Simply named The Slot, this narrow siltstone canyon provides one of the most exciting hikes in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This 0.8-mike trek is capped off with a passage beneath a gravity-defying rock span. There is only 100 feet of elevation loss on this short hike, but the memory will be much more profound.
There is no trail marker for The Slot. From the parking area, look for footprints leading down into the ravine below. Left of the trailhead, just to the right of a dirt road continuing east, there is a wide path that appears to descend into the canyon. This is not the way. The winding trail cliffs out above a dry falls in a side canyon above The Slot. The correct route is the narrow steep-looking track that drops right off the rim of the ravine, straight ahead from the parking area.
Slowly descend into the trench. The trail is steep, but not nearly as steep as it looks from above, dropping less than fifty feet. There are no more optical illusions from here, just eye-popping natural wonders.
Turn left and venture down to The Slot. The siltstone walls grow taller and closer together. A tenth of a mile from the start, the canyon becomes quite narrow. Hopefully you did not eat a big breakfast, because you will need to squeeze through course walls that are shoulder width apart, and less in places.
The shaded slot provides cool relief from the desert above. Progress through the narrows for 0.3 miles to the highlight of the trek, a slanted rock slab bridging a narrow gap in the canyon. This scepter-shaped block appears to have broken off one wall and come to a comfortable resting place between the two. The precarious feature could fall at any moment, but it remains lodged overhead, trapped in some loophole of the earth’s gravitational pull.
Not far below, the canyon widens and the trail meets the top of a jeep road. One option is to walk down this road a ways to a junction, and turn left to loop back to the start, adding over a mile to the hike. It is probably better to turn around when you meet the road and hike back up through the slot. The trail is enjoyable a second time (and several times more).
The back of the rock bridging The Slot
To the north of the parking area, a trail ascends to the 1,207-foot summit of West Butte in the Borrego Mountains. From the summit, one can hike west along a ridge to the dirt road below The Slot, and return to the trailhead through the canyon for a 3.5-mile loop. For more information on this variation of the hike, consult Jerry Schad’s Afoot & Afield San Diego County. No fee or permit is required to hike The Slot in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs, drive 11.5 miles southeast on Borrego Springs Road. Turn left on Route 78 East, drive 1.5 miles, and turn left (north) on a dirt road marked Buttes Pass. Drive one mile up this dirt road to a fork, and continue to the left up Borrego Mountain Wash. Go another mile to the parking area for The Slot. Low clearance vehicles should be able to drive all the way to the trailhead at the end of the sandy dirt road.
Trailhead address: Borrego Mountain Wash, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, CA 92004
Trailhead coordinates: 33.182132, -116.214176 (33° 10′ 55.67″N 116° 12′ 51.03″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
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Or view California Desert Hikes in a larger map
|Kenyon Overlook Trail|
This 1.15-mile loop sets out from Yaqui Pass to reach an incredible viewpoint across Mescal Bajada.
|Yaqui Well Trail|
This 1.6-mile out and back hike on a self-guided nature trail explores area botany and history, crossing a wash to reach a rare desert water source.
|Narrows Earth Trail|
This 0.5-mile self-guided hike explores the geology of the park.
|Calcite Mine Trail|
This 4.25-mile trek climbs 600 feet to a historic mine site, exploring exciting narrows along the way.
|Borrego Palm Canyon Trail|
This 3.25-mile loop visits a popular palm tree oasis in a canyon west of Borrego Springs.
|Hellhole Canyon Trail to Maidenhair Falls|
This 5.5-mile hike visits a 20-foot waterfall in a canyon near Borrego Springs, making it the perfect place to cool off on a hot day in the California Desert.
This 1.8-mile hike visits rock paintings drawn by Kumeyaay Indians who lived in the Anza-Borrego Desert thousands of years ago.
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|Rainbow Canyon Trail|
This 2.2-mile adventure follows an undeveloped trail up a colorful canyon full of vibrant rock formations and desert plants.
|Elephant Trees Trail|
This easy one-mile loop offers a lesson in desert botany including the rare elephant tree.
|Wind Caves Trail|
This 1.25-mile round trip hike climbs 250 feet to a sandstone formation that begs to be explored.
|Hikes in the California Desert|
Explore more trails in Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Mojave National Preserve.
|Grotto Canyon in Death Valley|
This 2 to 4 mile hike requires a bit of climbing and is a lesser-visited trail in Death Valley.
|Sidewinder Canyon in Death Valley|
This 4 to 7 mile hike visits narrow slot canyons full of pour-overs, carve outs, and dark passages that beg to be explored.
|Anza-Borrego Desert Campgrounds|
There are four developed campgrounds, eight primitive campgrounds, and extensive roadside camping to accommodate your visit to California’s largest state park.
|Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Wildflowers|
The desert bloom brings bursts of color to barrel cactus, beavertail cactus, ocotillo, and more.