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.

Borrego Valley

Wildflower Camping

 

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. Rains change landscape fast in this region, so know before you go.

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

Out exploring the Culp Valley Area, one fine Sunday afternoon.

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 county-run Hot Springs Park has some palms. Of course, Palm Canyon is the State Park Campground. Visitors Center headquarters in downtown Borrego Springs has the most popular hikes, hotels, restaurants, with abundant campground camping. Very walk-able town. Super hot during summer, triple digits!

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

wilderness areas in the vicinity

  • Anza Borrego Desert State Wilderness
  • Jacumba Mountains Wilderness

Mecca Box Canyon


Dirt Street

7S02 up hill

An avenue made of dirt, earthen highways, dirt trails, forest roads, fire roads, jeep road, graded roads. Dirt driving trails that lead into the middle of nowhere. No stop signs, no billboards, no stores, no one else around… for miles. Enjoy less crowds and more open space.

dirt streetsIf you are fed up with city life, sitting in traffic & need to vacate your mind among the barren hills of California (if only for a weekend), then Total Escape is your place. You seek solitude, peace, maybe a mini tailgate party & BBQ on a dry lake bed, with the heavenly stars above. Imagine the warm camp fire light reflecting off the high canyon walls, your music echoing, moonlight hikes for a few miles.

California has some awesome spots to drive on dirt, get way back in nature. Right up to the edge of the Wilderness boundary. That’s what this one silly “dirt street” page is all about… helping you get out there, the easiest & best way possible. We even got you the right maps!

Back Roads in California

The End of Dirt Roads

California OHV Maps

Most of this is just dirt road driving, graded, some hills, easy stuff. But on occasion you might come across a 4×4 required sign – or perhaps a triple black diamond trail. Having several good maps on hand will help you enjoy these roads, instead of stressing & wondering if there is a lock gate at the other end – 18 miles in.

Some dirt streets lead to campgrounds, some to waterfalls, some to viewpoints, some have loop options & others are just dead end; sometimes at old mines. Get ready to explore with your truck or SUV. 2WD or low clearance vehicles (such as passenger cars) should be ready to turn back if the road get too nasty. Any decent precipitation can make any unpaved road much worse & may require 4 wheel drive, so have a plan B mud terrainor C as a backup idea.

Best off road areas & parks in California:

Death Valley Roads

Tooling around Goler Wash & Barker Ranch on the very edge of Death Valley

California Camping Maps

California Campground Maps

Maps are the key to finding your very own slice of heaven in the Wilderness. Online map sources can barely get you to your city destination correctly, much less the remote waterfall you desire. You will need a real map for your adventure. A topographical map, with all the details, dirt roads & hiking trails. If you are seeking to stay away from the touristy crowds, this is the best possible place you can be…. on this site, searching for ways to make it happen – this weekend.

BACKPACKERS BACKPACKING MAPS –

maps of California
Mount Whitney, John Muir & way beyond the High Sierra. DanaMite has all the California Wilderness maps on the new map shop. Various brands and types of maps. Most are printed on waterproof plastic now & are tear-resistant.

CAR CAMPING MAPS –

El Dorado Camping
Planning on camping outside of the developed campgrounds & finding that perfect stream side spot without the reservation & the fees? Then you will need a free fire permit (from a ranger station), plus a good map of the forests & a vehicle capable of handling the rugged the back roads. Much of California is prone to wildfires, so make sure campfires are even allowed on the backroads, before you get out there. Call the “field rangers” for back road advice and current recommendations.

CALIFORNIA OFF ROAD MAPS –

Wanna take that 4×4 vehicle somewhere really special this season? Camp well beyond the masses, way down that dirt road. We have OHV maps for SoCal, the deserts & all the National Forest maps too.

CALIF CAMPGROUND MAPS –

Start your search on the perfect campground or camp site with the destination in mind. Mountains, deserts, coastal. Parks & forests all have their own maps with all nearby camp grounds listed. We feature all the National Forest maps, as well as some State Park & National Park maps

See all California topo, hiking, camping maps

Sierra Nevada maps

coolsprings

  • California A to Z
  • California Camping
  • California Elevations
  • Camp Firewood
  • Camp Potty
  • RV camping deep in the Sierra

    RV camping at it's best in the Sierra; This rig found themselves deep in the alpine lush meadows with towering trees and a view and a very private camp site.

