Day Trippin’ in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
by Lynn Bremner
One of my favorite points of interest in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is Coyote Canyon. It has a year-round stream that meanders through the canyon and crosses a scenic desert road at several different points along the route. The road is shared with 4WD vehicles, horses, mountain bikes and hikers.
The creek is a water source for desert wildlife including the big horn sheep that live in the Park. The riparian area along the creek is thick with vegetation creating a green belt that cuts through the canyon. Birds and other animals are often seen along the waters edge. This makes Coyote Canyon a good location for wildlife viewing and other outdoor activities.
I’ve explored Coyote Canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park many times in a 4WD Jeep, but it was my first time on two wheels. I recently purchased a mountain bike and I was eager to get out on the desert trails to go for a test ride.
The Ranger at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor’s Center said the roads in the Park were sandy in areas and she wasn’t sure how good the road in Coyote Canyon would be for bikes. I decided to give it a try and was pleasantly surprised that the road conditions were fairly good for mountain bikes.
The day of my bike ride I parked at the Desert Garden, an area on the Coyote Canyon road. If you were to continue by car past this point you would need 4WD. The Desert Garden has a few picnic tables and a small dirt parking area that served as a convenient staging area to unload our bikes and to prepare for our tour of the Canyon. It was a picture perfect day for a bike ride in the desert.
Usually the Desert Garden is filled with green ocotillos and other native plants. This year the rainfall was sparse and the foliage was very dry and brown. Only one or two ocotillos in the area had a couple of red blooms. You couldn’t tell it was winter as the landscape looked like it does in the summer months, brown and dormant.
After loading up our backpacks with plenty of water and snacks, my friend John and I began our mountain bike ride through Coyote Canyon. The road was sandy, but we didn’t encounter any problems. If you followed the car tracks and stayed away from the deeper sand, you could ride without any loss of traction. Once or twice my back tire sunk a bit, but I was able to recover easily and continued riding.
The dirt road that takes you into the Canyon crosses over Coyote Canyon Creek several times along the route. The first crossing was very shallow and narrow and we were able to ride our bikes through it. The second crossing was wider and deeper. John crossed first and got his shoes soaked, so I took a pass on that crossing. There was an area where I could have walked across with the bike, but we only had time for a short ride and it was time to head home.
It took us 1 hour from the Desert Garden to the second creek crossing and back. The journey home was really easy as the road has a slight, downhill grade for a majority of the route. There was one or two small hills in both directions, but overall the trail was a fairly easy bike ride. On our way back a caravan of Jeeps passed by us and we were able to catch it on video.
If you are looking for an easy mountain bike trail, Coyote Canyon offers several points of interest and a beautiful year round creek to enjoy along the ride. We didn’t make it to the third crossing on this trip, but on previous trips it was pretty deep and the road does get rougher in that area.
Other related articles & videos:
Coyote Canyon to Lower Willows Video (4WD Trip)
How to get to Coyote Canyon:
From Christmas Circle in the town of Borrego Springs, CA take DiGiorgio Rd. It will dead-end at the dirt road that takes you into Coyote Canyon.
There are three clusters of willows that grow along the stream: the lower willows, middle willows and upper willows. The canyon is closed from the lower willows to Terwilliger areas between June 1st through Sept. 30th. This seasonal closure protects the watering areas for the bighorn sheep and other wildlife. The route through Coyote Canyon has three water crossings and requires 4WD after the first crossing to navigate the more difficult sections. The trail becomes increasingly difficult right before and after the third crossing. Make sure you check with the Park’s Visitor Center for reports on the Coyote Canyon Road and ask about the current conditions prior to travel.
Points of Interest along this Route
Henderson Canyon Horse Camp
Alcoholic Pass – hiking trail
Desert Gardens – Picnic area and scenic views from hill
Second Crossing, Lower Willows – stream crossing
Third Crossing to Collins Valley – stream crossing
Sheep, Indian and Cougar Canyons
Salvador Canyon/Yucca Valley and Collins Valley