain with large obstacles and roll over potential; Full cage required, 37" tires strongly recommended. Good chance of mechanical failure and strong chance of body damage


Rendezvous @ San Clemente Carl's Jr

Meet at the SC Carl's Jr at 6:30 AM and caravan.


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  • HAM: N/A


Meeting @ Rendevous

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