This was my first view of the Anza Borrego State Park after some windy mountains…and it was absolutely breathtaking!
The first time I heard about Anza Borrego was on Disney’s Soaring Over California ride with scenes of a golf course and the desert. Where is Anza Borrego? (Turns out it’s in East San Diego. And it’s such a big park it extends into Riverside county too). Then, after I started hiking and exploring I came across pictures of slot canyons. It sounded too good to be true! Could slot canyons exist in California? (Yes!) The final straw was reading about their hiking challenge. Hike 5 hikes for their 50 years! Read more about the challenge here
The catch? Deadline is June 2017. That’s coming up! (And the park is huge! We only got to two of the hikes…The Slot and Borrego Palm Canyon…but will return for the other 3! My kids did the two hikes easily…I’m not sure about how family friendly the other three are but I’ll find out!)
Excited, we piled the kids in the van and left early. Crack of dawn is optimal so we always aim for that but end up a leaving a little later. As with all family adventures, we followed our protocol…packed plenty of snacks/water, hats, sunblock, and made sure they were well rested and fed. We listened to their favorite music, played ‘I Spy’ games, and watched a movie in the van and before we knew it, we arrived.
We started at the nature center. Address is: 200 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA 92004 or here
A definite must see! Clean bathrooms (hard to find on trails!), maps, and a chance to stretch the legs. I just drooled at the beautiful garden and trail surrounding this center. There was a little pupfish pond. The kids and I searched and searched for them but didn’t find any. Next time! This is one of the best nature centers I’ve seen and the rangers were all friendly. We enjoyed a short movie presentation, let the kids wander around the many exhibits (they have a scavenger hunt and your kids can earn Jr. Ranger stickers), bought some souvenirs, and most importantly we talked to the rangers about road conditions and directions. Here the ranger highly recommended the Borrego Palm Canyon hike (‘signature hike’) for the kids and added that there is a $10 fee to park (believe me worth the price). I also asked about the slot hike, and she gave me two tips…first drive slowly and turn onto the unpaved dirt road when you see the small brown sign that says “Buttes Pass” and if our family van landed in soft sand, to keep driving (don’t stop) so we don’t get stuck. One day we will need to get a 4WD/high clearance vehicle, but for now, our van made it just fine. The roads were bumpy but we took our time. The bumpiness/jostling reminded us of Disney’s Indiana Jones ride..definitely adds to the adventure! I’ve read that this particular trailhead was hard to find but luckily we had no problems. We saw some bikers near the “Buttes Pass” sign and followed the dirt path in. Lots of cars were parked at the trailhead and we descended into the slots.
We actually went up and around to the right of the parking lot (saw the slot trail head sign) before descending gradually into the slots below.
It was a short walk down and we started seeing the narrows. This was truly the most exciting moment for me. It was on my bucket list to see these slots and here I was! The kids excitedly found their way through the ‘tunnels’ as I paused to take all the sights in. (And take pictures of course!)
The Slot is truly amazing and who would’ve known this existed in CA? Pictures don’t do this place justice but they sure are pretty to look at. Kids loved this ‘mystery maze tunnel’ and they can fit through it quicker and easier than your average adult. I admit some areas were so narrow my hiking bag got caught and I had to readjust and walk sideways. I also scraped my elbows on accident through one area when I wasn’t paying attention. So it was truly an adventure! Fun times!
Time to enjoy the views and look at the sandstone. One can only imagine how water flowing through the slots formed it.
These rocks were left there by someone…I looked in the direction and saw a narrow slot going straight up to the parking lot area. Wonder if that’s how somebody climbed down without going to the actual trail head and marked their way back?
Less than 1 mile into it you will see a rock perched beautifully on top of the slots. This was a perfect picture spot and many others agreed. It was quite the popular place to take photos and we helped others take their group photos as well.
At the end of the narrows it opens up and leads to more slots to the right. We didn’t go to the left as my youngest decided she had enough so we turned around.
Overall an AMAZING hike. On my scale I’d rate it a 10. We went during the winter so temperature wasn’t an issue, but I can imagine it being quite a relief from the sun on a hot day. The kids all agreed this was a great hike. The mystique of a mystery maze tunnel in the shade with great views in the middle of the desert? Awesome!
More on our second hike: The Borrego Palm Canyon later…