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


Map California Baja

Secret Beaches

Secret Beaches of Baja

2003 Baja Map

Baja Topo Map

Topographic Maps of California Baja
Baja California Almanac

BAJA MEXICO MAP

The mysterious topographic map maker, Landon Crumpton, is gone. Although his Baja Almanac book of the Mexican peninsula is still as popular as ever.

bajaalmaac

The Total Escape crew has been using this amazing topo map for Baja Mexico since our the very first excursions in 1990. Click below to read more about the famous, hard-to-find Baja Almanac publication.

  • Baja California Almanac
  • Topographic Map Book of Baja California

  • National Geographic Baja Maps
  • NatGeo Baja California Mexico Maps

    Baja California Maps

  • Find more Baja Maps
  • Obscure Books & Maps, AAA Maps of Baja

    Baja Snack

    California 4×4 Trails

    Canyons of Panamint Valley

    California Back Roads: MILD to WILD

    jeepers, gear-heads, wheelers, ‘froaders, dirt bikers, anything with a motor

    Here at Total Escape we love driving on dirt back roads so much, DanaMite created a whole freaking web site about it! Whether you like to “wheel” your Jeep, truck, SUV, ATV, UTV, or an all-wheel- drive sportwagon – we have the California terrain covered. Detailing the dirt – from basic gravel roads and forest routes to High Sierra rock climbing routes; Trailheads, campsites, maps and much more. Mountains to deserts and everything in between.

    California has plenty to explore – off road!

    4x4 BLM USDA State Parks camping Back Roads

    California Back Roads

    California Off Road Areas

    California Off Road Maps

    CA Off-Road Maps PDF

    California 4×4 Clubs

    Driving on the Beach

    Off Highway Vehicle Areas

    State Vehicle Recreation Areas

    SUV Trail in California

    Winter Wheelin

    4×4 Camping in California

    4×4 Off Roading

    4×4 Rentals in California

    all posts under category “Back Roads”

    all posts under category “Off Road”

    Lost Coast Roads

    secluded camps

    waterfalldrive

    California Off Road Areas

    4x4 Sierra

    The list below is of awesome California locations that do have off-road trails surrounding them. Some destinations listed are heavy use off-road – with OHV parks or camping nearby, while others are simply scenic dirt backroads or forest roads for easy driving. Topographic maps can be found for most areas, and should have all roads displayed, dirt and paved routes, as well as campgrounds, hiking trails and trailheads.

    SoCal 4x4 Big Bear

    This California “off road towns” list was originally part of the California Off Road Maps page, but it surely deserves it’s own unique post, since it is an ever expanding list. Ongoing.

    Searching for Off Road Parks inside California?

    Try these links –
    State Vehicular Recreation Areas
    California OHV Parks

    OHV Yields To All

    Borrego Valley

    California Off Road Maps

    Jeeping

    Dirt roads, backroads, desert trails, OHV routes, single tracks, dunes, fire roads, gravel roads, 4×4 roads

    When you wanna explore a new area, California has plenty of public land to offer. Off Road Maps can get you away from the crowds & the main staging areas. Maps can show you prime areas to ride & camp that you may not have ever imagined. Whether you seek secluded stream side camp sites, with some fishing or a dusty, long, desert trail that spans the entire Mojave desert, you can find these secret spots with good old fashioned topographic maps.

    4x4 routes

    4×4 Panamint Valley has numerous canyons & ridges to conquer w/ open desert (free) camping located below

    Off-roading maps that Total Escape used to carry (altho some are no longer available):

    Jeep Roads Atlas
    Benchmark California Atlas


    The most trusted full-state book-atlas that Total Escape recommends. When you must have a (hard copy) map for local road trips – Benchmark Atlas is the best one by far.

    delorme
    DeLorme California Gazetteer

    National Forest Service State Parks California BLM backroads camping jeeping

    • SAN BERNARDINO OHV MAP (outta print)
    • HUNGRY VALLEY OHV MAP (outta print)
    • ANGELES FOREST OHV MAP (outta print)
    • MOUNT PINOS OHV TRAILS (outta print)
    • ROCK CREEK Eldorado

    NorCal Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails (book)

    SoCal Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails (book)

    OHV maps California

    California Off Road Areas


    Awesome California locations w/ off-road trails nearby. DanaMite has compiled a list of first-hand knowledge information, links, photos, campsites, maps, all revolving around rural California. Check out the ever growing list and get ready to explore the back roads, like never before.

    PDF Off Road Maps


    OHV use, 4×4 camps, dirt trails, forest routes; Download maps for various off-roading areas in California.

    Quatal Canyon

    What the heck is it ???

    4WD = 4 wheel drive
    4×4 = (same as above)

    2WD = 2 wheel drive
    4×2 = (same as above)

    AWD = All wheel drive
    SUV = Sport Utility Vehicle

    MTB = Mountain Bike
    MX = Motocross (dirt bike motorcycle)
    SNOMO = Snow Mobile (sled machine)

    GAS-POWERED RECREATION: The past two decades have emerged with vehicle redesigns from well known brands, creating a number of new “utility vehicles” for the sport of off-roading (otherwise known as, burning gasoline while recreating in the outdoors). Here is a breakdown on the acronyms, but they all basically refer to much of the same “off road type vehicles”.

    ATV = All Terrain Vehicle (quad)
    MOHUV = Multipurpose Off-Highway Utility Vehicle
    ROPS = Roll Over Protection System
    ROV = Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle
    RUV = Recreational Utility Vehicle
    SxS = Side by Side Vehicle (2 seated)
    SSV = (same as above)
    UTV = Utility Task Vehicle

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-terrain_vehicle
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Side_by_Side_(UTV)

    Common abbreviations for off-road on public lands:

    OHV – Off Highway Vehicle
    SVRA – State Vehicular Recreation Areas
    BLM – Bureau of Land Management
    NFS – National Forest (USDA)
    MVUM – motor vehicle use map
    PVT – private land / keep out

    Big Bear Backroads

    Ojai Map Elkins Flat

    Around 2012 the National Forest Service printed up a bunch of nice off-road maps for various popular regions of California. Oddly, they told me not to sell them and I never heard anything about them again after that. Not even sure if these above are available to the public, but if you dig around you might find ’em. Call the rangers, they might know.

    off road maps

    If interested, you could call the ranger station and ask about any local off-road maps. Mostly they have freebie one page print-outs, black & white to keep the crowds where they want them. Other times they might have real printed maps for sale at the station, the maps that can get you deeper into the terrain, with wild edges of reality nearby.