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Slot Canyon - Anza-Borrego Desert State Wilderness

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

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Rating: 4 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.8 miles
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... more »

Tips:  Given the extremely narrow nature of the canyon, the trail is not recommended for agoraphobes or hikers with large backpacks or a... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Slot Cyn parking lot for non-4WD vehicles

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

2. Parking lot for 4WD vehicles

3. 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.

4. 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... More

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. End of canyon

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

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.