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


Hiking California Coast

California Coast Trails

Big Sur Coast Coastal hikes are the mildest trails California has to offer, ranging from scenic strolls along the base of beach cliffs to steep redwood forested canyons. From Torrey Pines in San Diego to the multiple redwood parks along the North Coast, there is no shortage of hiking near the coastline. Southern California has more beaches than parks, with tide pool areas being a favorite destination for many. Central Coast has lush, fern canyons with year-round flowing creeks and numerous bluffs and rugged beaches. Bay Area has hiking trails nearly everywhere – along the bay, in the woods or on the coast. NorCal has all the wilderness, parks and remote beaches one could ever hope for. What are you waiting for? Get out there.

Pacific Valley Hiking

San Francisco Bay Area Hiking

Limekiln Hikes

hiking trail maps

NorthMarin
Channel Island National Park Map
Los Angeles Hiking Maps
Los Padres NF South (Ojai, Santa Barbara, Frazier)
Los Padres NF North (San Luis Obispo, Big Sur)
Marin Hiking Maps
Mendocino National Forest Map
Six Rivers National Forest Map
Redwoods Map
Ventana Wilderness Map w/ Silver Peak

Sand Dollar Beach

Borrego Camping

Anza Borrego Park / Anza Borrego Campgrounds

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California Highway 78 cuts across Southern California and right thru the middle of the largest State Park in the lower 48. Anza Borrego Desert State Park is a place that must be visited more than once to really take in all the beauty it has to offer. Free camping in Southern California is abundant here, if you are willing to follow the primitive camp fire rules of the park and you are comfortable camping away from developed campgrounds.

North-South: San Diego County Road S2 skirts the western border with Laguna Mountain towering above. It starts at Ocotillo @ Interstate 8 and heads Northwest to Lake Henshaw at Warner Springs.

East-West: a major route S22, connects Ranchita /Montezuma Valley to the Borrego Valley, and continues East to the Salton Seawhataview. The center of the parks is pretty much the town of Borrego Springs, where the State Parks visitors center is located. San Diego County Road S3 leads from Hwy 78 down the the town of Borrego Springs Valley.

developed campgrounds:

free camping: While the camping facilities listed above provide picnic tables and toilets, or more luxury camping… Total Escape thinks the best part of camping in Anza Borrego Desert is the vast amount of free, open camping available on most back roads. Hundreds of dirt roads lead off in all directions, so you can find the peace and solitude that few inside busy campgrounds ever experience.

  • Anza Borrego Desert Map
  • San Diego Backcountry Map
  • Many Anza desert routes are sandy washes, dirt roads, some for high clearance vehicles only, or 4WD in several canyons. Often there is no signs telling you need 4×4 to proceed. May only find out when its too late and you’re stuck.

    Have a good dirt road map with you and know your vehicles limitations. Passenger cars should be very cautious off road. Cell phone coverage is spotty out here in the most remote wilderness areas. oystercamp

    San Diego Camping

    Anza Backroads

    Cleveland National Forest Camping – San Diego Campgrounds – Desert Camping Anza Borrego – SD County Campgrounds – BLM Campgrounds – San Diego Beach Camping – San Diego Mountains

    campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
    Bobcat Meadow 3800′ 16 oaks vault no no RVs
    Burnt Rancheria 5000′ 100+ pines vault piped Sunrise Hwy
    Cibbets Flats 4200′ 23 oaks vault piped Interstate 8
    Corral Canyon 3500′ 20 oaks vault piped OHV near I-8
    Dripping Springs 1800′ 26 oaks vault piped Hwy 79, E Temecula
    El Cariso North 2600′ 24 oaks vault piped small RV
    Fry Creek Campground 4900′ 20 oaks vault piped Palomar Mountain
    Indian Flats Campground 3600′ 17 oaks vault piped off Hwy 79
    Laguna Mountain 5500′ 75 pines vault piped Sunrise Hwy
    Palomar SP Campground 7000′ 13 pines vault piped Palomar Mountain

