The Slot Canyon Narrows hike in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park California Slot Canyon Anza Borrego

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. This short hike has just 100 feet of elevation loss, but the memory will be much more profound.

The Slot lacks a defined trail marker. 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, 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.

The Slot Trail Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
The Slot

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 Slot Trail Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
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.

No permit is required to hike The Slot in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. However, a day use fee is now charged to park in the Slot Canyon parking area (open sunrise to sunset). The parking fee is $10 per vehicle (or $9 for seniors) so get out and enjoy (Prices as of 2022).

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: 33.18213, -116.21417 (33° 10′ 55.7″N 116° 12′ 51″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.


The Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego DesertThe Slot Anza-Borrego Desert

These photos were taken in March of 2011. Click to enlarge.
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Tagged with · Borrego Springs · California State Parks · Desert Canyons
Distance: 0.8 miles · Elevation change: 100 feet

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22 Comments on The Slot in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

  1. […] to big and not suitable for most back roads. But we were able to go explore an area called “The Slot”.  It’s a short hike but very interesting as you descend into a slot canyon which narrows […]

  2. […] #4: The Slot.  Simply titled “The Slot”, this is really more of an exploration than a trail.  From the parking area, you can scramble down into the badlands.  Turn left, and you’ll soon find yourself in a narrow (less than 3-foot-wide (1-meter-wide) in some places) canyon.  It’s cool, and especially fun for children who enjoy finding new places.  For other tight squeezes, there are several side canyons.  The entre hike can be less than 1 mile (1.6 km), but it’s well worth the drive to it.  I haven’t written about this hike yet, but this link has good directions to The Slot parking area and trail information. […]

  3. […] The Slot, Split Mountain, Wind Caves, Elephants Knees, Cactus Loop, Borrego Springs Metal Sculptures, Salton […]

  4. […] For more information on hiking The Slot, visit […]

  5. […] spend a couple days with us as well.  We explored slot canyon and the wind caves.  The second week has seen some crazy rain for the area.  This area of the […]

  6. […] Easy hike, but a bit difficult to get the baby through some tight squeezes.  We ended up carrying her in arms through most of it since she couldn’t fit through in the baby carrier.  We had to ‘pass the baby’ through in some spots!  BUT, man, it was worth it.  A walking toddler could do this hike with a little help.  It took us about 30 minutes to do the whole thing.  This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.  Read more about The Slot here. […]

  7. […] Who knew there was a slot canyon this close to the metropolises of LA & SD?! Seriously, this thing rivals canyons I’ve hiked in Arizona and Utah. An easy .8 mi shaded stroll, and oh-so photogenic. Only a 25 minute/15 mile drive from the center of Borrego Springs. Detailed driving & trailhead directions here. […]

  8. […] You can find more information about the Slot hike from to help with your trip planning […]

  9. Brynda wrote:

    Is this hike suitable for elderly people who are mobile but slow – walk with a cane ?

    • Dale Matsuno wrote:

      Is this too difficult for senior citizens?

    • Derek wrote:

      I think the hike would not be so suitable for canes. I was there this weekend, and although a great little hike, it can be very sandy in some spots, a few little tight spots, and a little climbing (very little). It seems that there would be the opportunity to slip with the cane in my opinion.

  10. Yvonne wrote:

    I want to plan a trip to your state park the weekend of October 14-15, 2017 and wanted advise on what is the best time to start a hike from the Hellhole Canyon to Maidehair Falls? If we choose not to camp at the anza-Borrego campgrounds, is there parking available where we can park prior to starting our hike?

  11. Consulting Writer wrote:

    Is Borrego Wash difficult to drive with front wheel drive? Or can it make it to the slot parking?

  12. Amanda wrote:

    What type of vehicle did you have when you visited?

  13. […] you plan on hiking in Slot Canyon, here’s a great hiking resource for what to expect. It explains in detail how to get into the canyon, as well as your options for […]

  14. Jess wrote:

    The trail access information for the slot in this article is incorrect. A proper trail head with a more gentle descent has been built off the wider trail at the right of the parking area. Follow the marked signs to the trail marker. Do not take the steep route down through the parking lot. There are some caution signs posts now but we did it anyway based on the advice in this article, which was a mistake!

  15. Jennifer Underwood wrote:

    The Slot is no longer free. Because of COVID the area has seen a huge increase in visitors. The State now charges $10 and they have a staffed checkpoint set up to make sure you pay.

  16. Shane wrote:

    No Dog are allowed on this trail. It would have been nice to know that BEFORE driving two hours to get there! Really important type info. And what jerks won’t allow a dog on a hiking trail?

  17. Anonymous wrote:

    This article is incorrect about a trail after the slot looping back to the trail head via a jeep trail to the left upon exiting the slot. I tried this and ended up getting lost and ended up calling 911 to get rescued. This so called long way back to the trailhead is complicated since the unmarked jeep trail branches a lot. I ran out of water and nearly died since I was only expecting an extra mile per this article. Thank goodness I eventually got to a spot with cell service. Whatever you do, please just turn around and back track through the slot to get back to the trailhead. Venturing onto the jeep trails at the end of the slot is not worth the risk of getting lost. The slot was amazing, I just wished I had not tried taking the jeep trail back to my car. Author, please delete that information about that alternate way back to the car after the slot so that folks know to simply backtrack out.

    • RHPDaddy wrote:

      The loop using the Jeep trail and turning left does exist and is a reasonable option.

  18. John wrote:

    The Slot Hike is now a day use area. The day use pass is $10.00.

  19. […] for a bit more adventure? Slip out of the golf shoes and check out Slot Canyon. Just off the main drag, Slot Canyon is a staple of Anza-Borrego explorers. Or, for those with […]