Anza Borrego Desert State Park / Mortero Wash
San Diego Desert Camping
Primitive desert car camping close to SD
Interstate 8 EAST from SD / exit Ocotillo. SD county road # S2, the south end near the State Park boundary. Gorgeous every season but summer. Great winter camping close to SoCal.
This dirt road is located in a desert wash area, which starts west – off the paved road S2. The signed white desert wash is a suitable drive for passenger cars (most years). But you best have 4×4 if the rain gets going good. Low riders should watch for the ridge lines – as they are naturally rockier places and could take out an oil pan of a mini SUV (at a high rate of speed).
The giant boulders garden at the far end of this route have nice views of the Imperial desert floor. Better from the top of the boulders too; numerous primitive camp sites are tucked into the coves, surrounding the big boulders.
No toilets; no shade; no water; minimal vegetation. At night the stars are heavenly, but you can see city lights from Calexico and Mexicali.
From this area you can hike or mountain bike up to the “old goat trestle” and numerous historic train tunnels @ Carrizo Gorge Goat Trestle (not to be confused w/ the wildflower destination called Carizo Plains in Kern Co). BRING A HARD COPY topographic MAP of this area, if you wish to explore past camp. Moderate hike, an all day adventure. Bring lunch and water!
SAN DIEGO Backcountry Map
this waterproof map has the entire State Park covered with all back roads, trailheads, campgrounds and railroad tracks
When you decide to stop the car, look around for the best spot. Park off the road way and preferably in a turn out or camp spot. Turn off the engine, get out of the automobile, stretch your legs, breathe, look, close your eyes – tight and breathe deeply, then open and look around you again. This particular place is special, you can just feel it. Walking around the boulder area, be cautious of snakes.
On the boulders – closely examine them, climb on them, get to the top; you will find (Native American) Indian grinding holes called mortars or morteros.
great side trip option: Across the paved road (SD County Road S2) on the opposite side of the valley is a nice hike to Sand Dollar Hill. (I’m sure this isn’t the real name). Dirt road leads up to a dirt parking area for hikers. Busy lil place sometimes. These desert dirt hills have wind caves and chunks of sand dollars scattered all over them. The real ocean floor way out here, east in the Anza SD desert… how cool is that?
great side trip option: Canon Sin Nombre is just up the road a piece, N on S2, on the EAST side of the road. Amazing viewpoint turn out, right on the highway, overlooking the impressive topography and badlands. If you have a high clearance SUV or any truck you can drive down into the sandy tight, rocky wash. It meets back up with another main wash way back there.
Tons to explore back here. Off roader should think Tread Lightly on this turf and primitive car campers should use a Leave No Trace approach. White sand, deep sand, caves, smoke trees, and the best slot canyon climbing & hiking this side of the Anza Borrego State Park.