How does this work?
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California, United States

Slot Canyon - Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness

Clamber through a slot canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness

provided by
Viewed 18138 times
    This guide contains photos
 (3 votes, 1 review)
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.8 miles / 4.5 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly
Overview: Slot Canyon is an unmaintained trail off a sand road, far from most visitor traffic. Here, flash floods formed a breathtaking slot canyon. At points, forty-foot high walls arch above a foot-wide canyon floor. The trail is of moderate difficulty if the points are viewed in the order depicted in the guide, but easy if followed in the opposite sequence (thus avoiding a very steep uphill climb from the floor of the canyon mouth). The canyon may also be accessed by off-road vehicle.

Tips: Given the extremely narrow nature of the canyon, the trail is not recommended for agoraphobes or hikers with large backpacks or a bulkier body mass. Although the trailhead is located off paved road, the sandy track is easy for family vehicles to cruise on. Wear shoes with appropriate traction. No dogs are permitted on the trail.

Directions: From Hwy 78 east, turn left on Buttes Pass Road. The sand track is very easy to miss, given that it doesn't bear a regular street sign. Drive 1 mile to a "Y" intersection. Stay to the left and drive 0.8 mi. The road makes a sharp turn to the left but stop and park here.

Points of Interest


Slot Cyn parking lot for non-4WD vehicles

Do not proceed further with a low clearance or 2WD vehicle; the actual trailhead is nearby.

Parking lot for 4WD vehicles


Trailhead to Slot Canyon

The trail can be a little hard to find. Entry is located about 20 ft west of the no-dog sign by the 4WD parking lot.

Flash floods

Although the desert is defined by aridity, intense rain events formed the landscape. Sudden pulses of water from monsoon events carve the stone and sand into ridge and canyon.

The slot canyon is a fascinating place to hike, but you would not want to be caught here during a desert cloudburst. Floodwaters carry a high sediment load within a small surface area; moving mud and tumbling boulders scrape away at the canyon bottom, depositing the debris in the wash below.

Canyon walls reveal banks undercut by the propulsive, abrasive mix of water and sediment. Look at the canyon floor, and you may see the current's pattern etched upon the sometimes-streambed.

Mud deposits

Water drains from the ridges above into the channel below. Do you see the layers of erosion?

Just as water erodes away weak layers of the canyon wall, it also deposits other material upon protuberances. Large, intricately patterned mud deposits are a frequent sight on the canyon walls.

Narrow corridor

As you proceed from the trailhead, the canyon walls further enclose the wash. Can you even see the sky above the carved canyon walls? Or just a boulder suspended 20' above your skull? The eroded formations present excellent photographic opportunities.

Broad valley floor

Eventually, the canyon widens into a wash. Shrubs appears on the sides; vegetation would have been uprooted by the flash floods within the slot canyon.

End of canyon

As the ridge terminates, look for footprints leading out of the wide, flat plain.

Multiple exits

To return to the parking lot, you can retrace your steps. Or you could turn at this fork and hike up a very steep hill for a different perspective from a ridgetop trail. To avoid the steep climb, one can hike this trail in the opposite sequence--the northern entry/exit is shorter and of a much more gentle gradient.

Turn left

After scaling the hill, enjoy the vista of the landscape below. Then turn left to hike back to the trailhead and parking lot.

ATVs and OHVs

The area is very popular with all-terrain and off-highway vehicles, many of which are engineered and rebuilt in ingenious and flamboyant ways. At the same time, numerous signs are posted around the area stating that the vehicles are not allowed to move across certain areas, which are closed for rehabilitation to fragile habitat.

Creosote bush

Creosote shrubs may be identified by the distinctive smell released by crushing its small leaves. Larrea tridentata was used by Native Americans in the Southwest as a treatment for many maladies, including sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, chicken pox, dysmenorrhea, and snakebite.
Pictures in this guide taken by: herpetologist
Slot Canyon was cool I wish Mother nature would have carved a much deeper and longer canyon. It says the canyon is 2.5 miles but the cool parts were more like 0.5 miles so that was kind of a let down considering we drove 2 hours to get there,but overall it was cool and very unique of a hike.Soon to be going to the Arizona's Canyons hope there a little longer of a hike.
Visited on Sep 23, 2012

by money_101 on Sep 23, 2012

Slot Canyon - Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness Trail Map

POIs: numbers | icons View large Trail Map

Have an iPhone or Android?

  • Map your route while you move
  • Add trip photos to your map instantly
  • Share trips right from your phone
  • Find and follow trips from other travelers

Available For:
iPhone | Android

Slot Canyon - Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness 3 Day Forecast

Extended Forecast
How To Get There
Get directions from: