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Arroyo Tapiado: Mud Hills, Mud Caves, Anza Borrego

In the second part of my weekend travels with good friend Chris Horn, we decided to do some wandering through Anza Borrego.  This post primarily concerns our travel through Arroyo Tapiado and their famous mud caves.

Below is a gallery of images to enjoy.  I encourage you to read more below.

On To Arroyo Tapiado

Chris and I chose to be conservative in where we chose to travel.  Anza Borrego’s roads feature everything from pavement to incredibly rough and technical terrain.  After speaking to my friend Alex, we decided our best bet was in the mud caves area of Arroyo Tapiado, in the Southern part of the park.  This area is accessed from the Palm Springs turnoff from Imperial Highway S-2.  From there, we swung North in the Arroyo Tapiado wash.  This section of road is basically the bottom of a wash, although the sand was packed in well in most places.  We had good insurance against being stuck due to Chris’ all-wheel-drive.

As we followed the wash Northwest, it narrowed, and the mud hills towered above us.  Before we knew it, looking to the left was an impressive slot canyon.  We decided to hike up the slot and see how far it went.  The windy canyon went much further than we could access.  We were able to step over one very delicate arch and under two small caves.  We finally reached a much larger formation that had a very small arch underneath.

The only way we could have progressed further would be to climb over, but the mud is much too fragile and could cause considerable damage to the landscape.  It was better to leave the place looking nice for the next traveller.

These mud caves are impressive but inherently dangerous.  The mud is not stable, and can collapse at any moment.  The State Park has several signs erected warning people of the dangers.  Proceed at your own risk, or be safe and enjoy them from the outside.

Up to the Diablo Dropoff

After we left the mud caves area, we swung back to the Southeast towards the Diablo Dropoff.  Because of other dropoffs in Anza Borrego that have a history of being dangerous, I had some concern.  However, upon arriving, we found a beautiful sweeping view North of Sunset Mountain (just East of Whale Peak) and the mesa tops that form the upper areas of many canyons.  There were several people enjoying the view, as well as a number of 4WD enthusiasts who were coming up the Diablo Dropoff.

One humorous moment was seeing an older Jeep struggle to keep his throttle up doing the incline.  He couldn’t make it on his own.  So, he did the next best thing, which was rope off with two of his Jeep friends, and in a grouping of 3 vehicles went up the Dropoff with ease.

Out Through Split Mountain

From there, Chris and I were running out of daylight.  We decided it would be easier to head out via Fish Creek and Split Mountain, which connects from Ocotillo Wells to Borrego Springs.  This was not the easier choice.  It was evident that the recent storms hit this area much harder, perhaps as a result of being in a larger drainage area.  Rocks were plentiful, and some were high enough that it made it challenging in a good vehicle without high clearance.  At twilight hit us, we finally exited Split Mountain and headed back to San Diego.

As always, thank you very much for reading, and I hope you like the images!

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