Painted Gorge Road

Coyote Mountains Wilderness Area, California

Elevation Gain1,070ft
Trailhead Elevation264ft
Elevation Min/Max209/811ft
Elevation Start/End264/264ft

Painted Gorge Road

Painted Gorge Road is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Imperial County, California. It is within Coyote Mountains Wilderness Area. It is 6.6 miles long and begins at 264 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 13.1 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,070 feet.

Painted Gorge Road Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

"Painted Gorge, as the name suggests, is a dramatic cleft in sedimentary rock. The road is a corridor through the surrounding Coyote Mountains Wilderness. The gorge’s colors are soft shades of red, gray, yellow and brown, hues that stem from the rock’s copper, sulfur and iron content. The upper gorge contains fossilized coral reefs and marine life, as well as “shell hash,” crushed ancient shells that often goes unnoticed by visitors who are actually walking on it. The excitement of this tour is ratcheted up considerably when the road climbs steeply out of the gorge and ascends Carrizo Mountain, ending at a turnaround area at about 1,780 feet—well above a region that drops below sea level in places. (The summit is 2,408 feet.) At the end you can scale a nearby ridge for a spectacular vista across the vast desert to the north, east and south, taking in such sights as the Salton Sea, Chocolate Mountains and Yuha Desert. You can explore additional roads up here as well, each leading to viewpoints. If you don’t care to brave the road up the mountain, the gorge alone is a worthwhile outing. Note: To protect the Coyote Mountains’ population of endangered Peninsular Ranges bighorn sheep during lambing season, the canyon is closed to vehicles from January 1 through June 30."
Backcountry Adventures: Southern California (Adler Publishing )
Peter Massey & Jeanne Wilson
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"Painted Gorge truly lives up to its name—a multihued canyon of vibrant colors contained in the rocks that form its walls. The trail leaves S80 between Plaster City and Ocotillo. The road is marked with an informal sign immediately west of the sign for the Plaster City West Staging Area. Initially, it is a well-used graded road that serves as access for Painted Gorge Estates. Entering public lands, the graded road becomes a formed trail that passes through a wide open area and then swings west, dropping into the sandy wash of Painted Canyon and almost immediately entering the canyon. The trail through the canyon is sandy and twisty as it winds its way into the Coyote Mountains. Embedded rocks litter the wash, but the difficulty of the trail comes not in this section but the following one, as the trail climbs high up Carrizo Mountain. After 1.4 miles, the trail swings out of the wash and starts to climb a well-used shelf road out of the canyon. If you remain in the wash at this point, you will reach a dead end in 0.2 miles. Special Attractions: Multihued Rainbow Canyon; The Plaster City OHV Area and a network of old mining trails to explore on Carrizo Mountain; Commanding views from Carrizo Mountain over the Salton Sea, Yuha Basin, and into Mexico. High-clearance 4WDs are required. This trail has either a rough, rutted surface, rocks up to 9 inches, mud and deep sand that may be impassable for inexperienced drivers, or stream crossings up to 18 inches deep. Certain sections may be steep enough to cause traction problems, and you may encounter very narrow shelf roads with steep drop-offs and tight clearance between rocks or trees."

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Trail Information

Coyote Mountains Wilderness Area
Nearby City
Coyote Mountains Wilderness Area
BLM’s El Centro Field Office
Local Contacts
USGS Painted Gorge, Carrizo Mt., El Centro, El Cajon
Local Maps

Trail Log