Difficulty G Distance 0 to 2 miles General information: Hikes with free parking Rating: 7-8 San Diego County - Mountains & Eastern county Season: All year

The Slot (Anza Borrego Desert State Park)


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The Slot (Anza Borrego Desert State Park)

  • Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The turnoff for the Slot is a dirt road called Buttes Pass, located on Highway 78, 17 miles east of Scissors Crossing, 10 miles east of Yaqui Well Road, 1.5 miles east of Borrego springs Road and 21 miles west of Highway 86. Head north on the dirt road (high clearance vehicles are best but with caution, standard passenger vehicles should be fine) and in one mile, bear left at a junction signed for the Slot. Continue another 0.9 mile to a sharp left turn in the road and park in the large dirt lot. Approximate trail head coordinates are N 33.1823, W 116.2141. (Note that the Google Maps location for the Slot is the turnoff on Highway 78, not the actual trail head.)
  • Agency: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
  • Distance: 0.8 mile or more
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet or more
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 45 minutes or more
  • Best season: Year round if you are just visiting the Slot itself; October – April if you are planning a longer trip; avoid if there has been recent rain or rain is expected (potential flash flooding danger)
  • Dogs: Not allowed
  • Cell phone reception: None
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping: The nearest camping is at the Tamarisk Grove Campground, 10 miles west of Buttes Pass Road on Highway 78.
  • More information: Trip descriptions here; here and here; Yelp page here
  • Rating: 7

There’s nothing unusual about finding a slot canyon in the desert. What’s less common is finding a relatively accessible slot canyon that can be easily navigated without special equipment or expertise. Such is the case with the Slot, which is becoming one of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park’s most popular sites. Here, hikers of all ages and experience levels can enjoy a unique destination, exploring a narrow, surreal canyon that provides a level of adventure rare in short hikes.

From the parking area, you can look to the west and see what’s ahead of you: the gash of the slot canyon heading west through the desert with the Laguna Mountains in the distance. The “official” trail begins on the north side of the parking area, briefly climbing uphill before curving around and dropping into the canyon. The descent may be a little tricky; expect to use your hands as well as your feet.

Once you are at the bottom of the slope, simply turn and head down the silt stone canyon. There are a few spots where you will have to negotiate rocks but nothing too hazardous. The walls soon start to pinch together and at one point, a boulder wedged above the canyon floor makes it appear as if you are entering a cave. Less than half a mile from the start, you reach the canyon’s most famous landmark: a diagonal slab of rock forming a bridge some fifty feet above.

If the weather is hot or you are hiking with small children, this is a good turnaround point. The canyon continues for a short distance before opening up and reaching a dirt road. Ambitious hikers can work the trip through the Slot into a longer hike to West Butte Borrego Mountain.

Slot canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
View of the slot canyon from the parking area
Slot Canyon trail, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Start of the trail to the Slot
Slot canyon, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA
Entering the slot
Slot Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Not for the claustrophobic…

Text and photography copyright 2017 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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