52 Hike Challenge Visits Anza Borrego Desert

A few weekends ago we were supposed to go to Death Valley - unfortunately the weather report and a conversation with the park ranger told us to plan otherwise. So we thought quick an decided to check out Anza Borrego Desert and boy are we glad we went.

We opted to camp at Tamarisk Campground, this is a fee based campsite ($25 per night) with showers and porta pottys. There are also small cabins you can rent there. We definitely liked the campsite, but, we found out that you can pull off any spots/roads of the main roads and camp for free - which would've saved us $50. Next time we go we're saving our cash and camping in the wild. :)

On our first morning, we decided to check out the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves, you will not find a lot of information about them on the official park maps and website, however with a little research and a high clearance vehicle you can definitely make it there.

We got our directions and some information from Desert USA:

The Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are located in the southern part of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

  • Take the S2 (from the 8 head north) to mile marker 43.
  • Take the Palm Springs or Vallecito Wash exit (dirt road heading east).
  • Approximately 4.5 miles in, you will see a sign that says Arroyo Tapiado (on the left).
  • Go left at the Arroyo Tapiado Wash which will be heading north.
  • Continue on Arroyo Tapiado Wash Road until you reach the canyon area where the caves are located

The caves were not easy to find at first, you will come to this sign but the caves are not there. Keep driving and if you see a lot of cars parked, park too and head in to any openings and slots, at one point we crawled into one. If you reach a second sign we think you've gone too far, the caves are in between the first and second signs.


After thoughts: Bring a headlamp for sure, there are parts where you are in pitch black caves. It would also be wise to carry a handkerchief to cover your mouth and nose, there is a lot of dust. We recommend knee pads if you plan to crawl and long sleeved shirt and pants to minimize cuts that can occur.

The inside of the caves will be cool but once you are outside it is a different story. Carry plenty of water and snacks. Some warnings: Never visit these caves when it is raining! We also heard that some of the caves are hollow (they are built from mud) but look like mountains and people have fallen to their deaths and disappeared. You should only enter caves from the main road and not climb the mountains into any openings.

These caves are also very big and it is possible to get lost, make sure someone knows where you are and don't go alone!

After our fun and adventure filled morning, we headed over to the main park to hike of course!


We opted to hike the popular Palm Canyon Trail as we were told the waterfall at Hellhole Canyon was dry (our first choice). The Palm Canyon hike is very well marked and good for beginner to advanced hikers. It is a beautiful one. This hike is 3.25 miles roundtrip, and you will end up at an oasis in the middle of the dessert!

Directions from Modern Hiker:

From inside Anza-Borrego State Park, head to the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, located near the Visitor Center off Palm Canyon Drive. Drive toward the signs for the Campground, then pass the campsites and head back as far as you can into the campground. Park near the amphitheater and look for the trailhead sign.


The Oasis, which is where the trail ends.

On day 2 we decided to check out the Slot Canyons. Once again, we recommend high clearance vehicles and be careful to stay on the path. We saw a car get stuck in the dirt here!

Directions from Hikespeak.com:

From Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs, drive 11.5 miles southeast on Borrego Springs Road. Turn left on Route 78 East, drive 1.5 miles, and turn left (north) on a dirt road marked Buttes Pass. Drive one mile up this dirt road to a fork, and continue to the left up Borrego Mountain Wash. Go another mile to the parking area for The Slot. Low clearance vehicles should be able to drive all the way to the trailhead at the end of the sandy dirt road.

Trailhead address: Borrego Mountain Wash, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, CA92004

Trailhead coordinates: 33.182132, -116.214176 (33° 10′ 55.67″N 116° 12′ 51.03″W)

Once you park you will need to hike down a rather medium sized slope downward and this will be the beginning of the trail.

Once you reach this arch, you are almost at the end of the slot hike. It is a short .8 mile but very fun hike which is great for photo opportunities.


Final notes: Once at the end of the slot canyon the trail become wide, you can keep hiking or turn around to where you started from.

We ended our Anza Borrego trip and headed over to the zombie apocalypse town of Salton Sea. According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, "One of the world's largest inland seas and lowest spots on earth at -227 below sea level, Salton Sea was re-created in 1905 when high spring flooding on the Colorado River crashed the canal gates leading into the developing Imperial Valley. For the next 18 months the entire volume of the Colorado River rushed downward into the Salton Trough. By the time engineers were finally able to stop the breaching water in 1907, the Salton Sea had been born at 45 miles long and 20 miles wide – equaling about 130 miles of shoreline." The mix of the water and salinity at this place make it hard for fish to live, therefore as you walk onto to shore you are literally stepping on all kinds of fish corpses.


Final thoughts: The Salton Sea was definitely creepy but a cool place to stop for unusual sights.

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