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

Mojave Road Map

Mojave Road Trail

The Mojave Road

Mojave Desert Back Roads

The historic Mojave Road spans the high desert region of east California – crossing the Colorado River westward to roughly Los Angeles. Now a network of dirt and paved routes follow the original overland trade route. Click the plaque photo below to read more.

The Mojave Road

The rugged, dirt road cuts right through the middle of the Mojave National Preserve. Mid Hills, Kelso Depot, Cima.

mojave topo maps

Joshua Trees, mountains, boulders, sand dunes, railroad history. The high desert is abundant with wildlife, plant life, lava tubes, caverns, camping, and dirt roads. Plus wild windy weather.

Mojave Loop

MOJAVE PARK
Located on the way to Vegas, NV – or the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Mojave NP is in the triangle space in between Interstate 15 and Interstate 40, on the eastern side of southern California. Freeway close, free camping in the Mojave does indeed exist, if you know where to look.

Mojave Map by Trails Illustrated NatGeo 

NatGeo Map Mojave California

National Geographic acquired Trails Illustrated Maps more than a dozen years ago. Ever since these plastic topo maps have gone 2 sided, full-color w/ more details featured than ever before. Updated regularly. Waterproof plastic, perfect for outdoor desert travels.

Mitchell Cavern, called Providence Mountains SRA, has camping, but it is situated up on an exposed bluff overlooking the freeway. Location gets windy as hell. Better campground is at Hole in the Wall, or even better, Mid Hills Camp.

Mojave Peaks

Primitive, free camping can be found off of Kelbaker Road, but be warned: dirt roads can get deeply rutted and impassible during extreme wet weather. 4WD may be required sometimes.

  • CAMPGROUND CAMPING
  • FREE CAMPING
  • GROUP CAMPING
  • HIKING TRAILS
  • HISTORIC MONUMENTS
  • HORSE CAMPING
  • HORSEBACK TRAILS
  • JOSHUA TREES
  • LAVA TUBES
  • MINING HISTORY
  • MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS
  • OFF ROAD CAMPING
  • RAILROAD HISTORY
  • RANCHES
  • RV CAMPING
  • SAND DUNES
  • VOLCANIC TERRAIN

Mojave Desert Map by Tom Harrison

Mojave Road Map

One of the first readily available topographic style maps of the Mojave desert. Waterproof plastic, Tom Harrison brand maps are perfect for any type of backcountry travel, on foot, on horse, or off-road.

Campsites

AAA & NPS: one-page freebie; excellent overview map created by the Automobile Association of Southern California w/ the National Park Service. Handed out at Visitors Center and ranger stations (1990s)

BLM Maps of Mojave: OHV (off highway vehicle) maps can be found at the local Bureau of Land Management ranger stations:

Benchmark California Atlas

California Atlas

Best map for statewide coverage!

This premium full state atlas has the whole, massive Mojave desert covered, which extends north into Death Valley National Park and south to Joshua Tree National Park.

Mojave Desert Books


Kern Flats Camping Free

chamise flat

Dispersed Camping Kern River

boondocking
primitive camping
undeveloped sites

KERNVILLE, CA

Located north of the small community of Riverkern and south of the Johnsondale Bridge, numerous flat camp spots adjacent to the rivers edge can be found.

johnsondale bridge @ KERNAnt Canyon Dispersed Area
Brush Creek Campground
Calkins Flat Dispersed Area
Chamise Flat Dispersed Area
Chico Flat Campground
Corral Creek Campground
Springhill Dispersed Area

 

Kern River Road
Sierra Way in Kernville travels north along the Upper Kern River & becomes Mountain Hwy 99 – which eventually connects with the Western Divide Highway in Giant Sequoia National Monument.

California NFS Kern RVing kern campgrounds open camping

truckcamping

Dispersed Camping Areas along the Kern River

Open Year Round! These FREE camp areas are called dispersed camping sites. No pavement, no picnic tables, no bathrooms, no piped water. Portable toilets & trash bins may be available in the busier summer months. Campfire permits are required for all campfires, BBQs, and camp stoves. Fire restrictions are common in extreme dry conditions. 14 day limit on camping.

Mountain Biking Kernville kern hiking fishing Kern snow Kern

camping, fishing, kayaking, mountain biking, rafting

Many flats are signed w/ small brown signs, while others are not. Some are actually flat and easy to access, while others are steep, eroded dirt trails unsuitable for RV travel.

Kelly’s Hole, overgrown, unknown, well-known or burnt beyond recognition? Roads End is no more.

