Ocotillo Wells is part of the much larger “Anza-Borrego Desert State Park”. It was set aside for off-road vehicle recreation. It is a great place to experience the solitude of the beautiful desert, gaze at the stars or go wild with your 4-wheel drive SUV, ATV or dirt bike.
The park is a long drive from LA and Orange Counties, but closer to San Diego and Palm Springs.
You probably want to camp for the night. Depending on the weather, you can make it as casual or as professional as you like. My son and I used to sleep in the back of my SUV – with the seats pulled down. It does get cold at night, so make sure you have good sleeping bags or thick blankets.
Three camping areas are available with shades, toilets and fire rings. But you are not limited to the camping areas. You can camp anywhere you like – just be weary of possible riders around you. There are no fees for camping or using the SVRA. Most campgrounds are accessible by RVs.
Tip: Before you enter the SVRA (from Highway 78), keep going until you find the ranger station in the town of Ocotillo Wells. You can pick maps, self-guided tour information and tips from the rangers and you can pick up some supplies from town.
Once you get your maps and stake out a camping place, now you are ready for the fun. Explore the many rock formations and sand dunes. Stay away from protected areas. Some areas are protected to allow the various native plants and animals to recover and thrive. While other areas are protected because of archeological finds.
Most people don't own their own equipment. There are many ATV rental shops close to the park.
You can try the highly rated San Diego Motor Sport Rentals - 5965 US Hwy. 78 - Ocotillo Wells, Borrego 92004 - (760) 767-4020.
Also nearby Quad Shop - 6001 CA-78, Borrego Springs, CA 92004 - (760) 238-3839
It is highly recommended that you call ahead and reserve your ATVs.
Some of the most popular trails and formations:
This is probably the biggest sand dune in the area. It is very popular with all kinds of vehicles. I was able to drive my Isuzu Rodeo SUV up and down the hill and I have seen a lot of dirt bikes and ATVs.
Experience the thrill of sliding down a 200 foot-high hill or try to climb the 200’ using your dirt bike or ATV. Many try, but few succeed.
Tip: Because of the sand dunes and valleys, your vehicle might become invisible to other riders around you. You must mount a flag or a whip to make sure you will remain visible from a long distance.
Looking at it now, it is hard to believe that this area used to be under sea level about 40 million years ago. Park under the reef and go exploring. You will find shells and pieces of the reef.
The rangers ask that you do not ride your vehicles on and around this formation.
San Felipe Wash (and others):
You can also have the time of your life riding along the main washes. San Felipe Wash runs all the way from the west end of the park back to highway 78. You can go under the highway and up to a store and restaurant. You can speed up a little bit along the wash because it is mainly open and flat, but watch out for the rocks and driftwood. Stay away from the wash on rainy days.
Tip: There is no water available in the area. Bring plenty with you, especially on warm days.
Location:5172 Highway 78
Borrego Springs CA
(760) 767-5391 (Don't hesitate to call for help)
More information at: http://ohv.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1217
Even more at: http://www.dirtopia.com/wiki/Ocotillo_Wells_OHV_Area.
Books about adventures in California:
- Anza-borrego Desert Region: A Guide to State Park & Adjacent Areas of the Western Colorado Desert
- Fodor's Southern California 2009: with Central Coast, Yosemite, Los Angeles, and San Diego (Fodor's Gold Guides)
- Southern California SUV Trails: A Rough-road Guide to Thirty-two Interesting Four-wheeling
- Excursions in the Western Mojave Desert
- Where to Go Really 4 Wheeling in California