Hiking and Climbing
Hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails exist in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the surrounding regions. The Pacific Crest Trail passes in and out of the park several times, providing 50 miles of adventuresome hiking.
The California Riding and Hiking Trail (25 miles) passes through the park and is accessible from a few locations. Many shorter trails for a one-day or shorter exploration are available. Below is list of the more popular hikes you can pick up information sheets at either the Visitor Center, the Tamarisk Campground or Bow Valley center.
Borrego Palm Canyon Trail: Somewhat easy, 3-mile (2 hour) round trip to native California Palm grove and year-round stream. Most popular trail in the park. Begins at the top of the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, near the Visitors Center. Anza region.
Visitor Center Trail: Easy, 1.2-mile round trip (1 hour) between campground (site #71) and Visitor Center across dense Creosote scrub valley floor.
Pena Spring Trail: Easy, half-mile round trip (30 minutes) to water source through chaparral vegetation at 3,400 feet. Take Culp Valley Primitive Camp turnoff from County S-22 and watch for left fork signs to Pena Springs parking lot. Located in the Anza region.
Culp Valley Lookout Point Trail: Easy, 1/2-mile (30 minute) round-trip from the primitive campground to scenic overviews of Hellhole Canyon and the Borrego Desert. Located in the Anza region.
Cactus Loop Trail: Moderate, 1-mile loop (45 minutes) offers self-guiding interpretative signs for initial 1/3 of trail. Starts across the road from the flagpole in Tamarisk Campground. Tamarisk region. It offers excellent views of San Felipe Wash, the surrounding mountains and, of course, lots of cactus.
Trail to Yaqui Well: Easy, flat, 1.5 mile (1 hour) round trip offers wonderful display of desert wash flora. Abundant birds and other wildlife, as well as ancient Ironwood Trees surround Yaqui Well, a desert water hole. Begins across the road from Tamarisk region; alternate trail returns via Yaqui Well Primitive Campground road, just south of the well.
Bill Kenyon Overlook Trail: Easy, 1-mile round trip (45 minute) from Yaqui Pass Primitive Camp overlooks Mescal Bajada, San Felipe Wash and Pinyon Mountains; offers 6 species of cactus along the way. Tamarisk region.
Narrows Earth Trail: Easy, 1/3-mile loop (half hour) displaying geologic features of a small canyon at The Narrows of San Felipe Wash. A brochure explaining this self-guided auto tour is available at the trailhead on the south side on Highway 78, 4.7 mile east of Tamarisk Campground. Tamarisk region.
Trail to Morteros: Easy, 1/2-mile round-trip (1/2 hour) to native American grinding holes called bedrock mortars (morteros) by archeologists. Take the Blair Valley turnoff from S-2; follow dirt road 3.5 miles to the trailhead.
Elephant Trees Discovery Trail:Gentle, 1.5-mile sandy loop (1 hour) has a brochure available at the trailhead. Includes a visit to three of the rare Elephant Trees, as well as a self-guided tour with 17 signposts highlighting desert plants of the alluvial fan. Get there by driving south on Split Mountain Road from Ocotillo Wells on Route 78. Fish Creek Region.
California Riding and Hiking Trail: Moderate, 6-mile, one-way trail (3 hours) follows the ridge between Hellhole and Dry canyons offering spectacular views of the Borrego Desert. Take Culp Valley Primitive Camp turnoff from County S-22 and watch for right fork to the campground. Trailhead is near campground at 3,400-foot elevation and descends through transitional flora, to the desert floor exhibiting plants that grow below 1,000 feet. Trail exits at the Visitor Center parking lot for hikers and 0.5 miles from the Center on S-22 for horsemen, where there is parking and turnaround space for horse trailers. Located in the Anza Region.
Jasper Trail: 15-mile (4 hours), moderate trail descends through scenic Grapevine Canyon. Trailhead near the west end of the park on the south side of County Road S-22, emerging at Yaqui Well Primitive Campground. Considered one of the best mountain bike trails in Southern California. Starts Anza region and ends in Tamarisk region.
Trail to Marshal South Home: Very steep, moderate 2-mile round trip, (3 hours). View ruins of the Ghost Mountain house (called Yaquitepec) that writers Marshal and Tanya South occupied for 15 years while raising 3 children in primitive conditions. Approach from Blair Valley turnoff on County Road S-2, following the good dirt road almost 3 miles through Little Pass Primitive Campground.