Camp sites listed on this page are dispersed camping areas around the Kern River Area. Not all camp spots are listed, cuz many are unnamed. Bring your GPS to mark your favorite camp sites and you can arrive in the dark, late at night, anytime, (avoiding city traffic after work).

chamise pre-wildfire

Several spots known as “dirt flats” are easy accessible right off the pavement of Sierra Way. Primitive river camping, fishing spots and raft launch areas north of town. Vault toilets might be available during busy summer months, but you’re on your own the remainder of the year. Bring a shovel and take a hike, away from the water flow. And if that sounds like too much work for a potty break, maybe you are not cut out for the primitive kinda camping style. No garbage service either: pack it in, pack it out.

Wildflowers are abundant in the Kern Canyon nearly every Spring season (April & May), which is a popular time to enjoy this region. Autumn brings minimal fall colors to this dry, desert mountainous landscape, but the fishing is decent at that time of year.

campfiresCAMPING OUTSIDE OF CAMPGROUND means you must obtain a free fire permit from the local rangers. Sometimes these dispersed spots are fire-safe areas, and you are allowed to have camp fires. Other times campfire restrictions are in place w/ wildfire dangers too extreme and no fires are allowed, anywhere. (Not even inside a developed campground!)

Kern RV spot

river Kern WILDERNESS NOTE: The USDA National Forests web site states that “Camping and campfires within 25 feet of the water’s edge is prohibited due to the Wild and Scenic Designation”, but that doesn’t seem to stop some from setting up right on the fragile rivers edge. Doubtful that this rule is being enforced by the rangers, but consider yourself warned unless they start to get serious about this restriction. Many believe that the free camping along the Kern river is destroying it, so don’t be surprised if these areas get closed or barriers placed at the flats.

Caulkins FLAT has some new boulder barriers put in place which prevent cars from reaching certain ideal camp spots (right at the waters edge). Tough luck. Now we have to hike more.

California rivers

kern flat camping

Upper Kern River
North of Kernville, CA

all camps below listed from south to north

ALL CAPS = developed campgrounds managed by US Forest Service, w/ links to Kern River Campgrounds. California NFS

HEADQUARTERS CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Both Halfway & Thunderbird used to be dispersed camps, but they were converted to reservation-only Group Campgrounds by the National Forest in 2014

Chico Flat
2500′ elev
Just south of Hospital Flat Campground.
This camp area is known as “Chico Flat Campground” on GoogleMaps.

HOSPITAL FLAT CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Corral Creek
3200′ elev
Hike to Corral Creek Beach & Picnic Area.
This camp area is known as “Corral Creek Campground” on GoogleMaps.

Spring Hill
This camping area is marked as “Upper Springhill Campground & “Lower Springhill Campground” on GoogleMaps.

GOLD LEDGE CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Ant Canyon
Just north of Goldledge Campground, along the Upper Kern River.
South of Salmon Creek; Hike to Salmon Creek Falls.

Chamise Flatchamisespot
12 miles north of Kernville, CA
This camping bluff could be the most forested of all the ‘kern flat’ camping areas, but river is a short hike down a very steep cliff. Fishing is excellent in this stretch.

Calkins Flat
15 miles north of Kernville, along the Upper Kern River. Just south of Fairview (McNalley’s). Sign at the location reads a different spelling of “Caulkins Flat”. Kayak and rafting put-in spot. One of the best sites for large groups. Area is also known as simply “Lower Campground” on GoogleMap.

free kern river camp

FAIRVIEW CAMPGROUND (NFS)

LIMESTONE CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Brush Creek
3600′ elev
Just south of Sherman’s Pass Road turnoff. This place also serves as a Day Use Area, where Brush Creek meets the Kern. Kayaking put in spot. Popular fishing area. Large open dirt parking lot with a vault toilet.

 

 

California rivers

Lower Kern River
Southwest of Kernville, CA

Lake Isabella has some shoreline camping with wide open access to the lake. Paradise Cove perhaps?

Historic Keyesville – “off-roaders camping paradise” along the river, but no swimming is allowed due to the extremely dangerous section of river. OHV trails lead (west) down river for many miles. Dirt bikes love the rugged boulder-scapes and steep hills. FREE camping; BLM Kern.

SANDY FLAT CAMPGROUND (NFS) – open all year long!
elev 2300′

HOBO CAMPGROUND (NFS)

Remington

Remington Hot Springs can be a zoo at times w/ the amount of people who love to stop here. A busy dirt parking lot, right across from the Remington trailhead sign. Many vehicles park here daily for day hikes, hot springs, fishing – and people also like to camp out, although camp sites are on slopes (not ideal), only a few and they fill up fast (before sunset).

Total Escape TIP: The very best camps at Remington are actually the ones you hafta hike down to. Less than a half mile down to the rivers edge to find a private mini beach. Pack light and arrive prepared to walk several miles (back & forth, several times).

