Oriflamme Canyon

Julian, California (San Diego County)

Last Updated: 05/08/2019
4.3 / 5 ( 11 reviews )
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Length: 11.2 miles
Highest Elevation: 4152 feet
Duration: About 2 hours, 6 minutes
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: North
Nearest Town: Julian
Nearest Town w/ Services: Julian
Official Road Name:
Management Agency: California Department of Parks and Recreation
District: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles

Highlights

Highlight: Oriflamme Canyon
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.

Video

Weather

7 day forecast for Oriflamme Canyon

Route Information

Technical Rating:
( MODERATE - DIFFICULT )

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Waypoints

1. Oriflamme Canyon Trailhead (0 mi)
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.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 33.007548, -116.456364

Starting Point: San Diego

From San Diego, take I-8 east and then take Highway 79 north 23 miles to the town of Julian. Turn east on Highway 78 (Banner Road) and then turn south on S-2 (Great Southern Overland Route of 1849). Go south about 12 miles and the trail head is on the right just before mile marker 27. There is a sign for Oriflamme Canyon at the trailhead.

Camping

Dispersed

Trail Reviews (20)

Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
gate in banner is locked came up from anza borego only to have to turn around back into 106 desert due to locked gate at 78

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Gate at Banner open as of 5/18/21.

Author:
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Ran the trail from Banner yesterday as well as part of Rodriguez Spur. On the end that is in Anza Borrego there is currently a wildfire that has met up with the trail so we turned around. I am not sure how far it has gone but I would check the status of the fire before heading out there.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
The banner gate is open. Finally made stairway to heaven with rear locker

Author:
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
Gate locked at Banner on March 20 2021. Ran it a couple months ago and it was open.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
I typically run this trail from Banning to the S2, the opposite of the trail review you just read. It is an excellent introduction to the desert for folks that haven't ever been, unless they're squeamish about heights. Remember that the gate appears to be locked but is not. If you're having trouble, check with the folks at the Banner store across the road. Once past the gate you climb through old gold country. In this area before you encounter any active mines (there are posted warning signs) you can find abandoned mines that date back to the mid 1800's on some of the side trails. Many are not secured. There can be snow in this area in the dead of winter. As you bump along you are in BLM land, and you cross the Pacific Riding and Hiking trail before you descend into the Anza Borrego State Park. You'll pass the active mines which are fenced and gated, but the miners who work these mines do not appreciate it if you decide to stop outside their mines. Once past the mines, you'll enter an oak-strewn canyon with a nice stream. There are more abandoned mines along this area if you know where to look. Finally you begin the descent down Chariot Mountain. This trail has continued to degrade and is pretty much now rocky for much of the road. This is where the road is very steep for a short section, with a few switchbacks. The road is relatively wide for all but the largest off-roaders, but be warned that the view out the passenger windows going this direction of travel is seemingly STRAIGHT DOWN for hundreds of feet. This is a very historic road, having been constructed in the later part of the 1800's by the Mormon Battalion, as they forged trails across the desert for the immigrants that were headed to Los Angeles and San Diego from points back east. Note the sections of trail that you can see where the Battalion had to build the roadbed using the rocks in the area. You eventually get into Oriflamme Canyon, which has lots of dispersed camping and an active stream in the spring.