Pictograph Trail: Moderate, 2-mile round-trip (1.5 hours) climb over a low pass to red and yellow pictographs drawn on a large boulder by prehistoric Diegueno Indians. Continue east to a dry waterfall in Smuggler Canyon for a spectacular view of Vallecito Valley and restored stagecoach stop. Take Blair Valley turnoff on S-2, follow dirt road 3.6 miles to sign indicating Pictograph Trail parking area another 1.5 miles.
Mountain Palm Springs Canyon, South Fork Trail: Moderate, 3 miles round trip (1.5 hours) to Pygmy Grove and Southwest Grove of Fan Palms, as well as a stand of Elephant Trees in Torote Bowl. In the Bow Willow area, from County Road S-2, take turnoff at Mountain Palm Springs Primitive Campground, stay left.
Mountain Palm Springs Canyon, North Fork Trail: Moderate 2.5-mile round trip (1.5 hours) to North Grove, Mary's Bowl Grove (Elephant and Palm Trees) and Palm Bowl (ringed by more than 100 palms). In the Bow Willow region, from County Road S-2, take turnoff at Mountain Palm Springs Primitive Campground, stay right.
Wind Caves: Somewhat difficult, 2-mile (1.5 hours) round trip from the trailhead just west of Split Mountain. Be prepared for a bit of a climb, but the view from these shallow caves formed by differential erosion is spectacular. Fish Creek region.
The Slot: Moderate, 1.5 miles (1.5 hours) round trip from the trailhead near Borrego Mountain Wash. To reach the trailhead drive to the intersection of Borrego Springs Road and Highway 78. Turn east on the Highway and drive 1.5 miles and look for Buttes Pass Road on your left (near mile marker #87). Drive one mile on this washboard road to the Borrego Mountain Wash junction and stay to the left for another 0.7 mile. At this point park where the road curves sharply to the left.
Inner Pasture: Easy, 6 miles (4 hours) round trip from the trailhead at mile marker 41 on highway S-2. Park your vehicle near the mile marker 41. Follow the broad sandy wash that supports the growth of many large Smoke Trees. After hiking 3/4 of a mile the drainage enters the narrow confines of the Tierra Blanca Mountains. Travel through this scenic gorge always staying in the main drainage. The steep rocky hillsides support a fine growth of barrel cactus, Ocotillo, and cholla.
After doing a wide 180-degree turn in the wash, pass a barbed wire fence on the right and within 1/4 mile the wash opens up to the mile-wide Inner Pasture. The best vantage point is a small rock pile located due south of the canyon mouth. From here good views of the Inner Pasture can be obtained. The Inner Pasture is about 3.5 miles in length with many archeological sites located around the perimeter.
Inspiration Point: Easy, 0.5 miles (1 hour) round trip. The hike to Inspiration Point is about 400 yards each way, and is short enough to be suitable even during the summer months. The trailhead can be reached via County Highway S-22 (Borrego-Salton Seaway). East of milepost marker #29 is the signed entrance to Font's Wash. Make a right turn and follow the wash approximately 3.0 miles. Soon, the road narrows into several hairpin turns, then widens again. Look for a large indigo bush growing in the middle of the wash. This marks the informal trailhead. Park on the right or left shoulder of the wash. From this small parking area, hike west about 10 to 15 minutes across a gentle sloping featureless incline.
Salvador Canyon (AKA Thousand Palms Canyon): Easy to moderate, 3 miles (2 hours) roundtrip from the trailhead. This often overlooked tributary of the Coyote Canyon Creek drainage allows fro a fairly easy walk to the reward of a beautiful California Desert Fan Palm grove, perched inside the steep walls of this a quiet canyon. The walk begins where the road ends.
Bow Willow Campground to Southwest Grove Loop Hike: Easy to moderate, 3 miles (3 hours) round trip from trailhead. Start this hike at the western edge of Bow Willow Campground located 1.5 miles west of Highway S-2. Limited parking is available at the trailhead with additional parking for up to 20 vehicles in an area 75 yards east of the campground entrance.
The Panoramic Overlook Trail: Easy to moderate, 1.5 miles (1 hour) round trip from trailhead. The Panoramic Overlook Trail offers the Borrego Springs visitor a great view of Borrego Valley and good exercise. The difficulty of this hike is relative; for one person it is a quick 15 minute jaunt to the top, for another person it may be a strenuous 20 minute climb.
Mud Hills Wash to Elephant Knees: Moderate, 4 miles (2 hours) round trip from trailhead. This hike will take you through the magical mudhills on the edge of the Fish Creek badlands and up to the top of the Elephant Knees mesa where you can see for yourself the vastness and density of the area's oyster shell reefs.
Source: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
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