Old Kern Canyon Road parallels Sierra Highway 178 and sits well above the river, so any flat spots you find will have great views w/ minimal river access.

Lower Kern River

Lower Kern River has very limited camping options.

Lake Mohave

viewpoint mohave

Lake Mohave NRA

Lake Mohave National Recreation Area

Mojave Reservoir @ Colorado River: AZ / NV / CA
@ the V: Arizona – Nevada – California

National Park Service

The Colorado River travels through the southwest desert, splitting the Grand Canyon and further south, separating California from Arizona at the southern tip of Nevada. Agriculture lines the big river down to Baja, Sea of Cortez, Mex.

Up near Las Vegas

Above Hoover Dam is Lake Mead, red dirt and silt shorelines. South of the dam is a deep gorge w/ hike-in hot springs and then this beauty, called Lake Mohave with the super clear water, secluded coves and abundant fishing.

Lake Mohave: elevation 647′

Desert peaks in this region are around 2000-3000′ elevation. Mohave Lake is actually a wide section of the Colorado River, spanning the region from massive Black Canyon south to busy Laughlin w/ river casinos. This lake is long and skinny in spots with lots of shoreline cliffs, canyons and coves.

boating, camping, fishing, hiking, hot springs, kayaking, off-road, picnics, viewpoints

camping areas below listed from north to south

Willow Beach RV Park & Campground
Arizona side, off Hwy 93
928-767-4747

car camp mohave

El DORADO CANYON

El Dorado Canyon Road, main paved route can be accessed near California’s state border. North of Searchlight, Nevada – off main highway 95, on side route 165 to Nelson, NV

Secluded dirt roads up and down canyons near El Dorado Canyon Rd. Minimal vegetation, maximum open scenery and dark skies. Kayak rentals @ El Dorado Canyon.

No facilities, no fees. No buildings. No campfire rings, no picnic tables, very few vault toilets. Bring your shovel!

desert badlands erosion

deep washes

15 day camping limit

Find your own route with many to choose from, drive the soft sandy washes (with a few boulders to dodge) and camp for free, right at the waters edge. Adventurers: Only for the self-contained campers. Pack it in, pack it out.

Driving off the roads is strictly prohibited. Primitive camp sites can be found both at numerous coves and also inland inside the canyons. The ridges get windy in the deserts.

Always know the weather forecast, cuz flash floods are possible and these dirt roads will be impassible during big rain. This is the main drainage to the big river!

Dogs Allowed

Most desert washes here are signed routes 4×4, but mini vans, AWD sport-wagons, trucks, SUVs, small RVs can all be found camping near Lake Mohave. That is – if you know how to ‘drive off road’, which is not fast, but not too slow either.

Avoid getting stuck in the deep sand: keep speed up and do not brake hard. Carry tow strap in case you need an emergency pull.

Campfires are allowed, but you need to bring firewood. Dogs are allowed. Party animals tend to trash these desert coves, so be warned that there is a fair amount of litter. Bring a black trash bag and take some out! This trash problem could get the area closed off to vehicles so keep that in mind.

The canyons here have giant power lines that cross @ Aztec Wash; they can easily be avoided.

montana wash

primitive camping 4x4 camping boat camping

4×4 recommended @ MOHAVE:

Eagle Wash Road #46 – popular spot
Montana Wash #45 – camping ok
Placer Wash #47 – no camping

The NPS rangers don’t wanna be pulling your ass out of the sand, which is why they post the 4×4 signs. Don’t expect to find help without walking a few miles first.

mohave2011

RV camp campground marina

COTTONWOOD COVE
developed campground, boat launch, marina, lodging, hiking, picnic areas

Cottonwood Cove Resort
near Searchlight, NV
702-297-1464

primitive camping boat camping RV camp campground marina

LAUGHLIN, NV
Nevada, California and Arizona states join down in this part of the world. Katherine Landing, full service marina, slip rentals, lodging, city services and casinos.

Lake Mohave Resort
928-754-3245

clearest water

Lake Mohave NRA
NPS Headquarters
601 Nevada Way
Boulder City, NV 89005
Visitor Center open daily
702-293-8990

maps of the region:

Lake Mohave Map (South) PDF

Boulder City River Map PDF

Nat Geo Map Mead

RED ROCK LAS VEGAS MAP

Recreation Map of Lake Mead, Lake Mohave & Lake Havasu, w/ Hoover Dam & Parker

Hiking Las Vegas Book

covecamps

This Mojave Desert river-created lake is located on the Colorado River, in between Las Vegas, Nevada and Needles, California

nearby towns: (with elevation)

Bullhead City, AZ (540′)
Laughlin, NV (535′)
Kingman, AZ (3340′)
Nelson, NV (2954′)
Nipton, CA (3042′)
Searchlight, NV (3470′)

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