Anza Borrego State Park: entering Lower Coyote Canyon
Anza Borrego State Park: entering Lower Coyote Canyon

Entering Coyote Canyon Anza Borrego State Park
Entering Coyote Canyon Anza Borrego State Park


Directions to Lower Coyote Canyon:
Head east from Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs on the S-22 to DiGiorgio Road; turn left, heading north. Following this paved road will lead you onto the unpaved trail to Lower Coyote Canyon.

GPSN33˚ 18.08 W116˚ 21.96
Elevation700-1800 ft
SeasonYear round: best Oct.-May
TerrainRough, sandy
Difficultyeasy,creek crossings
Required Vehicle4×4
Time2  hours  hours
Length10 miles one way to Sheep Canyon campground

Trail Description: The trail is mostly easy but not suited for conventional vehicles due to soft sand and water crossings. There used to be some patchy rough terrain including a rocky climb, but the park has graded it, making this a very easy trail to drive. There are three creek crossings, which can be potentially deep depending on rainfall, so be aware and drive slowly.

The first creek crossing is usually dry, the others normally have year-round water with the third being up to 24 inches deep. Conventional vehicles can generally handle the trail as far as the second crossing and should stop there; not attempting to cross the creek.  This trail can change from year to year due to flash flooding, so be aware of potential change in conditions based on seasonal rainfall. When crossing water, do so slowly to help preserve the ecosystem.   Note: This trail is closed between June 1st and September 30th to preserve the watering rights of the Desert Bighorn Sheep.

Anza Borrego State Park-second creek crossing in Lower Coyote Canyon
Anza Borrego State Park-second creek crossing in Lower Coyote Canyon

Further on there is a small picnic area with tables amongst a beautiful “garden” of succulents. This is a good stopping point for lunch, photos and possibly a hike since there are many hiking and horse trails that leave from this area.

Anza Borrego State Park cactus garden In Coyote Canyon
Anza Borrego State Park cactus garden In Coyote Canyon

2020 UPDATE– The most challenging stretch of trail used to be short distance after third creek crossing. The trail ascended a steep, rocky hill that consisted of loose, fist-size rocks and moderate sized embedded boulders. The first 200 yards used to be the most challenging.  As of 2019, this section of Lower Coyote Canyon has been graded, making for a very easy drive. 

Anza Borrego State Park-Rocky climb into Collins Valley
Anza Borrego State Park-Rocky climb into Collins Valley

Once at the top, the trail reverts to a smooth, sandy surface as it descends into Collins Valley. A trail to the east leads a short distance to a historical marker at the site of Juan Bautista de Anza’s camp near Santa Catarina Springs.

lower coyote canyon the adventure portal

The springs can be seen from the trail a short distance farther. The springs are a major source of Coyote Canyon’s year-round water supply and attract many species of birds and other animals. The springs are the largest natural water supply in San Diego County.

Anza Borrego State Park-Entering Collins Valley
Anza Borrego State Park-Entering Collins Valley

The trail forks a short distance further. The left leads you on a loop around Sheep Canyon, which passes a primitive camping area with a few picnic tables and pit toilets but no other facilities. The Indian Canyon-Cougar Canyon trail for hikers and horses leads off from near the campground. This trail passes an Indian sweat lodge as well as grinding stones.

Anza Borrego State Park-Sheep Canyon campground
Anza Borrego State Park-Sheep Canyon campground

The History of Lower Coyote Canyon: Juan Bautista de Anza first passed through the Borrego Valley using this route in 1774, on his first route-finding mission to the new Spanish settlements in California. Set in the heart of Coyote Canyon, Collins Valley was named just after the turn of the twentieth century for a squatter named Collins. He took the opportunity to jump claim on an earlier homesteader’s property.

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