Lower Coyote Canyon - Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (CA)


What? :

Coyote Canyon is about 35 miles long canyon located in northwest of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in the Colorado Desert of Southern California. It is a popular destination for off-road driving, camping, and hiking as well as spring flower bloom viewing.

Lower Coyote Creek is the only perennial year-round stream on the eastern side of the Peninsula Ranges.


Overall, this drive was 15 miles long out and back and it took me with many stops for short walks and taking pictures about 2 hours.



Where? :

Located in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in the Colorado Desert of Southern California, about one-and-a-half-hour drive south of Palm Springs or two hours east of San Diego.

From Anza-Borrego State Park Visitor center drive to Borrego Springs circle, keep driving east on Palm Canyon drive and turn left into the first road, Di Giorgio Rd. Drive north for about 4.8 miles and you will reach the start of the dirt road leading into Coyote Canyon.

At this location you will see on your right few signs and Wildflower Viewing Area.

Google Map Link



When? :

The park is open year-round, but the summer month are extremely hot (~110-120f mid-day), I highly recommend visiting here during to colder month of the year.

November through February has highs in the 60-70s and lows in the 40s. April and May are already getting to 80s, and June starting to more than 100f.



Important note:

The deep section of this trail is closed between June 1st and September 30th to preserve the watering rights of the Desert Bighorn Sheep.



Due note 1: There is a gas service, stores, and many other facilities in Borrego Springs.


Due note 2: no matter if this is a short or long walk, make sure to have with you a lot of water and sunscreen.


Due note 3: This is a prime offroad 4x4 destination.

All roadways in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park-dirt, sandy wash, or paved are considered a road.

All vehicles must be highway legal per the California Vehicle Code and must remain on all designated roadways.

All Off-Road Vehicles are prohibited in the park. 


Due note 4: After rainstorms in the mountains to the west you can have situation of flash floods in main river washlands. Check the weather before driving into your offroad trip.


Due note 5: Few offroad and hiking tips:

·         Do not hike alone.

·         Tell someone about your trip plans.

·         There is no cell reception, I highly recommend to have gps communication system.

·         Carry a map and use it, Download Offline Maps and GPS Prior to Arrival.

·         In your car carry extra water, shovel, tools, flares, and blankets.

·         Check the road condition board at the visitor center before you start out.

·         If you offroad make sure you have good spare tire and repair tools and that you know how to replace a flat tire.



Due note 6: there is a large Campground in Borrego Palm Canyon, not so far from the visitor center.


Due note 7: Un like many other states parks the entire backcountry area of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is defined as a camping facility, free of charge.

You can camp overnight almost anywhere you want, as long as your car is not parked more than one length off the road, please follow BLM camping guidelines.


Due note 8: The small Borrego Springs town is located in the center of the Anza-Borrego Park and has few hotels.


Due note 9: Drones are prohibited in the airspace above the reserve.


Due note 10: Open fires, including campfires and barbecues are prohibited at Blair Valley Primitive Campground, Culp Valley Primitive Campground and any backcountry campsites and day-use parking areas.  Portable propane or gas stoves are permitted for cooking only within designated campsite and day-use areas.


Due note 11: Cell phone coverage is spotty or nonexistent when you are getting into the desert.


Due note 12: Dogs are welcome in the designated campgrounds, on designated roads where vehicles are allowed. They are not allowed in the backcountry, on trails, or in the wildflower fields.


Due note 13: The trail is mostly easy but not suited for conventional vehicles after about 3.5 miles due to soft sand, water crossings and a rocky climb.


Due note 14: Four-wheel drive and high clearance vehicle is necessary when driving into the far section of Lower Coyote Canyon.


Due note 15: The canyon trail is closed to vehicle traffic between Upper Willows and Middle Willows, you must turn back and exit at the same road you drove in


Due note 15: There is also upper canyon section but to you need to enter it from the west side, from Anza, CA, outside the park.



My thoughts:

If you're looking for a place to experience the beauty of the south California desert, then driving up Lower Coyote Canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is excellent 4x4 offroad destination during the cooler month of the year.

This is a prime destination for offroad long drive activities that can be combined with short hikes.



The Drive:

Juan Bautista de Anza first passed through the Borrego Valley using this route in 1774, on his first route-finding mission to the new Spanish settlements in California.

This canyon passing up and provide a relatively easy way to cross the high coastal range mountains.


You will start your dirt road drive where there is a large agricultural area on your left, after about half a mile the agricultural land ends and you are driving into the large desert dry wash area.

The road turn to the west into the direction of the canyon on the right side of the large alluvial fan.


After about 2.9 miles from your start, you will reach a small section called Desert Gardens on the right side of the road, this is an excellent point to stretch your leg with a short walk among the cacti and other local plants.

Short drive after this point you will reach the first riverbed crossing, this will be about 3.4 miles from starting point.

When I was here the road until this point was in very good condition and well maintained and all vehicles can drive this road and enjoy this area of the park.

This trail and creek crossing can change from year to year due to flash flooding.


Usually, the first crossing of the dry creek is not a problem for standard car, but this may be wet or deep send so make sure you can pass here.

Here you have primitive campsite where people can spend the night.


The road start get rougher and after 4.5 miles you will arrive to another creek crossing, you will see a large road opening on the left side just before the crossing.

When I was here (April 2023) this crossing has running water, feet deep and with a lot of large rocks. I learn that this section and the next 2 crossing has water year-round.


Do not try to drive here with regular car, you may stack on the rocks, to pass this you will need a 4-wheel-drive and high clearance vehicle.

When I was here a high clearance camper tried to pass and got stack on the rocks, another jeep had to pull it back.


Keep driving up the trail after this crossing and you will reach the gate.

The upper section of this trail is closed between June 1st and September 30th to preserve the watering rights of the Desert Bighorn Sheep.


After another short drive the trail turn left, and you will reach another creek crossing.

This point is about 5.2 miles from your starting point.

Check the water and mud condition when crossing here, give it some momentum when passing.


From this water crossing the trail climbing a relatively steep rocky section climbing up in a narrow creek to the pass. I read that this section can be bumpy but when I was here the road was in good condition.

You will arrive the pass after 6 miles from the trail start.


Here the view open, find an offroad place, park, get outside the car and enjoy the view to the west.

The large Collins Valley will be below you and in the far side of the valley you will see the tall Santa Rosa mountains range, where the PCT trail pass.

I saw in the map that you can drive here to the right in the direction of the Santa Caterina Spring, but it was almost sunset, and I want to drive into the valley.


After passing the high point, the trail changed onto a packed sandy surface, and it start short descends into Collins Valley.

The road reach the valley floor and here it is surrounded by relatively high vegetation, different from the more open arid desert landscape of the hills.


After 6.9 miles you will reach a marked trail junction, turning left will take you to Sheep Canyon Primitive Campground, I turn right here.

After a short drive in the valley (7.2 miles from start), you will see a small parking on the right side of the road, this is the nearest point to walk to the nearby palm trees.

This is a large spring is a major source of Coyote Canyon’s year-round water supply, all the creek near the hill is covered with tall vegetation and many palms tress, a real desert oasis.

The California fan palms are the only palm native to California and here you can find many large trees.

After a short walk on the trail, you will reach the palm trees.


I went back to my car and start with my ride back out.



The Lower Coyote Canyon offers number of hiking trails, starting from the road, and heading to the nearby mountains or valleys. I did not hike here so I can’t recommend on any hike.


Overall, this drive was 15 miles long out and back and it took me with many stops for short walks and taking pictures about 2 hours.









Additional Pictures: