Pumpkin Patch Trail - Ocotillo Wells SVRA

Borrego Springs, California (Imperial County)
Last Updated: 03/07/2018
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Difficulty: 1-3
Length: 3.5 miles
Highest Elevation: 162 feet
Duration: About 45 minutes
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: North
Nearest Town: Borrego Springs
Nearest Town w/ Services: Borrego Springs
Official Road Name:
Management Agency: Ocotillo Wells SVRA
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Highlight: Pumpkin Patch Trail - Ocotillo Wells SVRA

Overlapping San Diego and Imperial Counties nestled between Anza Borrego Desert State Park and the Salton Sea is the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area; an 85,000-acre playground for off-road enthusiasts. Some of the popular attractions in the park are Pumpkin Patch, Tectonic Gorge, Truckhaven, the 4x4 Training Area, Badlands, Shell Reef, Devil's Slide, and Blowsand Hill among many others. Pumpkin Patch is an iconic geological site and a must-see while visiting Anza Borrego or Ocotillo Wells. Wind erosion has blown away the land's surface to reveal the unique pumpkin shaped concretions millions of years in the making.


Route Information

Technical Rating: (1-3)

Dirt road. Rutted, washes, or gulches. Water crossings up to 6" depth. Passable mud. Grades up to 10 degrees. Small rocks or holes. 4WD recommended but 2WD possible under good conditions and with adequate ground clearance and skill. No width problems for any normal vehicle. Vehicle passing spots frequently available if less than two vehicles wide.

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Pumpkin Patch Trail is a connector between East Bank Wash and Tule Wash. The terrain varies from hard packed and small rocks to soft deep sand, with small dirt mounds, dips, berms, and ruts. The trail starts off in a wide wash, narrows to a fire road, and continues relatively flat and straight through open desert until reaching a small group of hills, then down a mild grade slope. There is a network of dirt trails and washes that sprawl throughout the park. The main trails are marked with street signs at every intersection, and trail markers at every 1/10th mile. Please use caution while traveling through the park keeping mindful that other vehicles (such as dirt bikes, quads, and buggys) can be zipping through. Pumpkin Patch Trail is one of a variety of trails that lead to the Pumpkin Patch Stock 4wd vehicles and 2wd vehicles with high clearance should have no problems on this trail. As for AWD low clearance vehicles, the milder and flat terrain of alternate trails from S-22 freeway to Tule Wash may be preferred. The 2 options from S-22 Freeway are via Arroyo Salado to 5 Palms to Tule Wash or via Cross Over Trail to Tule Wash. Temperatures at the park can soar over 110 degrees in the summer and fall below freezing during the winter. There are also occasional thunderstorms and flash flooding. Always check the weather and prepare accordingly. Being in the desert during extreme heat can be unforgiving. Bring more than enough water to stay hydrated, and ensure your vehicle's cooling system is up to par. You may consider bringing a bottle of coolant and spare hoses or hose repair kits. Cell phone coverage in the park can be inconsistent. Have a backup plan in the event you are unable to call for an emergency.


1. Pumpkin Patch Trailhead

Running Pumpkin Patch trail from the south end starts from East Bank Wash. The trail begins on an extremely wide dirt track. The terrain is flat and comprised of hard pack and sandy sections.

2. Split (0.1 mi)

Where the trail splits here, stay to the wider path on the left to continue northwest and followed the trail markers. The smaller path to the right will lead northeast, narrows and winds through a deep sandy gulch with no trail markers. If you strayed into the gulch by mistake, turn around and return to wide trail section.

3. Lost Lizard (0.8 mi)

Keep to the left to continue northwest on Pumpkin Patch Trail. Lost Lizard trail travels northeast and ends at Tule Wash very close to where Pumpkin Patch Trail ends. If you prefer a slightly more challenging terrain, you may elect to take Lost Lizard from here or on the return trip from Tule Wash.

4. Rutted section (1 mi)

This rutted section can be easily navigated by any vehicle with clearance.

5. Dirt mounds (1.4 mi)

This is a fun wide open area to play around, surrounded by dirt mounds to climb over.

6. Textbook Trail (1.7 mi)

Continue northeast on Pumpkin Patch Trail. Textbook Trail travels southwest back to East Bank Wash.

7. Roller Coaster (2.3 mi)

Roller coaster may be an overstatement but this is sill a fun section of the trail comprised of a group of small hills that offer mild climbs, drops, and tight turns. Stock 4wd vehicles and 2wd vehicles with clearance should have no problems here. I would not recommend this for 2wd or AWD vehicles with low clearance unless you don't mind to risk scraping your bumpers or undecarriage.

8. Valley of Concretions (2.8 mi)

Here you will see the hills scattered with roundish shaped concretions in their "range free" habitat. This is an ideal spot to take photos of these unique geological features in their natural setting with no fence enclosures. Complements of the Colorado River, these sandstone sculptures started with a seed over four million years ago and over time developed cemented layers under pressure and dry heat. Wind erosion blew away the softer sediments to reveal the peculiar shaped rocks we see today.

9. Pumpkin Patch Parking Area (3.1 mi)

You have arrived! Take a break under the shade ramada and enjoy lunch on the picnic table. If you've been holding your bowels, taking advantage of the vaulted toilets may be your priority. There is no running water here so hopefully you bought your sanitary wipes or antibac gel.

