Fish Creek Trail - Anza Borrego

Ocotillo, California (Imperial County)

Last Updated: 11/14/2020
4.8 / 5 ( 16 reviews )
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 1-3
( EASY - MODERATE )
Length: 21.8 miles
Highest Elevation: 1200 feet
Duration: About 4 hours
Shape of Trail: Out & Back
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Ocotillo
Nearest Town w/ Services: Ocotillo
Official Road Name: Fish Creek
Management Agency: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
District: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Distance:
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles

Highlights

Highlight: Fish Creek Trail - Anza Borrego
Most off-road enthusiasts find that Fish Creek is one of their favorite routes in United State because of the scenery and connectivity to a wide range of trails. You can easily find yourself making a full weekend of just exploring what Fish Creek has to offer. Fish Creek starts at Split Mountain and heads southwest then north ending up at Pinyon Mountain. Along the route, you will pass wind caves, earthquake faults, dinosaur tracks, sandstone canyons, and many other natural wonders.

Video

Weather

7 day forecast for Fish Creek Trail - Anza Borrego

Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance
Concerns:
Summary:
The trail is a wash thus soft deep sand is common. Make sure you air down to not get stuck.

Technical Rating: 1-3
( EASY - MODERATE )

Dirt and/or rocky road. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 5" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 5" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 6" inches. Good tire placement likely. Can be steep, but with good traction.
Read more about our rating system

Description

While traveling Fish Creek, expect lots of soft sand with some areas of rocks. The trail can easily be traversed in most stock 4x4's. The first part of the trail "Split Mountain" is a popular gathering spot because of the views, wind caves, and dinosaur tracks. As you continue on the path, it turns into more of the standard desert wash with many other trails splitting off. This area can get over 100+ degrees in the summer and can flood in rain. Always travel with a group and never go in the area if it can rain. For more information on Split Mountain, please visit: Split Mountain Here
The area is prone to flash floods, never travel in this wash if the treat of rain is in the area.

Waypoints

1. Split Mountain Road (0 mi)
The first part of Fish Creek passes through Split Mountain. Here you will find awe-inspiring rock structures as you pass through a narrow canyon. The Split Mountain Fault Line has bent and twisted the rocks to make some amazing structures along the wash.
2. Fish Creek Campground (1.5 mi)
Just up the trail is a improved campground with firepits and an outhouse. The area is first come first server but is usually empty except for holiday weekends. The area is rocky so large tent camping groups might struggle to find a smooth spot to put a tent down.
3. Fault Twisted Rocks (4.2 mi)
One of the first scenic waypoints along the trail, the rocks in the side of the mtn have twisted due to the pressure of the fualt line and the ocean that used to be here. Then over the years, when the colorado river ran through this area, the river cut back the canyon to what you see today which you can see this amazing natural formation.
4. The Steps (4.4 mi)
Another one of the unique natural stone formations, this is a popular place to stop and let the family climb on the rocks.
5. Wind Caves and Dinosaur Tracks (4.6 mi)
Wind Caves and Dinosaur Tracks Parking A short climb to the east will take you to the Wind Caves. The Dinosaur Tracks are to the east. The tracks are estimated to be 65,000,000 years old. This is also a popular area for dispersed camping.
6. Elephant Knees (4.7 mi)
The Elephant Knees. The hill side in the background has eroded to look like elephant knees.
7. Loop Wash (Alt Path) (5.2 mi)
Loop Wash splits around a small island and rejoins. It doesn't matter which way you go as it rejoins before the next turn off. On the north side is Loop Wash, while the south is Fish Creek.
8. Loop Wash (Alt Path) (5.9 mi)
Loop Wash splits around a small island and rejoins. It doesn't matter which way you go as it rejoins before the next turn off. On the north side is Loop Wash, while the south is Fish Creek.
9. Diablo Drop Off (Stay in Wash) (9.9 mi)
End of Diablos Drop. (This is a one-way trail...do not enter from this side.)
10. Sandstone Canyon (12.5 mi)
Sandstone Canyon is a great little drive. In the middle, there is a landslide that will stop all but very equipped vehicles. Many say this canyon is a perfect example of the Badlands environment found in the area with its near-vertical sandstone walls and narrow width. Other search terms include Sand Stone Canyon. Sandstone Canyon is a popular area for dispersed camping.
11. Fish Creek and Olla Wash (Stay East) (13.2 mi)
Fish Creek splits off to the right. To the left is Olla Wash and the Olla Mud Palisades.
12. End of Fish Creek at Hapaha Flats (Pinyon Mtn) (21.8 mi)
End of the trail at the base of Pinyon Mountain Road. This trail is one-way, and it is not recommended to try climbing Heart Attack Hill.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 33.039338, -116.096907

Starting Point: Ocotillo Wells, CA

From highway 78, turn south onto Split Mountain Road. Continue 8 miles on Split Mountain road. Fish creek wash will be on the right hand side.

