Mortero wash sign-Anza Borrego State Park
GPSN32 47 34.1 W116 06 24.6
Elevation820 ft. to 1,928 ft.
SeasonYear round: best Oct.-May
TerrainPacked dirt, deep sand in places, washboard, a  small rocky, hill climb
DifficultyModerate due to one rocky hill.
Required VehicleStock 4WD. Air down for soft sand.
Time2 hours
Lengthapproximately 17 miles
The Adventure Portal-Mortero Wash Trail
Beautiful backcountry along Mortero Wash Trail

Directions to Mortero Wash: Turn south off the S2 close to the 56 mile post.  Mortero Wash is clearly signposted (as seen below).  You will be approximately 8 miles northwest of Ocotillo at interstate 8.

Site Location and Description: Mortero Wash is a remote spot located in Anza Borrego State Park. It is both beautiful, stark and historically significant.  Driving into the wash you are surrounded by Ocotillos and various other sorts of desert vegetation.  As you drive on, you will get to sandy washes and a couple of rocky spots.

Anza Borrego State Park Rocky section along Mortero Wash Trail
Rocky section along Mortero Wash

After a couple of miles, you will see the water tower in the distance, bear left to the tower when the road forks at 4.1 miles.  Drive over and along the tracks, up to the railroad platform…it’s good fun exploring the area. You can follow the tracks heading west and you will come to a sandy wash bisected by an old trestle.

Because we came out here in June (read: 109 degrees), we did not take advantage of the wonderful hiking this area has to offer.  Indian Hill, one of the oldest Native American campsites in Anza Borrego State Park is here.  See details of the hike in Afoot and Afield in San Diego County by Jerry Schad. There is also a short hike to an old railroad tunnel.

Water tower at Mortero Wash Anza Borrego State Park
Water Tower and old rail road tracks at Mortero Wash

The History of Mortero Wash: The railroad here was called “The Impossible Railroad”.  The San Diego & Imperial Valley Rail Road took 12 years to build and crosses an 11-mile stretch of the Carrizo Gorge, a brutally hot, harsh, although beautiful environment (that we can attest to with our June trip!).  Twenty-one tunnels and fourteen trestles were built in this area.  The rail road opened in 1919 and operated for over 50 years.  The tracks are still in good shape.  It is illegal to hike along them, although they are used by illegal immigrants as an escape route from Mexico.  Check our trip blog post, Anza Borrego State Park-Smokin’ Hot Week-End Adventure.

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