Anza Borrego 4×4 Trails

anzawashes

Being the largest State Park inside California, Anza Borrego has certain advantages. Lots of land to explore, abundant dirt roads, free camping and a very diverse terrain. Located in SoCal, this desert has lots to offer the outdoor enthusiasts, all year round.

Anza Borrego Desert

with hundreds of miles of dirt roads to explore

SUV / 2WD / AWD / 4WD / 4×4 / OHV

The Anza Borrego desert, in east San Diego County, is quite large and very easily accessible from Southern California. The park spans mid-elevation, mountain foothills (3000′ elevation) down to dry lake beds near sea level. Large, vast and varied terrain – and full of vegetation in certain spots. Borrego Desert Wildflower blooms attract thousands of visitors between March-May each Spring.

Anza Borrego Flora

While the majority of the dirt roads inside the ANZA DESERT are passable with a regular passenger car (on most days), some specific areas and routes are indeed considered “too hairy” and may require a 4 wheel drive.

FLASH FOOD WARNING: Wet weather (anywhere nearby) can make a mild, soft, sandy wash into a wild, flowing river. On occasion desert washes are ‘washed out’ during big rain, often becoming mini rivers that can swallow your vehicle; Road and weather conditions can change suddenly in the California deserts. Wind can also play a huge factor in a selecting a decent camp site. Know the weather report in advance and always be on the watch for big clouds on mountains to the west.

Deep sand washes, steep sandy hillsides, boulder passes, rock yards to boulder hopping, soggy bottoms to straddling ruts, the deserts of SoCal are indeed fun and challenging. Enjoy your public lands responsibly and pick up some litter, stay on the trail and do not target shoot inside park boundaries.

To find these off-roading areas: OHV routes, camp areas and gear heads galore. Or try avoid them. Keep reading.

the well known spots

 OHV routes

Anza Borrego Desert State Park itself is NOT AN OFF ROAD PARK. If you want the free-for-all, open, OFF-ROAD areas, with sand dunes and terrain to explore, then the list above should help. Some places can be secluded and private for camping, and only one Jeep may pass by (for the whole weekend).

On the other end of the spectrum, most OHV camping areas are closer to paved routes and busy w/ motorized activity. On weekends, traffic, events and crowds are the norm.  ATV, dirt bikes, buggies, quads, jeeps, families, RVs. Often, a big noisy scene.

Seeking to travel to distant places to avoid crowds? then this site can help point to the best destinations. Follow links, browse images, get a decent topo map – and discover private desert camping for free.

Canyon Sin Nombre

Bad land canyons, easy SUV exploring – off of San Diego Co Road S-2

other awesome anza trails & canyons

most w/ 2WD access; high clearance vehicle is preferred (and as usual, 4WD may be needed in storm conditions). Not all 4×4 routes will be signed. Signs get washed away in desert areas, so don’t count on them. Have a good hard-copy, topo map handy – just in case.

culpvalleyOHV

Culp Valley Area

Anza Borrego Desert Maps

Tom Harrison Anza MAPSDBKCO Recreation Map

The Tom Harrison Map of Anza Borrego Desert is actually called the San Diego Backcountry Recreation Map and is by far the best seller of the region.

hike anza

Wilderness Anza Borrego Map

Wilderness Press makes an excellent topographic map for the Borrego Desert, with all the details on terrain and info for camping, hiking & off roading.

MORE AREA MAPS

The infamous west coast backpacking route, the Pacific Crest Hiking Trail runs above the desert (a few thousand feet), on the ridges of Mount Laguna.

Cleveland National Forest borders the west side of Anza Borrego Desert, on the rugged steep slopes of the big mountains (7000′ elev). More Maps links are provided:

Diablo Drop

The Diablo Drop

Muck to Stagecoach
Wetlands in the desert? Not that rare, water does flow downhill. Some established well-traveled roads may have added gravel to the soggy marsh areas, but many water crossings are bare, and vulnerable to erosion. Try to avoid driving in and around water. DRIVE SLOW through water where route crossing is obvious. Wildlife need these water sources to survive, so don’t muck it up.

Palm canyons and large boulders are numerous in this desert, water sources scarce. Camping near palms can be limited to walking distance. Several palm oasis camps along San Diego County Road S-2, some RV accessible. Even the Hot Springs Park has some palms. Of course, Palm Canyon, the State Park Campground &  Visitors Center in Borrego Springs has the regions most popular hikes.

back roads: weekends

Weekends are always busier than week days, in general, all over Cali. Keep that in mind when seeking seclusion. Camping in Anza Borrego desert is always best at least 2 miles off the pavement, well away from the traffic on the highway and for those masses seeking the easy camping.

Campfires require a metal bucket in Anza!

Campfires always require a metal bucket in Anza!

camping back roads

OPEN-CAMPING: camping outside of developed campgrounds, also referred to as ‘primitive camping’ is quite common in Anza Borrego desert. Many Borrego Camping Areas are accessible with regular cars, close to main roads and usually have no bath rooms, or facilities. The further you drive from the pavement, the more likely you are to encounter obstacles like boulders, deep ruts, soft sand and uneven terrain.

