Day and Overnight Hikes Anza-Borrego Desert State Park  by Sheri McGregor

Day & Overnight Hikes: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Guide Book

by Sheri McGregor (Menasha Ridge Press)
Day and Overnight Hikes Anza-Borrego Desert State Park  by Sheri McGregor
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest desert state park in the contiguous United States, drawing approximately 650,000 visitors per year. Choosing the best day and overnight hikes within the parks 600,000 acres is a major undertaking. But whether you’re out to spot endangered bighorn sheep, revel in the spring flower show, or seek out desert waterfalls, author Sheri McGregor has got you covered. Includes GPS-based trail maps and more!

© 2007 Sheri McGregor/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Day & Overnight Hikes: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 32.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 32.

This long, fairly disused trek offers the gift of silence. The sandy wash gives way to boulders and enters a canyon where the temperature noticeably drops at points where the sun is blocked (wear layers). Long pants and sleeves defend against grabbing catclaw, spiny barrel cactus, and cholla. Careful foot navigation on piled, sometimes-unstable rocks, as well as boulder hopping that increases with mileage covered, make Alma Wash unsuitable for younger, less-experienced hikers. For hardy hikers who enjoy a long, quiet trek into desert solitude, this is the place to find such quiet paradise. Outstanding Features: Soft, sandy wash; boulders; cool canyons; and elephant trees.
Ocotillo Wells, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 11
Use the interpretive guide found at the trailhead to identify plants, animals, and other desert phenomena along this easy, well-visited desert-wash nature trail. Outstanding Features: Desert-wash landscape, stream and waterfalls, birds, possible bighorn-sheep sightings, and a shady oasis.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
Don’t let the easy terrain of the Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail, where you begin this rugged hike, fool you: it’s not for beginners. The Nature Trail’s benign, well-trodden path, which ends at the first oasis, doesn’t begin to hint at the sometimes-daunting, always-beautiful solitude of a deeper venture into the canyon. If you’re day-hiking, plan extra time to enjoy the serenity of this craggy, awe-inspiring terrain. Outstanding Features: Huge, beautiful slabs of colorful schist and gneiss rocks (some of which you’ll climb on and over), running stream, palm oases, and waterfalls.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9
This trail takes you from the semiprimitive setting of the Bow Willow Campground south into Rockhouse Canyon to glimpse Depression-era relics. You’ll travel from people to solitude and see unusual rock formations as well as a variety of desert vegetation. Brief climbs and descents over varying terrain are interspersed with long, flat treks across sandy washes and open desert. After spring rains, refreshing water gushes through Bow Willow Valley. Outstanding Features: Sandy wash, seasonal water, and a historic cattleman’s rock shelter.
Julian, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8.5
A wonderful day hike with fairly easy terrain, this long loop leads through the twisting upper end of Butler Canyon and across open desert before approaching a precipice overlooking Rockhouse Canyon. You’ll pass near a Cahuilla Indian ruin site, so you could spend extra time exploring there, then take the narrow path down into Rockhouse Canyon and loop back to your car. Outstanding Features: Canyon views, interesting rock formations, open desert/desert wash, and a hidden spring.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 9.6
Springtime wildflowers, interesting year-round cacti and boulder formations, plentiful wildlife, and an isolated atmosphere make this strenuous hike a paradise for those in good physical condition. A steady climb up (and then down) the sandy, rocky trail can make this walk grueling. Windy weather can be dangerous on the narrow, sometimes-steep trail. Outstanding Features: Steady ascent and descent with spring wildflowers, desert vegetation, breathtaking views of the desert valley, and wildlife.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.4
A rather brief jaunt into the canyon cut by floodwaters allows for glimpses of interesting geological characteristics and eroded sandstone formations. Since Canyon Sin Nombre serves as a vehicle throughway to and from Carrizo Creek, you may see four-wheel drives. Traffic may be heavy on weekends (especially in spring), when entire cavalcades forge through the land. You’ll likely also see people camping in Canyon Sin Nombre. Outstanding Features: Sandy wash, slot canyons, smoke trees, and birds.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
The wide canyon offers solitude, although on busy days you may see people in four-wheel drives before you reach the vehicle closure sign. Outstanding Features: Sandy wash, interesting rocks, seasonal stream, mortreros, wildlife, and train trestles.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 18
A daylong hike from the parking area at the third crossing, or a shorter foray if your four-wheel-drive vehicle can make it to the vehicle closure just past Sheep Canyon Primitive Camp. Whichever you choose, Cougar Canyon is a watery treasure trove. Waterfalls are the norm here, with a new variation in size and flow at every turn on this uphill trek into a fertile gorge. Outstanding Features: Variety of waterfalls, huge boulders, wildlife, oases, and rock art.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 11
This short loop offers just a sample of desert life. Armed with an interpretive guide found at the trailhead, both novice naturalists and seasoned desert-goers can become mini-experts on the vegetation’s survival adaptations in the arid climate and learn how to identify some of the most prevalent native plants. Outstanding Features: Soft, sandy trail with a few small boulders, views of open sky framed by the Vallecitos Mountains in the distant west, fragrant desert lavender, a variety of cactuses, birds, and jackrabbits.
Ocotillo Wells, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