Camping

Dispersed
Improved
Fish Creek is one of the more popular trails people camp along in the Anza Borrego Desert. Mainly for two reasons, the trail is rather easy and the wash is wide enough where if you camp on the sides you leave plenty of space for people to pass by. Some of the more popular areas to camp are near Split Mountain at the campground and for dispersed camping further up the canyon closer to Sandstone Canyon where people are hoping to avoid the crowds. You are allowed to do dispersed camping in Anza-Borrego Desert in this area but no wood fires are allowed unless in metal containers. Anza Borrego Park offers tons of designated camping in the area that allow fires. Please visit Reserve America to find the camping area for you. For campground information, click here
Camping: Fish Creek Trail - Anza Borrego

Trail Reviews (19)

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Nice & scenic desert trail that winds its way through the beautiful Anza Borrego canyons! So many places to camp along the way. We travelled West-East as we came down Pinyon Mountain through Hapaha Flats to travel Fish Creek. It's an easy drive but 4x4 is required for 70% of the trail is deep sand and some sections get a little rocky here and there. Washboarded for sure so air down.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Great trail. There are countless routes to take and there were plenty of people to meet. It’s an easy trail to get some speed and some great views. There is a lot of washboard sections but it’s nice and open. If you are looking for places to camp there are plenty of options along the trail.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Nothing new here, but boy did I forget how bad the washboard is on this trail! Otherwise it was fun and seemed to have a few more rocky sections than I remember.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Awesome trail! I really enjoyed it. Everything is open. I would not recommend it for a 2wd vehicle even with good ground clearance. The first half of the trail can be done in any car but after the second half for sure is for a 4x4 with high ground clearance and A/T tires. I went in a stock bronco sport and could’ve made it but definitely need a tire upgrade I would absolutely recommend trying out the trail.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Cool trail with all the geological history but a ton of people on it made it a bit harder to enjoy.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Great main trail for exploration of the local landscape. Lots of traffic, but most areas are wide washes, so no problems. Lots of deep sand washes for shenanigans, but plan accordingly so you don't get stuck like the rental Lowes truck we had to tow out. Make sure you make the hike to the wind caves, definitely worth the stop.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
The washboarding will rattle your brain. It is otherwise an easy sandy trail.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This is a beautiful and easy trail. It is even more beautiful at night.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Entered fish canyon from diablo drop and took it north all the way to Hapana flats. I returned all the way back to split mountain. Taking the entire fish creek was varied. The north end was tight with some rock sections that can wipe out your doors if your not careful. There are also narrow vertical wall canyons that are gorgeous. The split mountain side is much wider and heavily visited. I visited the dinosaur tracks, wind caves in that area. Nice geology with the folded ancient sea beds. Definitely a great canyon to take family - the kids would really enjoy the places that are short hike from wash. I did hit a drop off that caught me by surprise so be careful!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This was the first time I’d traversed the whole length of Fish Creek all the way to the northeast end. The section between Sandstone Canyon and the end is a very fun winding road that was pretty smooth except for a few mild rocky sections we had to slow down for. Heading back out the other end toward the wind caves, the washboard wasn’t nearly as bad as it’s been in the past and the only things to keep an eye out for are a few small step-downs that can sneak up on you if you’re driving quickly.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Great first trail checking out the new truck and the new pup, went as far as Sandstone Canyon. Trail write up was spot on. Forgot to print out the mileage markers so was not able to find the dinosaur tracks, drove right past it. Will check that out next time. Lots of deep sand but no problem in 4Hi.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Headline is misleading as Ocotillo, CA is along I8 while Ocotillo Wells, CA is in eastern SD County on Highway 78. The latter being correct and noted as such within text. Very thorough write-up. Driving a car much further beyond Elephant Knees is discouraged.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Always love fish creek, nice and smooth and makes for a great drive.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This trail was as easy as always, but still a fun experience to drive through with the towering canyon walls. This trail is a must (partly because it's literally the only way out after doing Diablo Drop Off and partly because it's actually a neat trail).

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Due to time on this one we only did half so from diablo drop to the right so on a way out once again super easy trail can be done really In any car but with that being said we did not go the other way which can get tricky

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Whether you're a beginner or an advanced intermediate wheeler, a one-day trip putting together four trails: Canyon Sin Nombre, Arroyo Seco Del Diablo, Diablo Dropoff, and Fish Creek is a must do and will keep you busy all day. You begin on Highway S-2 and finish on CA-78. All four trails are reviewed here on trailsoffroad.com The scenery is spectacular and the driving is easy and relaxing. Diablo Dropoff will be exciting for the newbies, because it is steep, sandy, and off-camber, but just take reasonable caution and all will be fine. After you enter Fish Creek, if you have time, take the side trip to Sandstone Canyon, which is a mile in the opposite direction. The trail account here on trailsoffroad.com says it all. Both the wheeling and the canyons are awesome.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Went out to Anza during TDS 2018 and had a blast like always. This was my first high speed breakin run for the new Falken Tires on the jeep. Overall, I was impressed.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Love this place. Did a little exploring during TDS

Author: Official Crew
Status: Not Reported
Offroaded on:
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Video from 2016

Questions & Answers (0)

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.