    Anza Camping

    Anza Borrego Desert Camping & Campgrounds

    Desert Mountain Biking Open Camping Stargazing Hiking

    San Diego County Campgrounds

    Sweetwater Reservoir, Otay Lakes, Agua Caliente, Vallecito
    Camping Reservations 877-565-3600 or 858-565-3600

    Camping

    Bureau of Land Management

    San Diego BLM Camping

    Lark Canyon, Cottonwood @ McCain Valley near Interstate 8

    Coastal Cliffs San Diego

    San Diego Beach Camping

    Coastal Towns with Camping near San Diego –

    Chula Vista
    Coronado
    San Diego
    Mission Beach & Bay
    Del Mar
    Cardiff
    Carlsbad
    Oceanside

    Indian Flats Campground

    Indian Flats Campground is located on a dirt road off Hwy 79, near Warner Springs CA. Boulder ridges & manzanita surround this oak filled secluded canyon. Small seasonal creek & waterfall is a short walk from campsite.

    Free Camping

    Anza Borrego Desert by far has the best free camping options available near San Diego.

    Maps Mountains / Desert Topo / San Diego Area Maps

    California 4×4 Roads

    Panamint Creeks

    West Coast 4×4 club holds annual trail runs in Panamint Valley.

    California 4×4 – here is search term popularized by the SUV & the anxious city driver who wants to hit some dirt. Gone are the days when peeling out in the back of the Ikea parking lot adventure. You seek real trails & cool spots & Total Escape is here to deliver.

    Take your muddy or dusty vehicle to work on Monday (unwashed), just to prove you did something adventurous this past weekend! Once they see the photos, the co-workers will be envious.

    This entire web site was started around California back roads & self guided tours. You finally found us! Gotta get the 4wheel drive SUV into action (at least once per year – so the differential oil wont get like glue) & this web site can help you find the secrets spots of California.

    Xterra Ken in Baja 2005
    Anza Borrego Desert & Los Padres National Forest has the most 4×4 trails in all the SoCal region. Big Bear forest has some, but the crowds are thick on any given weekend. Angeles has Azusa & Lyttle Creek; Idywild has a few virtually unknown spots. Mojave desert & the Eastern Sierra have plenty to see, volcanoes, ghost towns, old mines, petroglyphs, all reachable with stock SUV. Inyo high country has some incredible sights, but only accessible half the year. You will need 4 wheel drive part time or full time on these trails listed below. AWD doesn’t count! Clearance and 4 wheel traction are key for control w/ rock crawling and deep sand.

    Searching for the extreme, rock crawling, hard core 4×4 stuff, go to the off-road races — or take your time & plan your adventure well. Chances are you’ll need a small team of people to explore these black diamond routes, a good forest map, plus very capable 4 wheelin’ rigs.

    red mountain

    Red Mountain 4×4 Trail near Shaver Lake

    Find California 4wheel drive roads below. Some of these routes will require a four wheel low range, with a transfer case. Do not attempt these with a new AWD SUV. Expect body damage on any 4WD trail.

    Anza Borrego Desert –

    Gold Country & Sierra Nevada 4×4 trails –

    Death Valley 4×4 Camps –

    Inyo NF 4×4 trails –

    Los Padres NF 4×4 trails –

    San Berdu NF 4×4 trails –

    • John Bull Trail, near Big Bear Lake CA
    • Deep Creek Trail, near Skyforest Lake Arrowhead CA
    • Gold Mountain Trail, near Big Bear Lake CA
    • Pipes Canyon, near Big Bear Lake CA

    San Diego 4×4 Trails –

    • Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, Lake Henshaw
    • Valley of the Moon, Jacumba CA

    baja roads 4x4

    Now, not every road is gonna need 4×4 all the time. Most of the dirt back roads can easily be passable in a 2WD in dry months, but forget that in winter or any good rain storm. Total Escape has compiled a huge list of Southern California Back Roads, for your viewing pleasure.

    California off road maps –

    Baker Creek

    Baker Creek, Inyo NF