Campgrounds Find Campgrounds & freebie spots in Borrego, CA

 

A top the Slot

nearby towns:

other off-road areas in the vicinity

Mecca Box Canyon

Silver Lake @ Bucks

Silver Lake from Above

Silver Lake @ Bucks Lake Wilderness

(Plumas Co)

Plumas Road #24N29, off Bucks Lake Road
East of Bucks Lake, California.
a six mile, one lane, dirt road is the only vehicle access into this high elevation, dammed reservoir, tucked back against the wilderness. Secluded lake campsites await, you’ll just need to get a little dusty first. The turn off, at a small brown sign reading “Silver Lake”, one which is very easy to miss – due to the amount of homes, cabins, fencing and driveways in the vicinity.

bucks trailhead

Bucks Lake Wilderness
Plumas National Forest

All Bucks Lake Campgrounds

Kayaker @ Silver Lake

No swimming allowed at this Silver Lake, as it serves as a drinking water source for the neighborhoods below. Canoe & kayaking are allowed. Fishing is also popular at this location. Hiking trailheads at Silver Lake lead to the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail), Mount Pleasant, Spanish Peak and a small gem of a swimming hole, we call mini Gold Lake.

Bucks Lake Wilderness Map

FREE Campground @ Silver Lake, near Quincy, CA

This small campground is actually set downhill from the rock earthen dam, which is something to ponder before/during a big earthquake. With sites 1-5 in a shady forest area and the others a bit closer to the lake, no campsite is too close to another. These are all well-spaced-out sites, providing decent privacy and minimal noise from neighboring campers. No campsites are located at the lake edge, as the rocky dam is a long structure and quite complex with water control measures.

All the campsites have new bear boxes for food storage, cuz ‘wilderness’ usually means black bears are roaming about. Deer tend to frequent campsites 1 & 2.

silver camp 5

Silver Lake Campground NFS

campground

• Elevation: 5800′
• Number of Sites: 9
• Vehicle Accessibility: RV 22′
• Campsite Reservations: No
• Camp Fee: No
• Toilet: Vault
• Water: No piped/potable
• Length of Stay: 14 Days
• Season: May – October
• Trailheads: PCT, Gold Lake, Rock Lake, Granite Gap, Bucks Lake Wilderness

silverbackdrop

As with most of the high elevation lakes in California, winter months can mean deep snow and dirt road closures. This campground is usually open through the end of October, but call head to the local rangers if in doubt.

Plumas National Forest
Mt. Hough Ranger District
39696 State Highway 70
Quincy, CA 95971
530-283-0555

See all Silver Lakes in California

Off-Road Maps PDF

Off Pavement California


PDF Off-Road Maps for California

Printable, downloadable
“Portable Document Forms” collected from various sources.

Anza Borrego Ocotillo Wells Map
http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/ocotillowells.pdf

Burney Falls Back Roads
http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/burneyfalls.pdf

Death Valley Overview Road Map
http://totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/DEATHVALLEYmap.pdf

Eagle Lake Off Road Map
http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/eaglelake.pdf

Hat Creek Off Road Map
http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/hatcreek.pdf

Kern Plateau OHV Road Map
http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/kernplateauOHV.pdf

Lake Almanor Off Road Map
http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/almanor.pdf

Lake Mohave NRA Map (South)
http://totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/LakeMohaveNRA_S.pdf

Lassen Forest Off Road Map
http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/lassenpark.pdf

Pozo Off Road Map
http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/pozo_map.pdf

Rock Front Ranch OHV Map
http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/rockfrontOHVmap.pdf

Shasta Chappie Off Road Map
http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/Chappie_Map_Side.pdf

Westwood Susanville Off Road Map
http://www.totalescape.com/tripez/PDFs/westwood.pdf

Horse Canyon

Horse Canyon Mojave

Horse Canyon California

Southern Sierra / Mojave Road SC 65

Mojave Desert meets the Sierra Nevada Mountains
North Highway 14

North of Mojave, CA
North of Red Rock State Park
North of Jawbone Canyon

South of south of US Hwy 395, south of jct Hwy 178

backroads BLM camping desert roads hiking PCT mountain bike jeep roads primitive camp

elevation: 3000′-7000′

Horse Canyon is a dirt road up a high desert canyon, with joshua trees and wash outs. 7000′ elevation pinyon pine ridges above w/ PCT.

Most would say the see a whole-lotta-nothingness out here in these deserts…. when they zoom by at 70 mph on the blacktop highway.

at Total Escape, we beg to differ.

Solo Driver SUV

Intersection on Hwy 14 @ SC 65, dirt route will travel west into the mountains. Initial desert road follows Little Dixie Wash, but veers north up to Horse Canyon and the higher forested ridges.

Horse Cyn is a scenic, desert, dirt road that becomes a rugged 4×4 trail the higher it climbs in the canyon. The route traverses a ridge line and dead ends at the old cabin; No through route, no loop. The PCT continues on to the Walker Pass @ the 178.

