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


Spicer Reservoir

spicer terrain


Spicer Meadow Reservoir

Spicer Meadows, Spicer Reservoir, Rd #7N01
Spicer Lake, Stanislaus National Forest

lake elevation 6418′
227 surface acres

public boat ramp
hiking trail around lake
more lakes nearby

Ebbetts Pass Sierra Hwy 4

Ancient volcanic peaks mix with Sierra Nevada granite rock, pine forests and fresh, clear, clean mountain water! California, of course.

Stanislaus Forest Road #7N01 leads down from Highway 4 to this popular series of alpine lakes and reservoirs. Camping, fishing, hiking and mountain biking. Sailing, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, floating and fishing are also popular water activities.

Rules of the Reservoir:
10 mph speed limit on Western Arm.
No motorized boating in Eastern Arm.
Camp only in developed Campgrounds.

NFS
2 NFS Campgrounds at west end of lake:

  • Spicer Campground (60 sites)
  • Spicer Group Camp (75 people max)
  • Campgrounds only open June-September. Some campsites at the campground are wheelchair accessible.

    Additionally, Stanislaus River Campground w/ only 8 sites, is located just off the main access road #7N01, right near the river.

    spicer lake shore

    Spicer #7N01

    Numerous smaller lakes in the region make this a hot spot for summer vacations. Union and Utica Reservoirs (both with dirt road access) are good for kayaking and canoes, while power or sail boats prefer the larger Spicer Lake. Summit Lake and Elephant Rock Lake are perfect for quite picnics and day hikes. Trails (many unmarked) connect the lakes to each other. Area gets buried with snow in winter, so these roads are generally only open half the year.

    More reservoirs and lakes nearby:
    Highland Lakes
    Mosquito Lakes
    Lake Alpine, CA
    (all along Hwy 4)

    Stanislaus National Forest Map USDA

    Stanislaus National Forest Map USDA

    Nearby mountain towns:
    ARNOLD, CA
    BEAR VALLEY, CA
    Lake Alpine, CA

    6N06 – Stanislaus NF

    graded road

    Forest Rd #6N06 – County Line Road, Fence Creek, Stanislaus National Forest

    Central Sierra Nevada Mountains, California
    N of Hwy 108; W of Sonora Pass

    On the very edge of wilderness
    Stanislaus NF
    County Line Road
    Fence Creek Campground (NFS)

    Graded dirt road near Clarks Fork junction @ SR 108. Dirt road travels up into forest, hiking trails and meadows; South side of the volcanic Dardanelles @ Tuolumne Co. & Alpine Co. boundary

    Carson Iceberg Map

    County Line Trailhead
    Wheats Meadow Trailhead
    Carson Iceberg Wilderness Area
    The Dardanelles (9524′ elev)

    Clark Fork, Middle Stanislaus River

    Topo Maps of this Region:

    Stanislaus National Forest Map USDA
    Carson Iceberg Wilderness Map USDA
    Carson, Emigrant, Mokelumne Map NatGeo
    Sierra Nevada Topo Map

  • backpacker access
  • day hiking
  • horse camping
  • primitive camping
  • trailhead camping
  • winter road closure, annually
    Check with local rangers on road access and conditions.

    Rd# 6N06, climbs to mountain scenery at upper elevations, well of the main highway. Route is a 2-lane wide road at times, narrower and private towards the end of roads; several dirt roads, overgrown 2 tracks w/ many camp sites to choose from. Dispersed primitive camping requires a camp fire permit.

    6N06rd

    OHV off-roaders will only find dead ends on dirt route 6N06. NO motorized access in nearby wilderness. Wheelers should try south of Highway 108 @ Niagra Campgrounds; Niagra Off Road #5N01 for all the noise-makers, gear heads, dirt bikes, and toy boxes. Niagra Creek, Niagra OHV, Niagra 4×4.

    Closest towns:

    Dardanelle
    Pinecrest Lake
    Twain Harte

    volcano mdws

    Dirt Street

    7S02 up hill

    An avenue made of dirt, earthen highways, dirt trails, forest roads, fire roads, jeep road, graded roads. Dirt driving trails that lead into the middle of nowhere. No stop signs, no billboards, no stores, no one else around… for miles. Enjoy less crowds and more open space.

    dirt streetsIf you are fed up with city life, sitting in traffic & need to vacate your mind among the barren hills of California (if only for a weekend), then Total Escape is your place. You seek solitude, peace, maybe a mini tailgate party & BBQ on a dry lake bed, with the heavenly stars above. Imagine the warm camp fire light reflecting off the high canyon walls, your music echoing, moonlight hikes for a few miles.

    California has some awesome spots to drive on dirt, get way back in nature. Right up to the edge of the Wilderness boundary. That’s what this one silly “dirt street” page is all about… helping you get out there, the easiest & best way possible. We even got you the right maps!

    Back Roads in California

    The End of Dirt Roads

    California OHV Maps

    Most of this is just dirt road driving, graded, some hills, easy stuff. But on occasion you might come across a 4×4 required sign – or perhaps a triple black diamond trail. Having several good maps on hand will help you enjoy these roads, instead of stressing & wondering if there is a lock gate at the other end – 18 miles in.

    Some dirt streets lead to campgrounds, some to waterfalls, some to viewpoints, some have loop options & others are just dead end; sometimes at old mines. Get ready to explore with your truck or SUV. 2WD or low clearance vehicles (such as passenger cars) should be ready to turn back if the road get too nasty. Any decent precipitation can make any unpaved road much worse & may require 4 wheel drive, so have a plan B mud terrainor C as a backup idea.

    Best off road areas & parks in California:

    Death Valley Roads

    Tooling around Goler Wash & Barker Ranch on the very edge of Death Valley

    Mammoth Fishing



    Stark Weather Lake

    Originally uploaded by danamight

    Mammoth Mountain Lakes / Eastern Sierra Fishing

    Sure splendor for fishing, most of the time. Lake fishing, stream fishing, river fishing. Fishing the Eastern Sierra area, near Mammoth Lakes, California can be very rewarding. You may have read about places like these in the sports magazines, seen them on a television program, or imagined them in a fishing vacation day dream. Summers can be crowded, so pick a lake and camp carefully. Weather can change quickly, so come prepared. Autumn fishing w/ the golden aspens and less crowds is preferred.

    fishing trip

    Most of these Eastern Sierra lakes listed below are accessible by car, others by foot. Look at the photos, pick a destination and get a good map of the area, so you can explore everything around too.

    CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

    Mammoth Lakes Area

    Mammoth Area Lakes – Mammoth City

    Mammoth Area Creeks –

    Mammoth Area Rivers –

    • Owens River
    • San Joaquin River

    junelake

    June Lake Loop

    June Area Lakes –

    June Area Creeks –

    Mammoth Maps

    inyo maps
    Inyo National Forest Map

    Ansel Adams Wilderness Maps
    Devils Postpile Map
    Mammoth High Country Map
    Mono Divide Trail Map
    Mammoth Mono Map NatGeo

    other Eastern Sierra maps –

    Bishop Pass Trail Maps
    Hoover Wilderness Trail Map
    John Muir Wilderness Maps
    Mono Lake Map
    Palisades Trail Maps

    fishing trip

    horseback overnight trips

    Abundant Horse Packers in Eastern Sierra, California