On the far east side of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, there is a short hike to a fascinating destination overlooking the Carrizo Badlands. This 1.25-mile round trip hike climbs 250 feet to a sandstone formation with wind-eroded pockets that insist on being explored.
The hike begins with a quick ascent up the east side of Split Mountain Wash. Climb a series of rocky steps. With each gain, the view to the west and south expands over the sprawling badlands. This would be a scenic trail even if there were not exciting wind caves half a mile up the ridge.
A few single tracks split off up the undulating mountainside. They all end up at the same place, but try to stick to the most worn trail. After one last rise, the wind caves come into view. The pocketed sandstone is full of interesting alcoves, caves and tunnels. Crawl through, climb over, and investigate.
A spur trail heads northeast farther up Fish Creek Mountain, and another heads south a short distance to a small knoll with sweeping views over the wash and badlands. Below the wind caves to the west, a less-used single track descends to a small collection of sandstone caves. This track reunites with the main trail not far above the wash. Descend via this route to add a nice loop to the hike.
The wind caves are a wonderful destination for a short hike, and getting to Wind Caves Trail is an adventure of its own. Follow the directions below, and enjoy the impressive drive. Dogs are not permitted. No fee or permit is required, so get out and enjoy.
To get to the trailhead: From Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs, drive 11.5 miles southwest on Borrego Springs Road. Turn left on Route 78 East and drive 6.6 miles to the desert hamlet of Ocotillo Wells in Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area. Turn south on Split Mountain Road. About 8 miles from Route 78, and 2 1/4 miles past the Elephant Tree Trail Area, the pavement comes to and end. Turn right on a dirt road up the center of a sandy wash. Road conditions may vary, but the route is typically not entirely suitable for low clearance vehicles. After 1.4 miles, cross the turnoff for Fish Creek Campground, and continue up the road. The canyon narrows and steep stone walls rise up around the road, adding gravity to the drive up the split between Fish Creek Mountain and Vallecito Mountain. Drive another 2.75 to the trailhead, located on the left, on the inside of a curve in the road just after it exits the mountains. There is a sign for Wind Caves Trail at the trailhead.
Trailhead address: Fish Creek Wash, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, CA 92004
Trailhead coordinates: 32.991103, -116.112556 (32° 59′ 27.97″N 116° 06′ 45.20″W)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding California Desert trails and campgrounds.
|Elephant Trees Trail|
This easy one-mile loop offers a lesson in desert botany including the rare elephant tree.
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.
|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.
This 0.6-mile hike visits a village of boulders once occupied by Kumeyaay Indians who left behind Morteros, grinding bowls carved into the rock.
|Rainbow Canyon Trail|
This 2.2-mile adventure follows an undeveloped trail up a colorful canyon full of vibrant rock formations and desert plants.
|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.
|Gaviota Wind Caves near Santa Barbara|
This 2.5-mile hike just off the 101 Freeway visits an interesting formation of wind-carved caves with great ocean views.
|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.