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

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

Anza Borrego Desert Wildflowers

Borrego Blooms

Barrel Cactus Anza

By far one of the best viewing areas for native California desert flora in the whole state. Autumn rain amounts determine the next year’s Spring bloom. If it rained real good all over SoCal before New Years Eve, chances are better for a favorable showing of color.

Low elevations, washes, badlands, dry lake beds bloom first in February, followed by March for mid altitude canyons and mountains. Highest desert peaks may not bloom until May.

Some of Total Escape favorite spots include:

S-2 Great Stagecoach Route of 1849

Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Anza Ranger 760-767-5311

Coyote Wash Blooms

April is usually the best month for the wildflowers; it is also the prime time for Spring Break camping. Open car camping for free – all over this huge California State Park. The tourists typically head over to the town of Borrego Springs, to Borrego Palm Canyon and the visitors center; but the REAL wildflowers are along remote stretches of highway, and on the DIRT BACK ROADS. Many roads are passenger car accessible, for at least the first mile, so don’t think you must have a 4×4 vehicle for just simple exploring.

Coyote Ocotillo Garden

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)
San Francisco Bay Area Hiking Maps
Mendocino National Forest Map
Six Rivers National Forest Map
Redwoods Map
Ventana Wilderness Map w/ Silver Peak

Sand Dollar Beach

San Diego Picnic

Picnics San Diego – Picnic Area San Diego

IBbeach

 

picnics

CITY & BAYS & BEACHES:

  • Balboa Park, San Diego – 5 square miles of beautiful city park with lots of gardens
  • Bayview Park, Coronado Island – Small city neighborhood park with great view of downtown skyline
  • Silver Strand State Beach near IB or Imperial Beach, S of Coronado
  • Harbor Island Park, near San Diego airport – facing SD Bay with views of downtown skyline
  • Shelter Island, near San Diego airport – facing SD Bay with views of downtown skyline
  • Mission Bay Park, San Diego, CA – maze of bay front parks & trails; picnic areas, bonfire pits, bike trails & playgrounds
  • Soledad Park, La Jolla, CA – small neighborhood park atop a Mount Soledad, great views of county & ocean
  • Presidio Park, San Diego Mission – park like setting surrounding mission w/ gardens & trees
  • Tidelands Park, Coronado Island – large park with great view of bay, bridge & downtown skyline
  • Mission Trails Park – Mission Gorge – SD river & historic dam, hiking, biking trails
  • Sunset Cliffs, Point Loma – sit on cliff edge or take stairway to beach
  • Torrey Pines Cliffs, Del Mar, CA

San Diego picnic parks

laguna mountains

View east from Laguna Mountain PIcnicgrounds

BACK COUNTRY MOUNTAINS & DESERTS:

vcampoutpinyonwsh

Maps Mountains / San Diego Maps