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


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

California 4×4 Club

4WD clubs / 4×4 off road / 4×4 vehicles / 4×4 club



Let’s Roll

Originally uploaded by danamightCalifornia has no shortage of 4 wheel drive vehicles, but how many of them actually use them for what they were intended? If you’ve had your 4WD for a while and are itching to get to know the local trails, then grab yourself a few good OHV maps & head for the hills.
If you are a total novice and think you might want to get familiar with routes, what your vehicle can and cannot do, and learn the ropes from the pros, then you might want to discover the friendly folks in your local 4×4 club. Below we list as many legitimate groups we can find, with or without web sites. If your club is not listed, then please contact us & we might add it.
anzawashes

Anza Borrego Desert Washes

Off roaders (with running rigs) can enjoy pre-planned back road trips with various 4×4 Groups in California:

The very best place to start searching for 4WD routes inside California — is right here on Total Escape. After you’ve narrowed it down to a general location, then buying a decent topo map is a necessity. We have extensive sections devoted to California back roads, SUV interests, OHV Parks, off road tour guides, and of course, offroad trail maps.

Giant Sequoias

Hidden Sequoia Groves, Western Divide

 

4WD clubs

4×4 Camps @ Los Padres National Forest

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

    22S05 – Sequoia NF

    Sherman’s Pass Road: J41 Mojave to Sequoia Forest Rd# 22S05

    Sequoia National Forest

    sherman snows

    Snow Closes Sherman’s Pass

    This paved Southern Sierra highway (aka J41, off US 395) is a paved route thru the eastern portion of the Sequoia National Forest. A curvy mountain corridor which crosses over the South Fork of the Kern River, and skirts the Domeland Wilderness & the South Sierra Wilderness. East side of Sequoia National Forest, the Kern Plateau meets the Mojave desert w/ BLM Camping & Inyo National Forest.

    22s05 snowy
    The Sherman route connects the Kern River, near Fairview to Kennedy Meadows & closes for snow in winter months. There are plenty seasonal creeks, meadows & forests in this region. Elevations range from 4000′ near the Kern River to 8000′ at Black Rock Station.

    BIG MEADOW
    Horse Meadow Campground
    Long Valley Campground
    Chimney Creek Campground
    Chimney Peak Backcountry Byway

    Bald Mountain Fire Lookout is an excellent stop for sightseeing over Domeland Wilderness. Access it via dirt road# 22S77

    Steep Grades

    Ranger Stations:
    Black Rock Station
    760-376-1666

    Snowy Springs

    Campgrounds along Sherman’s Pass Road include –

    • Rincon Camp (primitive campsite) – just up from Brush Creek & Kern River; Rincon Trail #33E23 runs North/South near here.
    • Big Meadow / Horse Meadow Campground
    • Troy Meadows Campground
    • Fish Creek Campground
    • Kennedy Meadows Campground

    westbound

    nearby towns:

    FAIRVIEW
    KENNEDY MEADOWS
    KERNVILLE
    RIVERKERN