Anza Borrego State Park and Coyote Canyon

As expected, I took nearly 200 photos, if you want to check them out here.

morning from the MoHo Our rig faces northeast, with an open view of the mountains past the low lying, almost invisible buildings of Borrego Springs.  Watching the morning sun stream in the windows, listening to all the birds, sipping morning tea in all that desert light was delightful.  The day stretched ahead, with predicted temperatures in the 70’s and clear skies until late afternoon, when a bit of wind and showers could appear. 

We knew that the park was huge, with miles and miles of dirt roads, some we could manage, and others maybe not.  We also knew hiking is something we love but not sure where we could go with Abby.  So first stop on the agenda was the main Anza Borrego State Park Visitor Center, just a hop up the road from where we are staying here at the Holiday Borrego Mobile Home Park.  After a couple of nights near freeways and truck stops, the silence and darkness of Borrego Springs makes for amazing restful sleeping.  In fact, Borrego Springs is listed as one of only two “dark sky” communities, and one of the ten best places for viewing the heavens in the United States. 

Anza visitor center (5) The visitor center is beautifully done, with interesting displays, excellent volunteers providing information about where flowers are blooming, what roads are passable, where the sheep are located, and yes, where we could walk with Abby.  All park roads, dirt or paved, but no trails.  I especially enjoyed the geologic maps and prehistory of the area.  There is so much to see here, and after buying a hat for Mo and a tee shirt for me, (oh my, will it end up in a quilt someday?  I just can’t seem to resist those gorgeous park tee shirts.), we walked around the lovely naturally landscaped grounds before embarking on our chosen journey.

Anza visitor center (10) Coyote Canyon seemed to be the best choice, with many flowers in bloom right now after the rains.  There were several people in the center, many of whom had only two wheel drive vehicles, but with our little Tracker we thought we could manage at least some of the 4 wheel drive routes.

The road north from Borrego into the park is straightforward, that is until the prehistoric animals start to appear.  I recently saw photos of these critters on another blog, but it still didn’t prepare me for the surprise.  With the sponsorship of Dennis Avery, a Borrego Springs philanthropist,  the Mexican artist Ricardo Arroyo Breceda has created amazingly intricate and detailed iron sculptures that appear as though they just emerged from the landscape as it was a couple of million years ago during the Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Miocene eras.  We hope to explore other areas of the park where fossils of this time period have been found, but today our journey was into the granite batholiths of the San Ysidro Mountains along Coyote Creek.Mar 23 Coyote Canyon1 

When the park says 4×4, high clearance, they mean it.  Although that can mean two different things.  We saw sedans crawling along the sandy wash road with success, and then we saw them turn around at “first crossing”.  The Tracker made quick work of that one, and on to “2nd crossing” without a hitch.  Good little Tracker.  We saw a few Jeeps, real ones, not the SUV kind of Jeep, with explorers heading for the deeper reaches of the canyon, but when we reached “3rd crossing”, we decided it might be prudent to check it out and walk.  We wanted a good hike today anyway, and this was perfect. 

Coyote Canyon (13) Park volunteers warned of soft sand, but it wasn’t a bit of a problem for the Tracker
Coyote Canyon (25) This was second crossing, still no problem for the Tracker, even though there are some good sized rocks hidden in that foot deep water
Coyote Canyon (27) We started walking at third crossing, where the road followed the creek, but had no real clue just what was ahead of this part

Coyote Canyon (32) Third Crossing was a bit of a surprise, since it followed the path of Coyote Creek, quite full after the recent rains.  As we walked (and Abby swam) along the road, we came upon a young man walking back checking for parts that might not be as deep as others.  He had driven across, but it was up to his tail pipes and he wanted to avoid an engine cutting out.  We watched him plow back through the water and thought, “Good Luck!”

Continuing on with our hike, we noticed a trail of oil running down the center of the road.  UhOh.  Wonder if he knows he broke something.  Then as we hiked up a couple of very steep very rocky grades, we knew that 4×4 definitely means something other than even a little 4 wheel drive Coyote Canyon (37)Tracker in some parts of this park.  We hiked high enough above the Lower Willows area to look down into Collins Valley and up the wild open distance of Upper  Coyote Canyon.  We didn’t make it as far as the hike into Sheep Canyon or Salvador Canyon with it’s hidden palms.  In fact when we looked at our excellent purchased park map, it looked as though we just barely tapped into the wild distance of Coyote Canyon.  The best part about all this was the perfect hiking temperatures, and the fact that Abby could be with us, and enjoy the refreshing stream.  Not often you see and hear burbling water in the desert.

Coyote Canyon (40) Once back to the car, and driving out, we saw many more vehicles, some parked having picnics, another big rough jeepy tour thing with six folks hanging on for dear life as he dropped down into third crossing.  We wondered just how it might feel for those folks bouncing around in the back of the open jeep when they started up the steep bouldery road into Collins Valley. 

This park whetted our appetite for a lot more.  Like many others who come here, we looked at each other and said, “This place calls for at least a month in the winter” .  We want to come back and explore so much more.  Before settling in to our home, we drove around some of the neighborhoods around town.  There is a stillness here, even in town, that is so rare in the desert any more.  It  reminds me of the California desert I knew as a kid, before the sprawling thing happened to Lancaster and Palmdale and Palm Springs.  The buildings are low, there are no stop lights, no big box stores, very few stores at all, although we did find the ice cream store on the way back to camp. We loved the way homes here are scattered about the desert in a pleasing manner, that feels as though they emerged naturally.

It’s much different than the overgrown trashy desert rat kind of desert that is becoming the rule rather than the exception.  Looking out over the landscape here, we saw no trash, none anywhere.  From the quiet dirt roads around town, the desert vistas expand all around in all directions, clean and clear and silent.  It is all that I dream of when I dream of desert in winter.  It’s a place to soothe the soul and quiet the spirit.

Mar 23 Coyote CanyonAfter putting together a great supper with some of that pulled pork I made before we left, we enjoyed sitting out behind our rig on the edge of the park watching the light play on the mountains.  Our plans were to leave for the Tucson area Thursday morning, but that just seemed silly.  “What is the rush, I said? Why don’t we stay here one more night and take some time tomorrow to go find some of the places we couldn’t see today?” Mo was up for that idea, and we went to bed with the great feeling that the next day would be relaxed and fun, and we would have time to go find all those “points of interest” that we saw on the park map.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

13 thoughts on “Anza Borrego State Park and Coyote Canyon”

  1. Love seeing the color in the desert; I guess my timing has been off in the past and I'll have to time it better in the future so I can see the flowers blooming. And those critter sculptures look like my kind of place. Another destination to add to the ever-growing list.


  2. Glad to see that you picked up on the magic of Borrego Springs. Borrego's attraction is in it's simplicity. We did that Coyote Canyon road just over a month ago while there. We've been going to Borrego Springs for 4 years now for about a month each time & just never run out of things to see & do. This place is a nature lover's dream. Great Astronomy & Photo programs. Most folks like yourself come to Borrego Springs & thoroughly understand & enjoy the beauty to be found there. Good for you in seeking a quieter path.


  3. Well, a couple of folks notice that the link for Holiday Homes went to the Fudge Factory. Does that mean ice cream is more important than sleeping? Thank you Laurie and Donna, I fixed it. We are heading for Tucson now. See ya'll later.


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