45th Annual Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari

Ocotillo Wells - Off-Road Paradise

Mar. 14, 2007 By Jaime Hernandez

The 45th Annual Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari

This year marked 45 years of dedicated wheelin’ for the Tierra Del Sol (TDS) off-road club in San Diego, CA.  These guys and gals have built this club to be one of the largest in the Southwestern United States. 

For as long as we can remember, the TDS Desert Safari has been held at Truck Haven, CA—just a stone throw from the Salton Sea.  This year was going to be the same, until land issues arose, and the TDS club had to find another place that could accommodate over 15,000 people with off-road rigs. 

Just a few weeks before the event, the permit was granted to hold the 45th Annual Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari at Ocotillo Wells OHVM Park.  This is just a few miles away from the original spot, so it was still in the general vicinity, making it nice for people already planning to come for the annual trek.

Ocotillo Wells offers 80,000 square miles of off-road terrain ranging from dirt, sand, rock, and sometimes even mud.  It is out in the middle of the Southern California desert adjacent to Anza-Borrego National Park.  This versatile land is a fabulous playground for all types of off-roading adventures.


In 2006 there were an estimated 15,000 attendees to the TDS Desert Safari and 1500 registered vehicles. This year there were 1307 registered vehicles. It seems like the numbers might be down a bit, but in all reality, quite a bit of people showed up and did not register for the Safari, especially the locals. The downfall to that was that they were not helping the TDS club raise money to help keep lands open, and they were also not able to participate in the famous TDS Safari raffle.

Ocotillo Wells has 80,000 sq.mi. of off-road fun!

The organized runs lined up on Saturday morning with all makes and models under the sun.  Jeeps were by far the vehicle of choice, but others like the Toyota FJ seemed to be gaining ground. 

Highly modified vehicles were everywhere.  Long-arm kits, coil-overs, and Dana 60s with aggressive 37-in. tires were the norm.  This group isn’t your ordinary driver; they live and breathe for kick-ass 4x4s.

The trail set up by TDS was very well marked for Saturday’s run.  They had two levels of difficulty: Red – very challenging, Green-less challenging. 

The Pumpkin Patch

Many of the obstacles had a way around if for some reason the driver didn’t feel confident attacking it, or if their rig was simply not fit to take it head on. 

The run journeyed through the Ocotillo Wells area, hitting some pretty cool obstacles, and also tracking by some of the area's natural wonders. 

Saturday's run was 21.5 miles; it went through the San Felipe Wash, Devil's Slide, Shell Reef, Cross Over Trail, Tule Wash, The Pumpkin Patch, The Cove, and finally Blow Sand Hill. All these trails were within Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA).

Friends of TDS and Safari Officials made the day go smooth


Back at main camp, some of the guys found a place just up the hill where they could play—a hill called “Blow Sand”.  There actually is sand up towards the top of the hill, and it allows people to do some duning.  Since it’s a mixture of terrain leading up to the sand, the 4x4s quickly became affixed to it.  There is dirt, rocks, and steep inclines on the side of the hill.  At the very top is a sand filled horse shoe shaped loop that people like to swing around at top speeds.

Goodyear Freebies...YES!

Vendor’s Row was the focal point for the TDS action.  Here is where everyone met and departed for trail runs.  The safety inspection site was also here, so many people stood by checking out the rigs as they were carefully inspected by TDS Safari crew.  Looking at those beautiful dirty Jeeps and trucks made us hungry; so we headed into Vendors Row for some food.  There were good eats, with BBQ smokin’ and cold drinks flowing.

In addition to eye-candy, there were also enough part manufacturers on site to fill up a truck bed and some.  With companies like Master Craft seats, Goodyear tires, Pro Comp, BFG, Maxxis, Fab Fours, and Off Road Warehouse; there wasn’t anything here you could not find.  These guys brought out their latest creations and plenty of information on the proper way of building the ultimate 4x4.

ORW was onsite with the best selection of Off-Road Parts

Vendor’s row really grew from last year, and the layout gave a good vibe to the place.  It was so good that people started showing up 2 hours before the famous TDS Raffle started. 

People showed up 2-hours before the famous TDS Raffle started 

There were some serious prizes up for grabs. 60 different prizes valued at over $83,000 were donated to TDS for the raffle by various off-road businesses.

Some of the exciting prizes were:

  • Explore Pro Comp - 4" TJ Lift Kit, Front/Rear Diff Covers, and Front/Rear Shocks.
  • MIT Drive Train Specialist - Atlas Transfercase
  • Allied Wheel - 1 set of Rockathon Beadlocks
  • Goodyear - 1 set of 33" tires, and 1 set of 37" for the Flex Ramp contest.
  • Fab Fours - TJ Front Bumper ($750 value)
  • Four Wheel Parts – 2 Mile Marker winch
  • Eaton/Detroit Locker - Two $600 Gift Certificates
  • Mickey Thompson Tires - 1 set of tires, up to 35"
  • BFG - 1 set of Tires
  • Ramsey - Patriot 9500 Trek winch
  • Currie - Rock Jock III RD60 axle with 35 spline
  • Off Road Warehouse - Warn winch

Each paid registration for the TDS Safari got one raffle ticket. The TDS club donated $10,500 of the proceeds to help fight public land closures.

TDS Safari at Night...Wow!

By the time 7 o’clock rolled around, the place was jam packed with big eyed people in hopes of winning. 

Night Action at Blow Sand

A few hours later, after the raffle came to an end, happy campers went back to their RVs for the night.  Others went back to their rigs and headed out to do some night playing up at Blow Sand.  This was definitely the spot for the TDS night action.

Sunday Morning there was an unmarked trail run led by the TDS Safari crew.  This run led the group through some difficult obstacles, yet also gave the participants an eye full of beautiful Southern California desert landscape.

Sunday's run was about 40 miles. It was in the Superstition Mountain area, which is outside the National Park. They went on a trail named "Knock on Wood". According to Charlie Parkinson, TDS Safari Chairman, there were "lots of rocks -- Lockers and winches" on this run. The run concluded at Sand Dam.

The 45th Annual TDS Desert Safari went off without a hitch. It was a great success, considering all the major changes that had to be implemented just a few weeks before the event. All the Safari participants had a great time, and are sure to come back next year with a friend or two.

See you at the 46th Annual TDS Desert Safari!

More on Tierra Del Sol (TDS) and theTDS Desert Safari:



Off-Road.com Newsletter
Join our Weekly Newsletter to get the latest off-road news, reviews, events, and alerts!