The lower Horse Canyon is area quite accessible by standard truck or SUV. High clearance is recommended out on these kinda roads. Vegetation is quite sparse at first, but improves with the miles traveled. Wildflowers can be awesome, usually April-June. Picnic spots everywhere; primitive camping sites can be found out here, off the main dirt road. Please reuse existing camp sites when possible.

wheelin pals

Passenger cars may attempt this, but should watch for unexpected deep dips and rocks, washed out in the road. (No tow service in the middle of nowhere). Road conditions do change with the seasons out in the boonies. Cell phone reception could be spotty back in the deepest of canyons.

PCT
PCT trail access: Pacific Crest Trail follows this ridge road for miles. They call this range the SCODIE Mountains; Old cabin at the end of the road.

cabin mcivers

Sage Canyon and Cow Heaven Canyon are both to the north, along with Freeman Canyon (CA SR 178). Bird Spring and Dove Spring Canyons are both to the south, along with the most popular regions of Red Rock State Park and the Jawbone OHV area.

nearby towns:

INYOKERN, CA
LAKE ISABELLA, CA
MOJAVE, CA
RANDSBURG, CA
RIDGECREST, CA

joshuacanyons

Dirt Roads Map

California back roads are plentiful, beautiful and exquisitely wonderful – if you know where to look.

Off Road typically means “off the pavement”

graded dirt road

PLUMAS_i

While many argue the phrase “off-road” means only hard core 4×4 routes, rock crawling or rally racing, here at Total Escape, any road that is not paved is a dirt road and “off road” to us, and always well worth exploring. Graded dirt roads, gravel roads, access roads, washboard routes, forest roads, fire roads, secondary roads, desert washes, one laners, single tracks, OHV trails – can all be dirt roads.

Whether or not your vehicle can handle them is your decision, but believe me, you do NOT need a modified Jeep to start your adventuring. Most dirt roads can easily be accessed with a normal passenger car – if you pay close attention to terrain, deep mud ruts and the rocks in the road.

stuck

Vehicle clearance is usually the first thing that will have you hesitating. If you own a truck or SUV – this is enough to be considered a “high clearance vehicle” and good to go on 90% of dirt roads in Cali. Many dirt roads will become 4×4 required or recommended when mud or snow are present, and no signs to warn you, so always check the weather forecast in advance. And most importantly, BRING A REAL MAP.

Paper Maps vs. Online Maps

Driving on Interstates and state highways is one thing, exploring and discovering new routes and real sightseeing is another animal all together. Go prepared to be delayed: to stop and sit, to listen to the wind, to picnic outside, to watch the weather change, photograph the clouds forming above your head, enjoy the process. Remember the journey: Half the fun is getting there!

ELDORADO_iIf you’ve ever tried to travel across the state with a GoogleMap, YahooMap or MapQuest one page printout, you will soon realize it’s limitations. Stuck in a small town called Julian, at night, on Christmas Eve, arguing with your partner, trying to find your way over to Interstate 10. Not a good plan! A statewide atlas will save you from many unexpected route changes, as well as prove to be an invaluable tool while traveling. Free as a bird, ready to explore the open road and well prepared is the key to less stress in route.

Exploring California

Know your vehicle limitations, and if in doubt, pull over, get out and look. Examine the ruts, the mud depth, the height of the rocks. Sometimes a good camp site is dependent on how far up that dirt road you can drive. RV campers like to stick to the wider, graded dirt roads and plenty can be found on typical topo maps. Tom Harrison, National Geographic & National Forest maps all have dirt roads as well as trails, trailheads, campgrounds listed.

Nearly every map sold on Total Escape has dirt roads noted:

  • US National Forest Maps have all the main routes, the dirt roads and some main hiking trails. Trailheads, ranger stations and campgrounds are well marked.
  • CA Wilderness Map collection have the topographical features you will need to hike the region, peaks, streams, and all dirt roads leading up to the trail heads. Nearby campgrounds will be shown. Equestrian (horse back riding) is okay, but no mountain biking is allowed inside these Wilderness Areas.
  • OHV Routes & Maps will display the “off highway vehicle” routes, which include single tracks for dirt bikes/motorcycles, wider routes for quads and all roads rated for 4×4 only use. Several selected maps will also show hiking biking and equestrian routes.
  • Recreation Maps can feature various types of activities all on one map, from off-roading to snowmobiling, river rafting to waterfalls. These maps cover a smaller area or popular region to enjoy.

dirtroad primtive

dirt roads lead to:

canyons
caves
creeks
dirt bike trails
fire lookouts
fishing holes
forests
groves
hiking trails
horseback trails
hot springs
meadows
mountain biking trails
mountain peaks
off-road trails
petroglyphs
picnic sites
ranches
rafting spots
rivers
scenic viewpoints
secluded campsites
small campgrounds
swimming holes
trailheads
waterfalls
wildflowers

log cabin mine road

‘FROADERS: see also –

California Off Road Areas

California 4×4 Trails

California Off Road Maps

Off-Road Maps PDF