Calcite Mine Trail

Salton City, California (San Diego County)

Last Updated: 04/25/2018
4.2 / 5 ( 6 reviews )
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Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 2-4
Length: 1.9 miles
Highest Elevation: 909 feet
Duration: About 1 hour, 30 minutes
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Salton City
Nearest Town w/ Services: Salton City
Official Road Name: Calcite Mine
Management Agency: Anza-Borrega Desert State Park
District: Anza-Borrega Desert State Park


Highlight: Calcite Mine Trail
The Calcite Mine is a historic landmark and off-road trail in the Truckhaven Hills in the desert of Anza Borrego State Park located in the southeast corner of California. Because of the uniqueness of the mine, many people stop here when doing overland trips through the deserts of Southern California to take in the beauty of the area and the history. Getting to the mine is a moderate 4x4 trail with several obstacles that require a person to pick the appropriate line for their vehicle. This is a very short off-road run, perfect for a night run or a quick day trip if either dispersed camping or driving through the area. There are also several slot canyons in the area surrounding the Calcite Mine that make for a great hike.


Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Stock SUV with High Clearance and 4 Low
The trail has several hill climbs up to 45 degrees in spots and one waterfall that is roughly 3 feet tall.

Technical Rating

Dirt and/or rocky road. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 8" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 9" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 12" inches. Good tire placement likely. Can be steep but with good traction.
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Community Consensus

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***Unconfirmed but likely - the trail has been graded and is now easy. We lowered the rating till we can confirm this so there is still a small chance of an obstacle on the trail*** Several obstacles are on this trail, including some rock crawling, off-camber sections, hill climbs, and many small washouts along the cliffside of the trail. Along the route are several slot canyons, ledges, hill climbs, sand, and exploring. The narrow shelf road trail has many washouts, requiring close attention to the trail. Please pay attention to the trail at all times to avoid the possibility of driving over the edge.
This can be a popular trail at times throughout the year, please watch out for traffic.


1. Exit S22 on Calcite Road (Photos Shown Coming From East) (0 mi)
Exit S22 onto Calcite Road. The road heads off to the north and quickly drops down into a wash below. The area just off the road has enough space to park up to 10 vehicles. This is a great place to air down and disconnect your swaybars.
2. Go Straight Through Wash (0.1 mi)
Go straight through Palm Wash South.
3. Stay East - Old Path (0.5 mi)
The old path got washed out, stay on the newer eastern path. The newer path is very obvious when driving down the path.
4. Stay West - Palm Wash North Drop In (0.7 mi)
The trail has another route that drops you down into Palm Wash, but this one leads to Palm Wash North.
5. Used to be Obstacle - Rocky Ledge (1 mi)
No Longer There - The first of a few harder areas along the trail. This rocky area has a large hole that can take you by surprise. Make sure you pick your line carefully before continuing through this point.
6. Used To Be - Hard Area - V-Notch (1.1 mi)
No Longer There - This section of the trail may be the hardest spot along the trail. This v-notch has roughly a 4-foot increase in elevation as you have to carefully get your vehicle up this spot. Picking a good line is required. Open differential vehicles will struggle in this spot without picking a proper line selection or spoting.
7. Used to be - Rough Hill Climb and Descent (1.4 mi)
No Longer There - This part of the trail has you descending down a rough rocky area. Once near the bottom, there is a large rock on the side of the trail which an off-camber lean can cause you to hit the right side of your vehicle. Right after you get around the large rock, you immediately start climbing back up another difficult hill climb with many 1-3 foot ledges and rocks.
8. Park Here (1.9 mi)
There is a large parking area near the Calcite Mine at the end of the trail with enough space to park a couple dozen vehicles. Be careful as the Calcite Mine's trench is known for being difficult to see and drivers have accidentally driven off the ledge and into the mine. Always park at the bottom.
9. Calcite Mine (1.9 mi)
The Calcite Mine. Even though there are several mines in this area, many people come to this one particular mine when exploring the area. The other mines are close by requiring some additional hiking to get to them. History on the Calcite: Calcite was an essential component of the Norden bombsight. It was mined by digging trenches along Calcite-containing veins. The trenches can be recognized by their unnatural regularity. Look around and note small calcite crystals everywhere glittering in the sunlight. However, remember that it is illegal to remove any plant, animal or mineral you might find in the park. Look, experiment with the crystals, but leave them here when you are ready to leave. If you find a transparent crystal, look at some printed matter through it to observe the birefringence or double refraction of the crystal. The Norden bombsight was one of America’s most closely guarded secrets during World War II. It was the state of the art in the 1940s, used to calculate the trajectory of a bomb being dropped from high altitudes. It enabled American airplanes to hit ground targets in daylight raids from an altitude of six miles.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Salton City, CA

