Anza Borrego is a vast state park on the Eastern side of San Diego County. Best known for all its rusted metal sculptures that dot the land. It’s also home to our favorite kids’ hike in all of California. The Slot Trail.
See The Full Detailed Video Below
The Slot Canyon Visiting Information
- GPS coordinates:
- 33.159020, -116.218807 (“Buttes Pass” dirt road to turn into from the hwy)
- 33.181994, -116.214106 (Parking lot for the trail)
- Be sure to download the map to use offline before heading out just in case there aren’t any cell phone signals in the area.
- Dates & Hours:
- Slot Canyon Trail parking lot opens 1 hour before sunrise to 1 hour after sunset.
- $10 Day Use Fee
- You do not need to pay this fee if you are camping at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
- How much we spent during our visit:
- Total: $10
- Day Use Fee
- Total: $10
- Dirt lot.
- Hiking the slot canyon.
- Time spent:
- 1 hour
- Places to eat:
- Big Horn Burgers & Shakes (221 Palm Canyon Dr Ste 956, Borrego Springs, CA 92004) – 16.4 miles away
- Pet allowed:
- Stroller friendly:
- No, best to bring a baby carrier if you have younger kids.
- Yes, vaulted toilets.
- What we observed:
- Try to visit during the spring or fall. It can get really hot during the summer months and be sure to check the weather before you go.
- The lot is not large so we recommend arriving early to get a parking spot, avoid the crowds since the slot canyon is narrow and avoid the afternoon heat.
- The dirt road to the trail can easily be missed. Look for a “Buttes Pass” sign. Here are the coordinates for that turn (33.159020, -116.218807). The Buttes Pass Road is about 1.8 miles to get to the trail. It is all dirt and quite bumpy. 2 wheel drive cars can make it down this road.
- You can pay at the self registration box. Best to bring exact change and a pen to fill out the envelope. They do have the option to pay by phone using a QR code but cellular signal was spotty.
- On the trail
- We almost went the wrong way for the hike. The slot canyon was much closer than we expected. You can refer to our YouTube video below on how to get there.
- A few areas of the slot canyons were a tight squeeze for the adults. We don’t recommend having a large backpack. The kids (ages 3-8) had no problem getting through it. They were zooming through the canyons much faster than the adults. We suggest having an adult in the front because there is an area where it drops and you will need to scale down some rocks to continue the hike.
- The full loop hike is about 2.3 miles. We did not do the full hike. We turned around at the end of the slot canyon which was about a mile round trip to our car.
- We don’t recommend exploring during rainy conditions due to flash flooding.
things to bring
- Check the weather before you go. The weather can be changeable; layered clothing and good traction closed toe shoes are recommended.
- What we packed:
- Cash, pen, food, snacks, lots of water, lip sunscreen, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, hiking boots, trekking poles, phone charger, Suds2go cap, wet wipes, disposable urinal bags and solid/liquid portable toilet bag.
- You can get the links to all our travel essentials here: Travel Essentials | Califoreigners
- Where we stayed:
- Borrego Palm Canyon Campground
- Other places to visit in the county:
- Recommended itinerary:
- Slot Canyon Trail
- Cactus Loop Trail (We didn’t have time to make a stop here)
- Borrego Palm Canyon Trail
- Galleta Meadows Dragon Sculptures
- Pls pack in, pack out and leave no trace.
- Follow us on Instagram @thecaliforeigners, Youtube @Califoreigners, TikTok @Califoreigners
What We Said In Our The Slot Canyon Video
First off, All trails will tell you that the slot trail is a 2.3-mile loop, but you can quickly see some amazing sections of the slot canyon within the first quarter mile of the hike. We only walked half a mile from our cars and felt completely satisfied. Happy enough to turn around and go back through the canyon to the car without a ton of head-over-sun exposure If you’re quick, it’ll only take you 20-30 minutes.
Getting to the trail from Highway 78 is the most intimidating part of the hike cause you can easily miss the dirt road turn-off. Just be sure to keep a lookout for the Buttes Pass Signage on the side of the road. From there, it’s 2 miles down a hard-packed dirt road to the trails parking lot and restroom. We’ve included all the important visitor information for this trail in a blog post linked in the description. So be sure to check it out for the exact directions. For the most part. It’s a very easy drive, and it shouldn’t be an issue at all for most cars and trucks. That being said, whenever you’re heading out into the desert, always let someone know where you’re going, download or print any maps you might need, and bring lots of water.
Near the restroom is the permit station, where you’ll need to pay the $10 State Park Day Use Fee. It’s an honors system for sure, but please don’t skimp on paying the fee. The money goes towards building the infrastructure to maintain these amazing places and nice things. The trail starts at a small hill. Once you’re on top, you can see the slot canyon to your left and the simple path down into it. Once you’re at the basin, turn left and start following it down. Within minutes the trail quickly starts to impress.
Hiking The Slot Trail With Kids
All our kids’ ages 3-8, were all equally in love with the hike. They happily hiked through the slot canyon, with us constantly having to ask them to slow down or come back. In the end, us parents were the ones that had to convince the kids it was time to turn around and head back to the cars. To the kids, hiking narrows, chasing waterfalls, or seeing super blooms weren’t nearly as fun as the enjoyment they got hiking through the slot trail, which was easily the shortest hike from the car, we’ve experienced with such a memorable payoff.
I will also note that a few of the sections get a little tight, and some light scrambling is required to get through a few areas. But it all adds to the experience.
Similar Options That Might Interest You
Here are some similar options you might enjoy.
Lytle Creek River & Bonita Falls (Lytle Creek, CA)
Belly Of The Dragon (Kanab, UT)
See you again with more around California with kids.
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