Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. It has 500 miles of dirt roads and miles of hiking trails. The “Anza” is Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and “Borrego” is the Spanish name for a bighorn sheep. The Visitor’s Center in Borrego Springs is about 2 hours east of San Diego and about 2 hours south of Palm Springs. While the area is known for its sometimes amazing display of desert wildflowers in the spring, it is also popular with hikers and off-road enthusiasts.
The park features many slot canyons, but only one is actually called “The Slot.” It’s actually on the park map, just north and west of Octotillo Wells. It’s a fairly easy hike for slot canyon beginners while it’s still insteresting and entertaining for slot canyon experts.
A slot canyon is a narrow canyon created by rushing water. Never go into a slot canyon if there are rain clouds in the sky, even miles away. Expect to occasionally have to turn sideways, remove packs and maybe even climb because of the narrowness of some slot canyons. “The Slot” does have some areas where hikers will have to rurn sideways and possibly remove packs to manuever though the canyon.
To get to the trailhead, take Borrego Springs Road south from the town of Borrego Springs. Turn east on Highway 78. Watch carefully on the north side (left) of the road for a sign saying “Buttes Pass.” The sign is very small. When we saw the sign saying “Exiting Anza Borrego State Park,” we had to backtrack several miles. We also found the Buttes Pass sign was only seen by drivers going east, there was no sign for drivers going west. Once you turn on the Buttes Pass road, it’s 1.8 miles on a dirt road to the trailhead. There is so soft sand on this road, so be careful if you’re driving a passenger car. About 1 down the washboard road you’ll come to a split, stay to the left, turning right goes to “Hawk Canyon.” At 1.8 miles the road comes to T and a canyon. Park here and work your way into the canyon from the edge or look for the “no dogs” sign to your right, over the hill and access the slot to the left.
Once inside the slot, manuever your way through the twists and turns, taking lots of pictures and enjoying yourself. After about a half mile of curves, the canyon opens up into a wider wash/ You can continue hiking the wide open canyon to a road and hike back on the road, or even better, turn around and come back through the slot canyon. Slot canyons look different from a different direction. Just make sure you remember where to exit. We found an exit point where someone had left a cairn marking the spot.
One note, the Visitor’s Center is currently closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because of budget cuts.
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More hikes in Southern California: Whitewater Preserve near Palm Springs, Whitewater Preserve canyon loop, Lost Horse Mine at Joshua Tree National Park, Corn Springs oasis and petroglpyhs, Morongo Canyon Preserve, Palm Canyon, Andreas Canyon
Check out my other hiking reports in California, Colorado, Utah & Grand Canyon here.
If you have any questions, visit my home page and click on “bio” to email me. To get notified when I publish a new article, click on the “subscribe” button at the top of this article