***From Salton City, CA**** From Highway 86 in Salton City, take Highway S22 west 8.2 miles and exit Calcite Road (Dirt) on the northside(right) of the road. ***Borrego Springs*** From the city center at Christmas Circle, take Highway S22 east (east exit out of the circle) roughly 18 miles to the trailhead which will be on the northside(Left) of the road


Dispersed camping is allowed but there are no great spots to camp on this trail due to it being on a shelf road most of the time. If you do camp in the area, no open wood fires are allowed outside of an Anza Borrego Campground unless in a metal container and during the few times year fire restrictions are lifted. Becuase Truckhaven and Ocotillo Wells are so close by, most people will either cross the road to Ocotillo or head down Palm Wash and camp down there. Which in both of those places you are allowed a wood fire.
Camping: Calcite Mine Trail

Trail Reviews (8)

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I can conform the road has been graded. Even 2WD with moderate clearance would be perfectly fine for this trail. Calcite is everywhere up there. Nice views and hiking options.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I love this little route. Mostly because of the history of the World War II effort and this mine. Anza Borrego park and World War II So how does World War II war effort factor into Anza Borrego Desert? Literally within 5 miles of where our RV is located we found an interesting 4 x 4 route. The route is called the calcite mine trail. Earlier investigation didn’t intrigue me so it wasn’t on my list. As I started to research calcite and what calcite was used for that’s why and it peaked my interest. This calcite mine was developed during World War II, general Patton‘s troops built the original road that leads north from here to the former calcite mine. This was the top producing calcite mine in North America. It was important to the war effort, because calcite is a form of calcium carbonate. When you strike calcite Kristal, it will break into pieces that have exact angles and clear flat sides that provide double refraction properties. The Polaroid company processed these into optical ring sites for the military. Gunners and torpedo bomber’s depended on calcite Ring sites for the most accurate aim available. Today you can wander around the area and you’ll find honeycombs of the calcite veins and lots of empty pockets where the minors have been. Initial thought was they look like slot canyons, but they are actually where the minors were following the veins of calcite. I should also add that the road has been repaired so there are no obstacles on this road. Four-wheel-drive is recommended but I do think you could do this trip in a 2 Wheel Drive.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
It has been flattened to a dirt road. I saw a Subaru driving it. I was disappointed. The area is still very interesting. I saw the slot canyon, hiked a trail to a lookout point, and there was more hiking I could have done.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Just visited this trail over the weekend. It is now a flat graded road all the way to the mine. I could drive my moms Buick on this road. It is no longer at 4 out of 4 trail rated. I will say there is an obstacle at the mine parking area on the left that is fun. Otherwise not much of a technical trail anymore. Rob
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Ran this for first time with group. The guys I was with were saying that it was unfortunately graded. Maybe it was because I dont remember the v notch and large hole?? The scariest part was close to the top were the trail narrows with a washout off camber. All our trucks made it including the widest wheelbase hummer h3. Coming down in my 5th gen 4runner, my back slipped sideways on that section. Yikes! The mine was no what I expected, but very cool. Interesting history. The calcite was used in b17 bombers for bomb sights during ww2. It was only 2 places (the other in montana) that was supplied by Polaroid once it was determined that domestic sources were needed. A few years later, synthetic calcite with almost identical optical properties was invented and used. Calcite veins are mostly exposed and 2-20 something guys chiselled and hammered the rock on both sides of these veins to extract the optical grade calcite with least amount of damage as possible. Good specimens needed to be at least 0.5x2.0 inches in size. I've read that the men did this on volunteer basis in summer heat!! I dont know if they did this for war effort?
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Was more challenging and technical than expected! Super fun trail! Everyone in the group loved it! We had one 2wd in the group try it but had to park it due to even some of the 4wd having trouble lol! We had a Suburban and Power wagon in the group which struggled a little bit due to the wide body and long wheel base, but managed just fine without any body damage. Highly recommended trail!
Author: Official Crew
Social Media:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Love this place. Tons of fun. This was the first trip on my new Falken tires and I was impressed... They gripped so great, I climbed an obstacle I have never been able to do and never slipped a tire. Recently someone went through the trail trying to make it easier but left a few off camber areas with some small ledges.
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
In the past few weeks the weather has started to changed drastically fast, from the sweltering Summer heat and warm Summer nights to cool Fall days, and even colder nights out here in the desert.This past weekend we were able to get out and explorer one of my favorite places Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Anza-Borrego offers all kinds of fun and exciting wheeling for every skill level! We ventured out to find the Calcite Mine Trail. The Calcite Mine Trail is located just off of State Route 22/ Borrego Salton Sea Way the trail is fairly easy to miss if you are not paying attention as the turn out is not clearly marked. We had to double back ourselves to find the trailhead, we reached the turn out we were greeted with a nice landing big enough to stage a few rigs. We grabbed a bottle of water, shifted our jeeps into 4 Wheel drive and started the short descent into the wash below. As soon as you reach the wash you come to a fork in the road, continue straight the trail is clearly marked, Calcite Mine with a small metal street sign. This is also the first of a few obstacles along the way, the first being a small hill climb once your crest the hill, you will see a well traveled trail that twists its way down to the mine. There is a few rough patches along the way that can, and will give a 2 wheel drive rig some trouble, and the last hill climb will surely give a 2 wheel drive some grief. That is if it can even make it past the first few rough and rutted patches of the trail. The journey to the Calcite Mine does not take very long, but it is sketchy in a few spots as the recent rains have washed out a few sections of the trail. Once you reach the Calcite Mine you might scratch you head at first, as it is not the typical mine you might expect with an opening leading into the mountain. This mine has deep trenches that scatter the adjacent landscape keep your eyes open so you do not fall into one. The trenches range from 5 feet deep and 30 feet long, to others being 30 feet deep and 10 to 15 feet long. Take some time to enjoy the beautiful views from the adjacent hills that paint out the beautifully twisted, deeply rutted, and carved out landscape that is Ocotillo Wells, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and the Salton Sea.