    Big Bend CA

    Big Bend Ranger Station, off I-80

    California Fire Lookout

    Dome Land from Bald Mtn, KERN

    NFS Fire Lookout Towers

    Cabin Rentals in California National Forests

    Ready to see wide and wild terrain? Views for 100 miles out and the best scenery California has to offer. Be prepared to off road or hike to reach one of these destinations.

    Below is a list of historic look out towers & cabins used for spotting wildfires. Some are located on steep granite peaks, ridge lines or dirt roads. 4×4 may be recommended to reach a few. Road conditions can change w/ harsh mountain weather, so be prepared to rough it. Thunderstorms are common on these mountain ridges.

    Several of these places are cabins, some are stone houses, but most fire lookouts are basic metal towers – with high climbing staircases, so you must be in decent physical strength to haul your ass up this high.

    rangers cabin mountains hikers vacation

    Cabins are also called guard stations, huts, bunkhouses. Most are located on mountain tops, but a few exist in desert regions. Some are refurbished & available for overnight rentals. Bare bones furnishings, so forget the frills. People come up here for the thrills. To be outside w/ epic views, way away from the urban grind & to feel on top-of-the-world.

    Coon Creek Cabin

     

    NFSlogoSee the full list of overnight accommodations on mountain peaks & ridges, some near meadowsNational Forest Cabin Rentals

     

    El Dorado National Forest:

    Cuyama Peak

    Cuyama Lookout is a rough road up. Off Hwy 33, in Los Padres NF

    Los Padres National Forest:

    • Cuyama Peak Lookout Tower (pictured above) off Hwy 166 & via Santa Barbara Cyn, 4×4 recommended. Sorta near jct w/ Hwy 33

    San Bernardino National Forest:

    Sequoia National Forest:

    Sierra National Forest:

    cabin rentals

    BEWARE:
    California is the land of wildfires!

    Always check for local fire conditions at nearest ranger station, obtain a free campfire permit when camping outside of developed campgrounds, and always practice fire safety when visiting our public lands. You can be held liable for wildfires. Outta control campfire, cigarettes, idling vehicles on tall, dry grass. Be very cautious with fires on the often dry, west coast.

    7S02 – San Berdu NF

    Fire Safe Trees

    Toro Peak
    Forest Road# 7S02

    Santa Rosa Truck Trail
    San Bernardino National Forest

    South of Palm Desert, CA
    Southeast of Idyllwild, CA
    SE of Lake Hemet
    Graded dirt road – southbound, off Palms to Pines Hwy 74

    7S02 up hill

    Road conditions on dirt roads change with the weather and the seasons. This route can be rocky and uneven in spots. One lane road, on a big hill w/ minimal pullouts. Snow is possible, during winter & springtime. This route often closed during winter months – or for rock slides. Trailers and RVs are not recommended on this dirt road, although small motorhome campers can try.

    ROUTE CURRENTLY CLOSED? find out on USDA web site link

    Elevation approx 6000′ @ HWY
    w / route continuing up to Toro Peak @ 8740′NFS

    NFS local camp sites: 

    • Santa Rosa Campground
    • Santa Rosa Springs Campground
    • Toro Campground

    Bare bones, primitive camp sites. Tables, fire rings. Must have a campfire permit for this region. Vault toilets? None.

    toro_campsite

    Did I mention the wind yet? Tall trees do block a majority of the wind, but some areas get whipping – so choose your tent site wisely. And stake it down well, before that quick day hike. Since this is a mountain ridge line, expect thunderstorms, wind and possibly light snow.

    The big, famous Palm Canyon in Palm Springs starts below. The impressive desert canyon trails lead up to highway 74. Continue on foot uphill, southbound, cross the pavement, and end up in this Toro Peak region. Small campgrounds, few people, great views over the desert. Pick a smog free weekend (with wind) for best Coachella Valley views.

    San Berdu Idyllwild SoCal

    San Berdu Idyllwild SoCal

    Santa Rosa Wilderness

    San Bernardino National Forest Map