Off-Road Travel: Anza-Borrego State Park – North
Anza-Borrego, the largest desert state park in California and second largest in the continental United States, is also home to some of the best four-wheeling trails in the southwest. Located 92 miles northeast from San Diego, Calif., and 293 miles east from Phoenix, Ariz., Anza-Borrego encompasses 600,000 acres with over 500 miles of dirt trails to explore.
Here is a link for a FREE map of Anza-Borrego State Park [PDF] www.parks.ca.gov/pages/638/files/ABDSPmap.pdf
Popular for its annual desert flower blooms and wildlife, visitors from all over the world come to experience Anza-Borrego on foot, mountain bike and four-wheel drive.
A great place to start your adventure is in the town of Borrego Springs, where the Anza-Borrego State Park visitor center is located. The visitor center offers historical and geological displays, a lecture hall and movie theatre that helps paint the picture of Anza-Borrego. The 7,000-square-foot underground facility can be a fun place to learn about Anza-Borrego and also get current information on trail and park conditions from the ranger.
While in Borrego Springs, make sure to check out the massive creatures of Galleta Meadows Estates. Dennis Avery, land owner of Galleta Meadows Estates, generously shares his collection of Gomphotherium steel-welded sculptures created by artist/welder Ricardo Breceda. More at http://www.galletameadows.com/ .
Borrego Springs is a full-service desert town that has hotels, RV parks and campgrounds. There are also some good eats and fuel for your off-road rig. More info on Borrego Springs can be found at http://www.borregospringschamber.com/abdsp/ .
There are literally hundreds of trails for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and off-roading in Anza-Borrego State Park. We highlight some of them.
Font’s Point/Borrego Badlands
The Borrego Badlands are made of sediments ranging from 250,000 years to over 2 million years old. The fossils found in this region have revealed that at one time streams and meadows were home to freshwater snails, clams, ice-age horses, camels, sloths, bears and even mammoths. Font’s Point is named after Father Pedro Font, chaplain that accompanied Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition in 1775.
A sandy wash takes you up to an amazing overlook that gives an expansive view across the Borrego Badlands. The trail is not difficult but it is sandy. Four-wheel drive may be required for extra traction in some sections. Font’s Point is 4 miles from highway S-22 turnoff at N33° 18.192' W116° 14.362'. Look for a sign at Font’s Wash, between mile marker 29 and 30 on S-22.
Lower Coyote Canyon
Northwest of Borrego Springs, Coyote Canyon offers a scenic ride that winds through sections of the original trail traveled by Spanish explorer De Anza.
Lower Coyote Canyon is a one-way trail, featuring 9.5 miles of sandy and rocky terrain, water crossings and the perfect place to spot Big Horn Sheep. The trail starts where the pavement ends at Di Giorgio Road, just outside Borrego Springs. The first three miles consist of an easy rolling road that leads up to the Desert Garden popular with hikers. The next two miles get rougher, leading up to the first water crossing at Coyote Canyon.
From this point, the road is sandy and rocky. The hardest sections of the trail are the second water crossing and rocky road that heads up to the ridge for the last four miles of the trail.
The second crossing at Coyote Creek will vary in depth, depending on the time of year you visit. From wheel hub to mid-door height, be ready to have your vehicle in deep water if you plan to cross.
The rocky climb to the summit of Collins Valley that starts at mile 5.5 will require four-wheel drive and careful maneuvering to avoid rock damage. Up on the rocky hillsides is where the big horn sheep roam.
Fish Creek Wash/Sandstone Canyon
If you only do one trail in Anza-Borrego, this is the one. Fish Creek Wash is an easy drive through a gravely wash that carves through the Vallesito Mountains and Fish Creek Mountains. The drive offers an amazing geologic experience with massive rock formations and sheering 200-foot walls.
Fish Creek is near Ocotillo Wells SVRA on HWY 78, southeast of Borrego Springs. Take Split Mountain Rd. and drive for 8 miles at Fish Creek Wash, veer right into the wash.
The gravely Fish Creek Wash winds southwest to Split Mountain. On the right side, look for pressure bent rocks that have formed an anticline.
Sandstone Canyon can be driven into, but does get tighter the further you go in. We reached a point where there had been a recent rock fall, and our tracks ended. Afoot we went further into the slot canyon to explore what was on the other side of the rockslide. It seems like someone had actually made it over this massive obstacle, but not without body damage.
The feeling of having 200-foot stonewalls on each side with the cool wind pushing throw them felt like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. The experience is surreal, energizing and inspiring all at once.
We have only touched the tip of the many trails that await you in Anza-Borrego State Park. We’ll be back with part two of our Anza-Borrego off-road adventures story, which will highlight the southern section of the park.
Now that we got you pumped about Anza-Borrego, I must let you know that there is a downside; only street legal vehicles can be driven within the park boundary. On a good note, Ocotillo Wells SVRA is next door and you can enjoy over 85,000 acres in your OHV. So you could visit both places to run your OHV and 4x4.
Read more about Ocotillo Wells SVRA in this Off-Road.com exclusive article:
Off-Road Travel: Ocotillo Wells SVRA
We highly recommend the following guidebooks for planning and referencing trails and important landmarks in Anza-Borrego:
• The Anza-Borrego Desert Region, by Lowell & Diana Lindsay http://www.wildernesspress.com/product.php?productid=16734
• Guide to Southern California Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, by Charles A Wells
• California Desert Byways, by Tony Huegel
Anza-Borrego State Park
Borrego Springs - Chamber