Questions & Answers (1)

Q: I went here yesterday and was very disappointed to see the trail graded, a regular car could probably make it up now. Why does the state park do this? They ruined lower coyote canyon in a similar fashion a few years ago. Anything we can do to petition against this?
–Ernest (01/04/2021)
A: I would start out reaching out to the local rangers office. See what they say. Then reach out to the local clubs like San Diego Jeep Club (On Facebook) or Tierra Del Sol club. They will most likely be your best resources in the fight to keep things sort of difficult.
–Josh Noesser (02/01/2021)

Writer Information

Josh Noesser

Mapping Crew - California

Joshua Noesser grew up in Southern California but has lived in different parts of the country during his young adult life. Josh was first turned to four wheeling when he road with one of his friends dad up Surprise Canyon in the Panamint Valley at age14. After nearly 3 different roll overs later and a half dozen intense waterfalls, Josh was hooked. At 16 he purchased his first Jeep a CJ 7 and by 17 was putting his first locker in it. Currently, Josh is the owner and CEO of Nybble, an IT Solutions Company based in Orange County, California. Nybble isn't your normal IT company where everyone stays in and plays video games. Nybble's average company trip is out on the trails since a good amount of his staff enjoy wheeling too. As Josh likes to say, he offers the only IT Company with the ability to provide services in extreme locations. "If you want a server at the top of The Hammers, we will take care of that for you." Today you can find Josh out on the trail behind the wheel in one of his three different off-road vehicles. See the vehicles below for more information. If you ever run into Josh, please say high, he is a very friendly person and is always happy to have a new person join the group.
For individual use only, not to be shared.