|Highest Elevation:||4152 feet|
|Duration:||About 2 hours 6 minutes|
|Shape of Trail:||Straight Through|
|Best Direction to Travel:||North|
|Nearest Town w/ Services:||Julian|
|Official Road Name:|
|Management Agency:||Anza-Borrego Desert State Park|
Situated in the southwest corner of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Oriflamme Canyon Trail runs up from the hot and dry Colorado Desert into the more moderate climate of the Laguna Mountains. The trail was initially used as a mountain pass by the Native Americans, and the Spanish, Mexicans, and American settlers have all used the route over the years. It offers beautiful, remote scenery with a wide variety of topography along the route. Today the trail is a somewhat lesser-known destination for off-roaders looking for a challenging and scenic adventure.
Rocks frequent and large, 12" and may exceed hub height. Holes frequent or deep (12"). Shelves to 9". Mud 8" deep and may be present on uphill sections. Grades to 25 degrees and sidehill to 30 degrees. Water crossings to 18" and may have strong currents. 1-1/2 vehicles wide. 4WD required. Driver experience helpful.Read more about our rating system
The trailhead is clearly marked off state route S-2. There's a nice flat area to air down and get ready to hit the trail.
Turn right (north) to continue through to Oriflamme Canyon. If you follow the trail straight here you'll hit a private ranch blocked by a closed gate. Some maps show this as a connector trail going through the ranch, but that route is blocked off.
This is where the blocked-off trail from the private ranch meets up with the Oriflamme Canyon trail.
Here you'll find that rare creature of desert backcountry travel -- the off-road roundabout. Veering right (NW) on the roundabout takes you to Rodriguez Canyon Trail. Do some donuts around the roundabout then veer left (SW) to proceed up through Oriflamme Canyon.
A short side trail down the canyon goes to a primitive campsite next to an ephemeral creek. Don't expect to see water though, the creek only runs after very heavy rains.
Perched on the side of a cliff, the trail runs up the hills toward the Laguna Mountains. A boulder on the trail presents a very tight squeeze. Black marks on the rock wall on the uphill side of the trail indicate some vehicles have not quite squeaked through unscathed. I happen to know, through field experimentation, that the gap is approximately 2 mm wider than a 2013 Range Rover Sport.
The trail continues to wind up the mountains through steep, rutted switchbacks. You eventually reach something like a summit. A trail splits off to the left (SW). According to the posted sign, it's not a through road. Stay right, heading in a general westerly direction, and continue on.
A trail connects from the left (southwest). This is also an intersection with the Pacific Crest Hiking Trail.
An ephemeral creek crosses the trail. I happened to be there after a rare bout of heavy rains.
On the north side of the trail, drivers can test their rigs on the Stairway to Heaven. This optional obstacle is a steep climb straight up a hill alongside the main trail. It's an up-and-back spur — at the top there's nothing but a turnaround and a great view. The hill is extremely steep, especially for the last 10 yards. It's also deeply rutted with large embedded boulders and off camber sections that present a tipping hazard during the climb. For added fun, visit after a period of rare desert rainstorms, which turn the incline into slick wet clay. Some combination of big tires, high clearance, good suspension travel, and lockers/traction systems are needed to get to the top. Be sure to get out and walk the hill before attempting.
A side trail splits off to the left (west). Stay right and continue heading north.
Rodriguez Canyon Trail drops in from the east. Follow the trail straight, continuing north.
If you were running this trail north to south, starting near Banner, you would run into this gate shortly after the trailhead. The sign on the gate reads "LOCKED GATE AHEAD." Having come from the opposite direction, I happened to know that there was nothing of the sort ahead. Not sure of the gate's function, but it's something to be aware of. In any event, the gate was unlocked and passable.
A short distance from the duplicitous gate, the trail drops into Banner, CA, a hole-in-the-wall town on Highway 78.