Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA: Hellhole Canyon

Old cattle ranchers didn't call this desert canyon Hellhole Canyon for nothing. They used to herd cattle up the canyon to an oasis for 3 miles. It must've been tough for the cattle scrambling over granite boulders, but for day hikers it's a gem in the middle of the Colorado Desert.

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001- At the bottom of Highway S22 is the carpark and trailhead for Hellhole Canyon. Head west toward the San Yisidro Mountains on a single track trail through a desert forest of ocotillo and cholla cactus.

002-At the Y fork you have your choice of the riding and hiking trail or the normal hiking trail. Either way will take you up the canyon.

003- Still heading west, you’ll come to another Y fork. Either way will continue to lead up the canyon. Watch for roadrunners, sccurrying side-blotched lizards and hummingbirds along the route.

004- This is the first of several crossings over a sandy wash. As the canyon narrows, keep an eye out for desert bighorn sheep perched on the rocks on either side of the canyon.

005- This is the first stand of desert fan palms in the canyon. Keep heading west that involves some light rock hopping and scrambling.

006- The main stand of palms are dense and a much needed respite from the desert sun. A year-round creek breathes life in the desert for birds, reptiles and mammals alike. Great place to have lunch.


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 325.0



Location: 33.247453, -116.406064

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Location: 33.246152, -116.409416

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Location: 33.241147, -116.42952

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Location: 33.240017, -116.432955

13-MAR-10 12:17:18PM Scores of wildflowers come to life each spring depending on rain totals. This chuparosa is found along the trail throughout the hile


Location: 33.238139, -116.437011

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Location: 33.236906, -116.440585

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Chuparosa Bloom.jpg

Location: 33.413102, -116.652832

Ocotillo Bloom.jpg

Location: 33.348885, -116.356201

The spidly ocotillo is prevelent in Hellhole Canyon. It’s pretty red bloom comes to life for a brief time in the spring.


Location: 33.335118, -116.400146

Desert fan palms are a welcome respite in the Colorado Desert.

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