Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – Part 2 including The Slot

March 9th ~ Borrego Springs, CA

Coyote Canyon

We had two goals today, explore Coyote Canyon and hike down into The Slot. 

Coyote Canyon

Another off-road adventure, but this one most of the year could be managed in a two-wheel drive up as far as Desert Gardens. We ventured a bit further up the road where a higher clearance was needed.

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This morning it was all about the cactus. I really wanted to see if any of them were in bloom, and we were fortunate to find several. But fair warning the Cholla cactus are wicked. I swear they leap out several feet to impale you with their sharp spines. I must have come too close and a mass about the size of a large fist adhered to my thigh. I let out a hoot and a holler and Tim came running to see if I was OK. He tried to be gentle, using a stick to pry the barbs out of my leg, but I’m betting my voice was heard from some distance.

Cholla Cactus

Cholla Cactus Bush

Close-up of Cholla Cactus spines

And in case I needed a reminder of who was king of the desert, later in the day I again got impaled on the other leg, near my ankle. Thankfully the thickness of my jeans and heavy socks helped that event be not as painful. And once again, I looked down and found two more small bundles – one on either side of my boots.

I must be a cactus magnet 😦

These things are just mean!

But enough moaning and groaning…

The normal progression is that the desert ground flowers bloom first and then a bit later the cactus show their colors. There were several different cactus that were starting to show blooms. With the number of buds we saw, I’m betting that they will be spectacular in a couple more weeks.

Beaver Tail Cactus

Beaver Tail Cactus

Beaver Tail Cactus bloom

Barrel Cactus

Barrel Cactus Blooms

Barrel Cactus Bloom close up

Ocotillo Cactus

Ocotillo Cactus

Ocotillo Branch


Ocotillo Bloom

We ventured further on up into the canyon and found Coyote River which runs year round.

Off roading on well packed sand roads

It is really more like a small creek, but we amused ourselves by taking off our shoes and wading upstream a ways on the sandy bottom. The water was cool initially, but soon felt warm as we adjusted to it.

Nice sandy bottom of the creek made for easy walking

The Slot

The Slot was not an easy place to find, as it is not well-marked, but thanks to the helpful ranger at the Visitor’s Center, we managed. The tip we got was to take Borrego Springs Road out-of-town (SE) until it comes to Highway 78. Set your trip odometer at this intersection before you turn left onto 78. Go exactly 1.4 miles and you will find a small dirt road (Buttes Pass) where you turn left. Stay on that road for two miles until you find the sign for The Slot. There is one fork in that road, stay to the left.

From the parking area, The Slot is directly down below. Your instincts would be to hike straight down.


Instead look to your right and you will see a trail that heads UPHILL. Trust me, this only goes up for a dozen or so steps, and then takes you to a decent trail that is much easier to navigate and will have you down below in no time.

The canyon quickly narrows and you find yourself inside a deep ravine with steep, rugged walls that tower overhead.

Tim in The Slot

And then it narrows further, with tight twists and bends that often required me to turn sideways. It is not colorful. I was reminded of mud covered concrete.

At one point we spotted a large rock, delicately balanced between the two sides, waiting for nature to eventually complete its journey.

The hike itself is about .8 miles from where you enter the canyon, until you come to a sandy road. I have read that you can continue on and this will eventually loop you back up to the parking spot, or turn around and walk back the way you came which is what we did.

To get even more of an idea of what it was like down in The Slot, please watch this short 40 second video that Tim recorded as we walked through one small section.

I thought this hike was one of the highlights and would recommend it to anyone in average condition.

Just a word of caution, you might want to make a small pile of rocks at the bottom of the trail where you enter the canyon that points to the trail back to the top where you parked. We somehow missed the uphill path near the end and over shot the correct way. After reading a few other posts, I found out we were not the only ones who had the same experience.

We went mid afternoon while there was still plenty of light. Make sure to bring some water and enjoy!

Carlee’s Place – If you are looking for a great burger or a decent meal while in Borrego Springs, please don’t overlook Carlee’s Place. Not overly impressive from the outside, but conveniently located right in the heart of town, on the round-a-bout (Christmas Circle). The atmosphere is cordial with a down-home western feel. We enjoyed our first meal so much we returned a second time over two days. They do take reservations and recommended during prime time.

