Marshall South Home Trail is a 1.3-mile round trip hike in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that brings you the erstwhile outpost of Marshal South, who homesteaded in this remote desert location in the 1930s and 40s.
This is a terrific little hike in Blair Valley that brings you up to the top of a ridge where you can explore the South family’s old homestead and enjoy views of Anza-Borrego’s deserts and mountains.
- Trail type: Out-and-back
- Difficulty: Easy
- Length: 1.3 miles
- Elevation gain and loss: 450 feet, -450 feet
- Trailhead Coordinates: 33.003447, -116.389832
- Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
- Season: May – Oct
Getting to Marshall South Home Trail
Anza Borrego Desert State Park is located in eastern San Diego County, with portions of the park bordering Riverside County. The park is located about 2 hours drive from San Diego and 3 hours from Los Angeles.
Marshall South Home Trail is located in Blair Valley is located on the western side of the park, and can be accessed from S2 (also known as the Great Overland Stage Route).
The trailhead for Marshall South Home Trail is also located on the south side of the valley. After you get off the S2 at Blair Valley Primitive Campground, follow the dirt road south for about 3 miles along the ridge that forms the eastern border of the valley.
There will be a couple of splits along the way. Take the right fork at each split. There are small signs (as of this writing) at both splits that direct you to the trailhead.
This out-and-back trail climbs 450 feet to a homestead built in the 1930s by Marshall South, where he lived on a waterless mountain top for 17 years with his wife, Tanya, and children.
South wrote about their rugged life in a popular column in Desert Magazine. The ruins of the homestead are still found on top of Ghost Mountain (which they called “Yaquitepec”).
As a side note, if you’re interested in learning more about the Souths, Anza Borrego Visitors Center shows a short documentary on them. A full-length documentary about the family, titled The Ghost Mountain Experiment, was released in 2007.
The trailhead is located at a dead end of the dirt road and is marked by a kiosk about the South family.
The trail climbs steeply out of Blair Valley to the top of a ridge then follows the ridge to the saddle near the top of ghost mountain where the remains of the South family homestead are found.
The trail winds through a surprisingly dense collection of desert plants, including ample barrel cactus, yucca, cholla and ocotillo.
If you are hiking with kids, keep an eye on them and encourage them to stay on the trail.
Between the well-armed and standoffish desert plants and the sharp granite boulders, the kids on our most recent hike all acquired some trail rash.
At the site of the South family homestead, you can still make out aspects of their desert life nearly 100 yeara later.
An intact head-high stone and mortar water reservoir for collecting and storing rainwater is still intact. The bowled base of another rings the ground in another.
The stone frame of a doorway and a corner of the house still stand and part of an old metal bed frame has somehow survived, thanks to the dry climate presumably.
Even without the homestead ruins, the views from the site are worth the climb. To the south and west, across a vast desert valley, you can see the Laguna Mountains.
To the east, sweeping views of the Anza-Borrego desert extend as far as the eye can see. To the north is Blair Valley.
If you’re ready for more after visiting the Marshall South homestead, the Pictograph Trail in nearby Little Blair Valley is another great trail.