Bow Willow Canyon Trail

Ocotillo, California

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The intriguing name “Bow Willow” is associated with the supple wood of the desert willow, supposedly used by American Indians to fashion hunting bows. Hundreds of these fragrant, bushy trees are scattered along Bow Willow Canyon’s lower end. Vehicles were allowed on the sandy bed of Bow Willow Canyon until the early 1980s, when flash flooding obliterated the road and half the campground. Thereafter, park officials decided to keep the canyon vehicle-free. In 1985, new campsites, replacing those that had washed away, were built on a gentle slope out of reach of floodwaters. The silent lower canyon is perfect for cool-weather hiking. Its white ribbon of sand winds, fjord-like, some 3 miles between steep walls heaped with desert-varnished boulders.

Bow Willow Canyon Trail Professional Review and Guide

"The intriguing name “Bow Willow” is associated with the supple wood of the desert willow, supposedly used by American Indians to fashion hunting bows. Hundreds of these fragrant, bushy trees are scattered along Bow Willow Canyon’s lower end. Vehicles were allowed on the sandy bed of Bow Willow Canyon until the early 1980s, when flash flooding obliterated the road and half the campground. Thereafter, park officials decided to keep the canyon vehicle-free. In 1985, new campsites, replacing those that had washed away, were built on a gentle slope out of reach of floodwaters. The silent lower canyon is perfect for cool-weather hiking. Its white ribbon of sand winds, fjord-like, some 3 miles between steep walls heaped with desert-varnished boulders."

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Ocotillo
Distance: 7.5
Elevation Gain: 750 feet
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Moderate to Difficult
Duration: 4 hours
Season: November through April
Local Contacts: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Local Maps: USGS Sweeney Pass, Sombrero Peak
Driving Directions: Directions to Bow Willow Canyon Trail

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May 2018