10. Pumpkin Patch Displays (3.2 mi)

The Pumpkin Patch is enclosed in a fence area to protect the area from vehicular traffic, but there is an opening in the gate that you can duck through to enter the area for a closer look. Three interpretive displays are featured here to provide the history and geological facts.

11. Pumpkin Patch (3.2 mi)

Linus may not find the Great Pumpkin here, but would definitely find this place to be very interesting. Take a stroll through the Pumpkin Patch and get up close and personal with these unique geological rock sculptures.

12. Tule Wash (3.3 mi)

The north end of Pumpkin Patch Trail connects to Tule Wash. If you are going back to East Bank Wash and want to try a different trail, you may consider to take Lost Lizard which connects with Pumpkin Patch towards the south end. It has more "roller coaster" sections that are a slightly more aggressive than Pumpkin Patch if that's what you enjoy. If you're done for the day and ready to reach asphalt, the closest paved road is the S-22 Borrego Salton Seaway. To get there you have 2 options. To stay within Ocotillo Wells SVRA, take Tule Wash east to Cross Over Trail then head north to S-22. This would be the easier and preferred option especially if traveling at night as you can follow the reflective trail markers and street signs. The other option will take you west on Tule Wash into Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Once you enter Anza Borrego, there are no trail markers or street signs. There are small sign posts that indicate directions to certain points of interest. Looking for these sign posts during the day is challenging enough let alone a night. Unless you're traveling during daylight, familiar with the area, or equipped with a GPS device that covers the unpaved trails, then the first option is suggested . Please also note that only street legal vehicles are allowed into Anza Borrego, so no dirt bikes, quads, or dune buggies. If you opt to go into Anza Borrego, continue west on Tule Wash until you reach the fork that leads southwest to Cut Across Trail or northwest to 5 Palms. Take the northwest trail to 5 Palms. From 5 Palms continue north to Arroyo Salado wash. There is no signage, but where the trail from 5 Palms ends into a wide wash area, that is Arroyo Salado. Once you reach Arroyo Salado wash, turn left and head northwest, pass through the Arroyo Salado campground and you will reach S-22 on the right (north) side.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 33.196030, -116.093660
From Highway 78, exit at the Ocotillo Wells Ranger Station/Discovery Center (5172 Highway 78, Borrego Springs, CA 92004). After you exit the highway, continue north for a short distance until you reach Quarry Road. You may want air down your vehicle here as you will be travelling on unpaved roads. Turn right and head east on Quarry Road 1 mile to Shell Reef Expressway. Continue northeast on Shell Reef Expressway for about 4 miles until you reach East Bank Wash. Turn left and head northwest on East Bank Wash for 3/4 miles and look for Pumpkin Patch Trail on the right (north) side of the road.


In the area between S-22, Cross Over Trail, and Tectonic Gorge, there are a total 11 shade ramadas with picnic tables and fire pits, and 2 vaulted toilets. Aside from this, it's a wide open area for primitive camping. The area is accessible to RVs and trailers. Camping is free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Fires are allowed within your camp area, in a stone surrounded pit or metal container. Pets are welcome but must be on a leash at all times. Possessing or discharging of firearms within the park is unlawful. Other developed campgrounds within Ocotillo Wells SVRA are at 4x4 Obstacle Road, The Cove, Main Street, Quarry Road, Holmes Camp, County Line Road, Holly Road, Hidden Valley, and Benson Lake Loop. These are all primitive camp areas with no hookups. Coin operated showers are available at Holmes Camp, and by the Discovery Center. There are also showers at the Main Street Event Center, however I believe it may only be open while the Event Center is in use. The Event Center is available for rent and would be ideal if you are planning a large gathering. Arroyo Salado campground offers dry camping as well. It is located off the S-22 freeway in the Anza Borrego State Park and leads to the Pumpkin Patch via Arroyo Salado Wash to 5 Palms to Tule Wash. Please note however that only highway legal vehicles are allowed in Anza Borrego State Park, so no off-road toys. If you are looking for camping with full hookups in the Ocotillo Wells area, Blu-in RV Park is a place to consider. There are also more full hookup options if you travel west into Anza Borrego or east to Salton Sea.
Camping: Pumpkin Patch Trail - Ocotillo Wells SVRA

Writer Information

Zulu Juliet

Mapping Crew - California
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I am a southern California native and an outdoors wanderer with a passion for camping, exploring new trails, and seeking interesting sites that are only accessible off paved roads. While traveling to remote areas presents unique challenges and risk, finding solutions and adapting to unforeseen crisis is part of my enjoyment. Perhaps my stint in the scouts and marines have helped prepare me for this endeavor. Every trip is a learning experience, as I test myself, my gear, and my rig. My mantras are, Build, break, fix, repeat!" and "We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.". Since my kids are grown and off to college, I'm able to get out more often. Overlanding is how I roll, with occasional "mild" rock crawling. My bucket list trip is a Pan American expedition from Alaska to Argentina. In the meantime, I've been roaming the deserts and mountains of SoCal, Baja, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Joining TrailsOffroad was an inevitable decision, and I look forward to contributing to this platform.


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