Morteros Trail Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

This short gradual 0.6-mile round trip hike ascends to an area of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that was once inhabited by Kumeyaay Indians. The Kumeyaay left behind morteros, grinding bowls carved into large boulders along the trail. These Native Americans used the circular morteros over 2,000 years ago to grind local nuts and seeds into meal.

From the well-marked trailhead above Blair Valley, begin hiking southwest toward a gap in the hillside. In no time, the single track reaches a city of boulders on the right side of the pass. Several footpaths explore these boulders.

The main trail ends at a prominent obelisk-shaped rock. Morteros are carved into the flat boulder on the far side of the rock. Trace your way back amongst the boulders and hunt out other grinding bowls. When you have seen enough, return down the trail, enjoying a nice view over Little Blair Valley. To learn more about Native American life in the Anza-Borrego Desert, visit the nearby Pictograph Trail. No fee or permit is required to hike Morteros Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, so get out and enjoy.

Morteros Trail Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Morteros along the trail
Morteros Trail Little Blair Valley
Little Blair Valley from Morteros Trail

To get to the trailhead: From Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs, drive 5 miles southwest on Borrego Springs Road. Turn right on Route S3 (Yaqui Pass Road) and drive 7 miles south over the ridge to Tamarisk Grove. Turn right on Route 78, heading west for another seven miles to Route S2. Turn left and drive six miles southeast to Blair Valley. Turn left off the pavement and head east through Blair Valley Campground.

It is 3.7 miles over well-maintained dirt roads to the trailhead. There are campsites along the road, as well as a few side roads, so stick to the main channel. Drive 2.7 miles around the north edge of Blair Valley to a T-junction. Turn left, following the sign for Morteros and Pictograph Trail. The trailhead is one mile ahead on the right.

Trailhead address: Blair Valley, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Julian, CA 92036
Trailhead coordinates: 33.00895, -116.3784 (33° 00′ 32.2″N 116° 22′ 42.2″W)

Trail Map
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Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.

You may also view a regional map of surrounding California Desert trails and campgrounds.


Morteros Trail Anza-Borrego DesertMorteros Trail Anza-Borrego DesertMorteros Trail Anza-Borrego DesertMorteros Trail Anza-Borrego DesertMorteros Trail Anza-Borrego DesertMorteros Trail Anza-Borrego DesertMorteros Trail Anza-Borrego DesertMorteros Trail Anza-Borrego DesertMorteros Trail Anza-Borrego Desert

These photos were taken in March of 2011. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Anza-Borrego Desert Trail Pictograph Trail
This 1.8-mile hike visits rock paintings drawn by Kumeyaay Indians who lived in the Anza-Borrego Desert thousands of years ago.
Marshal South Cabin Trail Marshal South Home Trail
This 1.3-mile hike ascends to the ruins of an adobe cabin on Ghost Mountain (Yaquitepec) with great views above Blair Valley.
Anza-Borrego Desert Trail Rainbow Canyon Trail
This 2.2-mile adventure follows an undeveloped trail up a colorful canyon full of vibrant rock formations and desert plants.
Anza-Borrego Desert Trail Narrows Earth Trail
This 0.5-mile self-guided hike explores the geology of the park.
Anza-Borrego Desert Trail The Slot
This short hike descends through a narrow canyon beneath a natural rock span that is among the most photographed landmarks in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Anza-Borrego Desert California Trails 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.
California Desert Camping Anza-Borrego Desert Campgrounds
Four developed campgrounds, eight primitive campgrounds, and extensive roadside camping accommodate your visit to California's largest state park.
Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflowers Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Wildflowers
The desert bloom brings bursts of color to barrel cactus, beavertail cactus, ocotillo, and more.
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Tagged with · California State Parks · Free Trails · Julian · Morteros
Distance: 0.6 miles · Elevation change: 40 feet

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One Comment on Morteros Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

  1. Pat wrote:

    The photo at the end of the first row has the tag “puzzling depressions in one of the boulders.” These depressions are called “Cupules” and are considered to be one of the oldest forms of Rock Art.