Mortero Wash

Anza Borrego Desert State Park / Mortero Wash

San Diego Desert Camping

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Primitive desert camping close to SD – yipee!

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Interstate 8 EAST from SD / exit Ocotillo. SD county road # S2, the south end near the State Park boundary. Gorgeous every season but summer. Great winter camping close to SoCal. ThisĀ  dirt road in in a desert wash area, which starts west – off the paved road. The signed white desert wash is a suitable drive for passenger cars (most years). But you best have 4×4 f the rain gets going good. Low riders should watch for the ridge lines – as the are naturally rockier places and could take out an oil pan of a mini SUV (at a high rate of speed).

The large morterro boulders at the far end of this route have nice views of the Imperial desert floor. Better from the top of the boulders too; numerous primitive camp sites surrounding the big boulders too. No toilets; no shade; no water; minimal vegetation. At night the stars are heavenly, but you can see city lights from Calexico and Mexicali. From the boulder you can hike or mountain bike up to the “old goat trestle” and numerous historic train tunnels @ Carizo Gorge (not to be confused w/ Carizo Plains in Kern Co). Moderate hike, all day adventure. Bring lunch and water!

SAN DIEGO Backcountry Map
this waterproof map has the entire State Park covered

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When you decide to stop the car, look around for the best spot. Park off the road way and preferably in a turn out or camp spot. Turn off the engine, get out of the automobile, stretch your legs, breathe, look, close your eyes – tight and breathe deeply, then look around you again. This particular place is special, you can just feel it. Walking around the boulder area, be cautious of snakes. On the boulders – closely examine them, climb on them, get to the top; you will find the (NativeAmerican) Indian grinding holes.

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great side trip option: Across the paved road (SD County Road S2) on the opposite side of the valley is a nice hike to Sand Dollar Hill. (I’m sure this isn’t the real name, but I will add that later). Dirt road leads up to a dirt parking area for hikers. Busy lil place sometimes. These desert dirt hills have wind caves and chunks of sand dollars scattered all over them. The real ocean floor way out here, east in the Anza SD desert… how cool is that?

great side trip option: Canon Sin Nombre is just up the road a piece, N on S2, on the EAST side of the road. Amazing viewpoint turn out, right on the highway, overlooking the impressive topography and badlands. If you have a high clearance SUV or any truck you can drive down into the sandy tight, rocky wash. It meets back up with another main wash way back there. Tons to explore back here. Off roader should think Tread Lightly on this turf and primitive car campers should use a Leave No Trace approach. White sand, deep sand, caves, smoke trees, and the best slot canyon climbing & hiking this side of the Anza State Park.