Author:
Status: Temporary Closure
Offroaded on:
As of 9/19 the trail is currently closed. The gate off SR 78 is locked. Didn't try to go around to the other end.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This trail was worth the 90 minute drive to get there. We came in from the south the first 1/4 of the trail was was soft sand and pretty flat. I stayed in 2WD through this part with no problem. Once you hit the round about (yea a no kidding round about in the desert) it turns to lose rock but was still able to use 2WD. Had to pull off trail as the climb began to let others coming from the North pass. This is where I had to lock in 4WD as I sank in the sand where I pulled off. The climb was pretty narrow in a lot of spots so its slow going on the way up and passing would not be possible. You can see a good way up the trail so keep an eye out for on coming rigs so you can pick you stop to pass. There is a spot about a mile from the top to pull off and get some great pictures. Once you make it to the top there is plenty of room to park and get more pictures. Going down is easy just a dirt road. It can get tricky because other trails criss cross so pay attention to the signs. At the 9.5ish mark there is stairway to heaven. I didn't attempt it because we only had one rig. At the end you may run into a closed gate it looks locked but it wasn't we went through and closed it back up. Note: I have seen other reviews and pictures with a huge boulder making for tight squeeze, but it was not there when we went through.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Okay, maybe not best trail for full size 2015 stock Silverado Z71 crew cab. Drove this from S-2 to Banner; wash was fun (softest part of trail), after "roundabout", the rocks started and seemed to never stop, nor the turns/switchbacks. Not sure of report that the boulder is gone..., cause, yep, it's still there (wasn't much room, but passible) and marks the last stress point. The crest shortly after was a nice break and great view, ridgeline was nice and Banner half seemed recently graded, easy decent to the 78.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Started in anza borrego side after stopping at box canyon historical marker on S2. Definitely recommend stopping if your a history buff. Temps were in high 90s. 03 montero with atw3 265/75r16s. Forgot to engage 4wd and immediately bogged down in sand wash after hard right turn at start. I really don't think 2wd would make this trail unless highly modified. Started out smooth but quickly quikly turned rocky and up. I'm glad e went this direction, because looking down the mountain we just climbed was intimidating. I only had a couple situations of hitting underbody - and I'm sure that that could have been avoided with better driving. A few obstacles created wheel lift and abs activating (poor man's locking diff). I was relieved that the rock climb was over as engine temps were climbing. The second half was cool. Stopped at an open mine but too chicken to check it out beyond the entrance. I was actually surprised to see all the recent history mine activity up there. You can see the radar dome on Mt Laguna. I'm not sure if you could connect to Laguna but I'd prefer that versus returning down in banner. Did not attempt stairway to heaven...

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
We took my stock wrangler JL to Oriflamme and it was a somewhat easy trail that we hit from the little town, opposite direction from how it’s listed here. We were hoping to get some gun time in at an outdoor shooting range, but found out it was closed. So we spent the day working the rocky trail and realized a bit too late that taking the jeep's freedom panels off while spending hours under the hot desert sun wasn't a smart idea, as it added to the fatigue of the day. The trail felt freshly graded for the first half of our route and as we enjoyed the easy ride, we passed a few folks taking a break from their attack on the stairway to heaven. Then we got to the ungraded, second half as we got higher up which was a good time, just a slow pace and a bit relentless. Nothing on this trail was too crazy and it had a few really great views. The squeeze wasn’t a problem either but I had a passenger giving me eyes on it while I worked the wheel. The trail at that section was skinny, so hopefully you don’t run into anyone trying to go the other direction at least at that section of trail, it would be a small pain to back up for either person if that happened. But all-in-all, it was a really fun day learning how to take the terrain at angles and getting familiar with how much my stock jeep wrangler can really handle. Thanks to TrailsOffroad for the info on the trail. (Skip to 1m:16s on my video to get to our start of this trail).

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Ran this trail from southeast to northwest in a 2003 Tundra on 33s with 4wd and open diffs. Probably should have aired down more for comfort than for traction. I was in first and 4Lo most of the time, again, more for comfort. You traverse a creek bed in the valley that's mostly river rock and then the climb up the mountain is basically a rock trail. About halfway in, when the trail turns north, it becomes a graded dirt road. There's some shade too. At the north entrance/exit there was a gate that looks official but the chain is just set loosely over a bolt. All things considered, it was a fun trail for friends and family. Could be a little challenging for beginners or anyone with 2wd. It was easy with 4wd. Bring extra water. Took us about 3 hours with a couple of stops.

