Encountering Border Patrol on the southern Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is a wonderfully diverse experience and the area near our southern terminus and into the mountains is no exception. Hikers and riders are used to mountain weather, stream crossings and swarms of mosquitoes, but many are unprepared for the experience of walking around in the U.S.-Mexico border zone.

After fielding a lot of questions and talking to our partners at the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service and agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, we thought we’d write up a few tips about the border region.

  • You might encounter Border Patrol agents. They patrol the trail and the nearby road networks in the area by foot, ATV, horseback, truck and air.
  • A common encounter is that you may be asked to state your citizenship and show the tread on the bottom of your shoes. After the Border Patrol starts tracking someone, they ask to see your shoes so that they can tell whether you were the person they were following.
  • International hikers should have their passport and visa.
  • If you’re camping, perhaps in Hauser Canyon, Border Patrol might check on you.  This can be surprising after dark. Agents use infrared night vision scopes as a part of their duties.
  • All season long, Border Patrol helps lost, dehydrated and sick or injured PCT hikers. A common problem is that hikers fail to follow the PCT where it makes a sharp right turn and joins the unpaved South Boundary Road (PCT mile 14.0) above Hauser Canyon. Many people stay straight and get lost.
  • Leaving an unattended vehicle at the southern terminus is not advised. If you’re going to park in the area, Border Patrol recommends parking on the county land where the PCT crosses Highway 94.
A common sight in San Diego County. [photo: Customs and Border Protection]

A common sight in San Diego County. [photo: Customs and Border Protection]

The El Cajon Station patrols the PCT from the southern terminus to Buckman Springs Road and the Campo Station patrols from Buckman Springs Road to near Julian. The agency also manages two road checkpoints that trail users may pass by: one located on Interstate 8 westbound and the other on Old Highway 80 westbound near Pine Valley, California.

Contact them at:

El Cajon Station

225 Kenney Street
El Cajon, CA 92020
(619) 258-4500

Campo Station

32355 Old Highway 80
Pine Valley, CA 91962
Phone: (619) 938-8700
Fax: (619) 478-9793

Author: Jack "Found" Haskel

As the Trail Information Manager, Jack works to connect people to the PCT. He's involved with a wide variety of projects that help the trail, the trail's users and the community that surrounds the experience. He has thru-hiked (Pacific Crest Trail in 2006; Colorado Trail in 2008; Continental Divide Trail in 2010) and is an obsessed weekend warrior.