This extreme trek up a densely vegetated, boulder-populated ravine offers a sense of accomplishment at hike’s end. But expect a tough climb, eking out a route as you scale boulders toward a hidden palm oasis at 2,500 feet (a 1,700-foot elevation gain). Don’t attempt this hike unless you’re experienced and physically prepared for a tough challenge; also, make sure you have plenty of water and lots of time for a slow, grueling pace. Ravine temperatures can drop significantly from those on the desert floor, so wear layers to escape a chill. Also consider a double layer of pants to protect your skin from tangles with prevalent and unforgiving acacia catclaw. And be aware of any expected bad weather—you don’t want to get caught in this steep canyon ravine in storms and flooding. Outstanding Features: Desert flowers, rock formations, expansive view of the desert valley, palm oasis, and trickling water.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
The history evident on this immediately climbing trail makes the hike a wonder from the first step. The Souths, a family who lived on Ghost Mountain in the 1930s and 1940s, carefully placed rocks along the route that still provide good footing. The quiet mountaintop, with its ruins of the family’s rural lifestyle, offers a pretty view and sparks imaginings about how they lived. Outstanding Features: A climbing path to the home site of the South family, who lived at the top of this mountain, perhaps the proverbial “top of the world” to this creative, colorful couple and their children.
Julian, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.4
At first glance, this may seem just another dry, flat hike, but the desert holds surprises. Spend the last mile or so hopping on boulders to find a shady palm oasis with a waterfall lined in cascading maidenhair ferns. Outstanding Features: Sandy wash, ocotillo, cholla cactus, agave, seasonal stream, and waterfall with maidenhair ferns.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.2
A 4-mile out-and-back from the bottom of the Turkey Track (aka the mouth of Horse Canyon), usually with water present; a 6-mile out-and-back starts at the top of the Turkey Track. This trek into a canyon inhabited until recently by wild horses offers a perspective on flowing water’s effect on the environment. Outstanding Features: Streambed, cottonwood trees, rocky canyon views, boulders, and possible wildlife.
Anza, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6
A daylong hike from the parking area at the third crossing, or a shorter foray if your four-wheel drive can make it to the vehicle closure just past Sheep Canyon Primitive Camp. Whichever you choose, Indian Canyon is a fairly flat trek through open desert. A constant stream offers willow and tamarisk thickets and an amphibious chorus. Outstanding Features: Continuous stream; riparian habitat; quiet, open desert; beautiful views.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 11.6
The loop through the willows in this marshy area lures people by the thousands each season. Don’t come here looking for solitude, although you may find such serenity on a weekday or for a few moments within a dense willow patch that blocks the sound and presence of others. The trail on this easy hike alternates between muddy, sandy, and dust-kicking to the point of covering your nose and mouth with a bandana. The route’s qualities depend on weather and water flow, traveling through cool, shaded willow thickets, then out onto the Jeep road and past a historical marker. Typical desert oases make one think of palm trees, but this is an oasis of a different sort. The ever-present water and wooded landscape provide refuge to animals such as the red-spotted toad and such rare birds as the least Bell’s vireo. Outstanding Features: Running water; people on horses; soft, sandy trail alternating with dry, dusty path; and dense willow thickets.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
The relaxing experience of a brief stroll on an easy trail with a few steep areas and some hops down boulders seems days away from civilization when you take in the quiet. You may see campers out for this stroll at twilight, when the moon begins to rise. Perhaps the short trek is called Moonlight Canyon Loop because it lends itself to friendly chatting as the sun sets. Outstanding Features: Sandy wash, interesting boulder and erosion formations.
Julian, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.84
Six palm groves of varying sizes, two within quick access to the trailhead (which itself is easily reached from County Route S2) make Mountain Palm Springs a visitor favorite. Primitive camping here, and close proximity to more developed Bow Willow Campground just over the hill, also contribute to its popularity. It’s a busy location and you’re likely to see others, especially at the large Southwest Grove, which provides access to 1.5 miles of flat trail from the parking area. Outstanding Features: Palm oases, sandy wash, seasonal water, and sweeping views of the desert.
Julian, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.4
This easy out-and-back trip allows you to view fossils in plain sight, layered like cake in uplifted sandstone buttresses. Outstanding Features: Mud hills, fossils, typical sandy-wash landscape, and the towering formation known as Elephant Knees.
Borrego Springs, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
Beginning in Blair Valley at an elevation of around 2,300 feet and climbing to around 3,200 feet, this out-and-back hike takes you through a vegetation-rich ecotone between low and high desert. In wet years or after sufficient rainfall, the seasonal creek, Vallecito Wash, will be running. The last 1.4-mile section (perhaps your four-wheel-drive starting point; see option below) transports you into a tangle of riparian wilderness that will make you forget you’re in the desert. The rugged terrain climbs through creek-fed cottonwoods, willows, and sycamore trees, leading past several small waterfalls to the sloshing endpoint: falls that tumble approximately 15 feet from the craggy rock face into the gurgling stream below. Outstanding Features: Wide variety of desert and riparian vegetation, a flowing seasonal creek with sparkling pools, waterfalls, and the accompanying serene sounds.
Julian, CA - Hiking,Off-Highway Drives - Trail Length: 10