Author:
Status: Not Reported
Offroaded on:
Rating:
The wife and I tried to enter from Banner, waypoint 13, today. There is now a Sheriff Dept sign before the gate stating Off-Road Vehicles Prohibited. Not sure if the same sign is posted at waypoint 1. Didn’t chance it as I do not need a ticket. Would love to travel this trail if it is truly legal to pass.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Great little trail. Didn’t think it was too hard. If you are coming from south to north it’s a lot of uphill driving with loose rocks, but never scary as there is more than enough room to drive comfortably. The stairway to heaven was definetly the highlight. The gate right from the exit onto the 78 was “locked”, which scared me at first after driving all that way, but a closer look revealed that it was dummy locked.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
No Squeeze! The bolder that was supposed to be on the left side of the trail at mile 5.3 was no more. But that aside, with 33-inch tires and a 3-inch lift, the trail really was no trouble at all. My only complaint (along with my passengers) was that the rocky first few miles of the trail got a bit old... A stock 4wd could do the trail if the driver was competent enough, but more difficult without sufficient clearance. Also stock road tires with thinner sidewalls would increase your chances of getting a puncture in all the rock gardens. Overall, it was a fun little trail with great views and enough of a challenge to keep you engaged!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This is a great trail for all levels from beginner to intermediate. It is rocky enough to be fun, even for someone with experience, but not technical so that a beginner can still do the run too. Note that the wheeler can make it into a loop and return to his starting point by heading back down Rodriguez Canyon. I did the trail today with my 07 JK (4" lift, 35" mud tires, 4.88 gears, front and back lockers), but I note that I also did it back in 2013 when my vehicle was stock including 4 season AWD tires. Although the trail is rocky, there is virtually zero chance of getting high-centered or slipping sideways into a rut on a turn. Also, there are almost no off-camber sections worth mentioning beyond 10 degrees here or there. I'll say that the trail does not require a 7 rating and I will make an appeal to the trailsoffroad mods to change it to a 5 at best. Finally, the trail indicated traverses both Oriflamme and Chariot Canyons and the title should be updated to reflect such.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
This is a good trail. I have driven it both directions with different Subaru groups and it's probably at the upper end of the challenge rating for most drivers but it is quite capable of being completed. Not a good trip for a solo driver, especially a newer driver due to the ruts and larger obstacle rocks, but it was worth the drive. Good views and a nice shady primitive camp spot towards the S-2 end of the trail.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
We took this trail from the northwest end outside of Julian heading southeast, on our way to Anza Borrego. It's a nice trail, but I have to disagree with the trailsoffroad.com rating of 5-7 out of 10. The majority of the trail is pretty easy, with no real challenges to speak of. I would give this trail a 2-4 out of 10 rating in terms of difficulty, other than the optional "Stairway to Heaven" which is maybe a 5 or 6 out of 10. The view from top of Stairway to Heaven is great, and very much worth the challenge to get up.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
My wife and I did this one solo vehicle in our stock 2017 JK Rubicon. No clearance issues with this vehicle. Good moderate trail. We took a route through a wash not described here, which was fun and had some fun articulation and break-over challenges. Awesome views as you climb up, very much worth the trip. However, do this trail before the summer months, it was over 100 degrees when we went in June.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
My wife and I did this one solo vehicle in our stock 2017 JK Rubicon. No clearance issues with this vehicle. Good moderate trail. We took a route through a wash not described here, which was fun and had some fun articulation and break-over challenges. Awesome views as you climb up, very much worth the trip. However, do this trail before the summer months, it was over 100 degrees when we went in June.

Questions & Answers (4)

Q: Hows camping along the trail? Any good spots? Looking for a place to disperse camp as all of Cleveland is closed to disperse camping through 2020.
–Josh Kim (10/11/2020)
–Josh Noesser (12/30/2020)
Q: Just revisiting the "squeeze" boulder discussion because it appears the Q&A below is dated. Can anyone confirm whether or not the boulder is still there?
–Justin (12/01/2019)
–Josh Noesser (03/04/2020)
Q: How difficult is the "squeeze" (waypoint 6) I want to do this trail and from the pictures it looks like the boulder is my only concern.
–Richard Torres (08/20/2018)
–dan8411 (07/22/2019)
–sdde4n (10/08/2018)
–Rob Thompson (09/30/2018)
Q: Is the trail narrow at times, will a pickup (Raptor) be able to pass without issues?
–Ben (01/31/2018)
–Roland (02/12/2018)

Writer Information

Brent Colasurdo

Mapping Crew - California

Brent's passion for outdoor adventures began with backpacking and mountain climbing while growing up in Portland, Oregon. Eventually, he realized that it was easier to drive the trails than walk them, and Brent's love of off-roading was born. Brent is now an (adopted) native of California. He can be found sullying the leather upholstery of his 2013 Range Rover Sport throughout the deserts and mountains of Southern California.
For individual use only, not to be shared.