Experience the desert trails in a Polaris RZR
By Lynn Bremner
Update: Sept. 2020
Be sure and check with Ocotillo Wells SVRA for their restrictions and guidelines to limit your risk for exposure to COVID-19 in the outdoors.
On a recent day trip to Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA), I had the opportunity to go off-roading in a Polaris RZR. I’d visited the area many times, but I’d never explored it in an off–highway vehicle. Motorcycles and ATVs seemed a little overwhelming to me. That all changed when I learned about the Polaris RZR, a 4-passenger, off-highway vehicle that’s automatic and easy to drive.
The purpose of our trip was twofold. We needed to photograph and take video of the various points of interest in Ocotillo Wells for DesertUSA.com. The other objective was to experience the desert trails in an off-highway vehicle. The Polaris RZR was the vehicle of choice for this adventure.
My brother was driving with me on this trip and my Dad followed in his 4WD Jeep with our camera gear. Once we crossed over into the park from Ironwoods Off-Road Rental, the first thing we noticed was how smooth the ride was over the trails. We reached Blow Sand Hill in half the time it took my Dad to arrive in his Jeep.
We raced up the sand dune and took in incredible views of Ocotillo Wells from the top. It was a great opportunity to get some photos of Blow Sand Hill from a different perspective. I could smell the desert sage and feel the air rush by as we sped back down. It was an open-air adventure.
After Blow Sand Hill we headed over to the plateau behind Devil’s Slide. The dunes there were more level and we took turns racing up and down the hills.
Shell Reef was our final destination that day. After parking by the informational kiosks we hiked up the steep hill to reach the five foot outcropping of fossilized shells. From the top, we had 360-degree views of the surrounding desert. After the hike, we explored the adjacent Shell Reef Playground.
It was late in the day and time to head back to Ironwoods. It really was a fun experience and the Polaris gave us a different perspective of off-roading in the desert. The vehicle can seat four people and it’s easy to drive. It’s a great way to explore the desert with family or friends. The suspension enables you to navigate all types of trails and you can visit more points of interest in less time. I highly recommend the Polaris RZR off-road experience for your next outdoor adventure.
Ocotillo Wells SVRA
Tucked away just past the southern end of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area. With over 85,000 acres of open desert and trails, Ocotillo Wells SVRA is one of the top riding destinations in the country.
The trail system includes all levels of trails. Most of the popular points of interest can be accessed using easy to moderate routes. This makes it a fun adventure for families and groups seeking a variety of recreational opportunities.
Points of Interest in Ocotillo Wells SVRA
If you want to ride up and down a sand dune, this is the place to go. The hill was formed by massive sand storms many years ago. It continues to be fed with new sand from the strong desert winds. It’s a popular destination, so keep an eye out for other OHVs.
This 200-foot high granite and sand island is a challenge for OHV enthusiasts. It used to be a gold prospecting location and is said to be haunted. It’s actually an ancient decomposing mountain of mixed terrain that gets more difficult to traverse the higher you go. The south side offers sloping sand dunes that were fun to cruise in the Polaris.
The Artesian Well is an abandoned derrick that was originally built in 1919 to drill for oil. They hit geothermal water instead. Today it’s a popular landmark.
Barrel Springs is an area where the sand holds water better than other regions of the park. Because of the added moisture, Barrel Springs has unique flora and fauna. It was also an area where miners would sink a barrel into the sand to collect water.
Shell Reef is a five-foot wide reef that contains fossilized shells. The shells were the remains of a sea that covered the desert over 4 million years ago. There are informational kiosks at the base of the protected reef. You can hike to, and view the fossilized shell reef. No vehicles are allowed on the reef, but the Shell Reef Playground adjacent to it is a fun OHV area.
Bubbling mud pools created by underground hot springs can be seen at this location. There are some great views and fun terrain to navigate on the way to and from this destination.
The Pumpkin Patch is an area of Ocotillo Wells filled with weird sand concretions. The round sandstone shapes really do look like pumpkins. It’s fascinating to see how rain, wind and erosion have created these unique geological formations. It’s definitely worth a trip to view them.
If you stay …
Within the boundaries of Ocotillo Wells, there’s open camping, vault toilets, picnic tables and fire rings. No water or dump stations. There are pay showers on Ranger Station Rd., on Main St. and in Homes Camp.
If you prefer a motel room or RV park, Ironwoods Desert Resort is conveniently located directly across Hwy 78 from Ocotillo Wells Visitor Center and main entrance.
Ironwoods Off-Road Rental
Ironwoods has the best fleet of 4 passenger Polaris RZR XP 10000 EPS Side by Sides (UTV). Visit their website for rates, reservations and details.
The staff at Ironwoods Off-Road Rentals showed us all the safety features of the vehicle, including its GPS system. We could reach the rental office with the push of a button or call 911 using another button. Ironwoods also provided us with helmets and gloves for our off-road adventure. Equipment is included with the rental fee.
Ironwood Off-Road Rentals
4875 Hwy 78
Borrego Springs, CA, 92004
Ocotillo Wells SVRA
5172 Highway 78
Borrego Springs CA 92004
Ironwoods is one many Polaris Adventures Outfitters. Polaris Adventures website links to unique destinations nationwide where you can enjoy your own adventure on a Polaris.
Apple IOS Mobile App for Ocotillo Wells SVRA
Outer Spatial – You’ll find detailed information about the activities you love to do in these parks, including special events, maps, photos, and official trail guides, all in one place. https://www.outerspatial.com/csp/#OcotilloWells
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