Dos Cabeza Road

Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness, California

Elevation Gain1,557ft
Trailhead Elevation673ft
Elevation Min/Max673/1955ft
Elevation Start/End673/673ft

Dos Cabeza Road

Dos Cabeza Road is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Imperial County and San Diego County, California. It is within Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness. It is 9.7 miles long and begins at 673 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 19.4 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,557 feet.

Dos Cabeza Road Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

California Desert Byways (Wilderness Press)
Tony Huegel
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"The name Dos Cabezas, Spanish for “Two Heads,” derives from rock formations near Dos Cabezas Spring that resemble heads. The name has long been associated as well with an old limestone mine in the area and a bygone railroad site you’ll drive through that was a stop for steam locomotives using the San Diego & Arizona Railway (later, San Diego & Imperial Valley Railroad). The SD&A required a dozen years to build an amazing line through these steep granite mountains, including 11 miles of tunnels and redwood trestles through harrowing Carrizo Gorge itself. The line opened in late 1919. In September 1976, tropical storm Kathleen washed out the line in 89 places. Hikers and mountain bikers subsequently made use of the abandoned line’s breathtaking route. The Lakeside company Carrizo Gorge Railway (CZRY), however, spent seven years and millions of dollars to reopen the line and provide service between Tijuana, Mexico, and Plaster City, east of Ocotillo, in 2004. The new operator cleared blocked tunnels and track, and even rebuilt the 186-foot high, 630-foot-long Goat Canyon trestle. Today, CZRY primarily runs freight trains between San Ysidro and Plaster City via Mexico and Carrizo Gorge, in the mountains not far to the west. The rail corridor, which is not park property, is unsafe for recreational users. No-trespassing warnings are underscored by CZRY’s vow to cite and prosecute violators. The railroad and mining are just parts of the area’s long human history, which goes back through thousands of years of American Indian habitation. That prehistory is evident in the rock art and morteros—grinding holes worn into the rocks that Indians used in food preparation—that are found throughout this region of fractured, eroded and weathered granite. An option for experiencing this prehistory is the short hike (about a mile) to famous Indian Hill from the trailhead about 2 miles northwest of Dos Cabezas. There, granite boulders long ago formed small caves and overhangs. It is one of the park’s oldest human-occupied sites, noted for pictographs, smoke-blackened caves and morteros. From the Mortero Palms trailhead, you can take the all-day hike to Goat Canyon trestle. (Check with the park for details for both hikes.) A final highlight: The park does a good job (with the help of respectful visitors) of keeping travelers on track with signs."
Backcountry Adventures: Southern California (Adler Publishing )
Peter Massey & Jeanne Wilson
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"Dos Cabezas Trail describes an arc from the paved Imperial Highway northwest of Ocotillo and runs along the bajada near the base of the Jacumba Mountains. The route travels along easy-to-follow, sandy formed trails through the wide valley between the Jacumba Mountains to the west and the Coyote Mountains to the east. Colorado Desert vegetation is stunning, particularly in spring when the ocotillos are flowering, adding their brilliant flags of orange to the landscape. The trail follows part of the route of the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad. A highlight of the rail route is the section that runs through the deep cut of Carrizo Gorge. The grade is not accessible to vehicles, but hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers will enjoy the winding, dramatic 11-mile route through the gorge. Plans are under way to reopen the gorge as a tourist railroad, but it is currently in disrepair. The start of the gorge trail is reached by a spur that leads off from the old Dos Cabezas Siding, past the Dos Cabezas Mine. Special Attractions: The historic Carrizo Gorge Railroad, now a popular hiking, horse, and mountain bike trail; Excellent backcountry camping; Remote, easy-to-follow trail through Colorado Desert vegetation. High-clearance 4WDs are preferred, but any high-clearance vehicle is acceptable. Expect a rough road surface; mud and sand are possible but will be easily passable. You may encounter rocks up to 6 inches in diameter, a loose road surface, and shelf roads, though these will be wide enough for passing or will have adequate pull-offs."

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Trail Information

Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness
Nearby City
Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Local Contacts
USGS Carrizo Mt., In-Ko-Pah Gorge, Jacumba, Carrizo Mt., Sweeney Pass, El Cajon
Local Maps

Trail Log