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for once again learning new things from and about nature and how she adapts. The cactuses were prickly, yet magnificent as their delicate blooms started to show. That they can not only survive, but thrive in this hostile environment is noteworthy. The Slot was a joy to experience!

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
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40 Responses to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – Part 2 including The Slot

  1. Lisa Spissegger says:

    Hey guys – here’s a desert dweller trick. Bring a wide toothed comb with you on your treks. The comb removes cholla and other cactus easily. I bring one for my dogs when we venture out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Trish Hatcher says:


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Keng says:

    Another great post Joanne. Great tips about getting down and up the Slot. The park sure is stingy with their signage for the Slot. It’s almost as if they don’t want to encourage more traffic there.


  4. mike alesko says:

    For anyone who might think you see one cactus you’ve seen em all, your post is a great revelation. Beautiful.


  5. Mollie Hunt says:

    Reblogged this on Mollie Hunt: Crazy Cat Lady Mysteries and more and commented:
    The desert part of this wonderful travel blog looks so much like a place I lived for a short time in my early twenties. In fact it is about 150 miles away from my little home near Midway Well. I was also there in the spring and saw the amazing transformation that the sparse rain makes. Flowers everywhere!


  6. Terry says:

    Wonderful post and photos. Great video Tim. One thing about the cactus, if you are not watching you can kick one up on yourself if it is close or worse your partner can kick it up into you. Looks like a great time was had and wonderfully light crowds.


  7. I’ve driven by so many times and never made it to this park. I’m always on my way somewhere else. What a treat for you to be there during super bloom!

    I had no idea there was a slot canyon. It’s beautiful. Thanks for sharing your photos.


  8. mommermom says:

    We were there a few years ago and went down into the slot canyons. It was great. The desert blooms are so incredible and when I realized they were having a Super Bloom I tried to make reservations at Anza-Borrego Campground and they are booked solid- even in the middle of the week! We live close enough we could drive out for the day. We’ll see. Enjoy.


  9. What a fabulous place. Loved the shots of the flowers and cactus. I’m always amazed by the infinite variety in nature. And the hike in The Slot looks awesome. Tim’s video really made it real.


    • Alison, I have long thought that cactus in bloom were fascinating. I think we were a little early, but still enjoyed what we saw. Tim’s short clip was fun to share. It was really interesting being down in there and not easily described in words. The video helped bring it to life.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Jane Sturgeon says:

    Cracking shot of the Ocotillo cactus with the moon in the background. X


  11. I absolutely love this park and it seems like so few people have heard about it (at least up here in rainy Vancouver). The blooming cacti are so beautiful!


  12. Interesting write… amazing cactus flowers in the desert landscape! Thanks, Tim and Joanne. 🙂


  13. lulu says:

    It is amazing how many varieties of cactus there are. The same is true in Big Bend as what you are experiencing.


  14. Brenda Thompson says:

    Sure enjoyed the beautiful photos of the cacti, and video clip. You both are great examples of perseverance-and what can come to us if we stick to something and see it to the end, even if obstacles get in our way.


  15. hello tim and joanne its dennis the vizsla dog oh hay wow my dada and a kuple of his frends went to anza borrego on martch eleventeenth i gess maybe yoo just missd eetch other!!! they mostly just lukd at the skulptures neer the rode on akkownt of wun of his frends has a bad nee wot wuz bothring him but i bet dada wil go bak to chek owt that slot kanyun some time!!! maybe nekst winter wen it kools off agin!!! ha ha ok bye


    • Dennis, welcome to our blog! I am delighted to let you know that you are the first dog (that I know of anyway) who has visited our page and left a comment. I hope that your “dada” gets to return to visit the slot canyon. It was one of the highlights of our visit. His friend with the bad knee might not be able to manage the hike though.


  16. monalisa says:

    Another incredible post Joanne. Extraordinary tips about getting down and up the Slot. The recreation center beyond any doubt is parsimonious with their signage for the Slot. It’s practically as though they would prefer not to energize more movement there…


  17. Brad Nixon says:

    I’m delighted with your tour of A-B. And I’m grateful for the directions to the Slot. After going to A-B many times, I only recently learned it existed. Hoping to get there this month.


  18. Pingback: In the Slot … Canyon. Narrow is the Way. | Under Western Skies

  19. Brad Nixon says:

    Hi. I posted an account of our visit to The Slot, including a link to this post, since your directions are clear and worth having: Thanks again, Brad.


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