For those used to hiking in plush, green areas, hiking in the desert is an entirely new experience. Everything is more extreme. There are no trees to protect you from direct sunlight, rattlesnakes are all too common, and prickly cactuses grow all over the trails.
Despite all the challenges of desert hiking, it’s one of our favorite terrains to hike on. You can see for miles in all directions, and the plants and wildlife are foreign-looking and ominous. Irrational fear of rattlesnakes aside, desert hiking can actually be an amazing experience.
The Wind Caves in Anza Borrego Desert State Park are one of the best locations in the desert that you can hike to. Created by harsh desert winds blowing holes into caves, this set of caves is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
About Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Anza Borrego isn’t your typical State Park. For one, it’s located in the heart of an expansive, arid desert. This means that aren’t really any trees and it is sandy everywhere. Secondly, it’s California’s largest state park. We love this about Anza Borrego, because it means there are way more stops, longer hikes, and seemingly less people since they’re more spread out throughout the park.
Since the park is a sprawling 600,000 acres, there is more driving that you have to do between stops. The main roads between attractions are well-paved and maintained, but many of the roads connecting hikes to the main roads are bumpy dirt roads. You definitely don’t need four-wheel drive, but it is recommended. My tiny Ford Fiesta was not pleased to be off-roading through such massive potholes.
Come springtime, Anza Borrego is home to some of the most beautiful wildflower blooms in all of California. We’ve yet to actually see the bloom in person, but we’ve seen the most stunning pictures online. If you want to see it for yourself, plan your trip around April. That’s the month that’s supposed to give you the most flower bang for your buck.
About the Wind Caves
Anza Borrego’s Wind Caves are located within the park at the top of a short hike. These unique caves are characterized by the holes carved out in various sizes. The holes were caused by severe winds deforming the caves and causing sporadic holes.
The Wind Caves look like something out of a Dr. Seuss novel, or maybe Swiss cheese. One of the cooler caves with multiple holes carved out like small doors looks like something from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
Many of the holes are too small for an adult human to pass through. However, there are some larger holes that you can use to enter into the caves. It’s an amazing experience.
Driving to the Wind Caves Trail
Getting to the trail head for Wind Caves is no easy feat. It requires about 4 miles on what could be called a poorly maintained dirt road at best. At worst, it’s a lawless no man’s land in the middle of the desert. One positive is that Google Maps does have a fairly accurate idea of the location of the Wind Caves. To avoid poor cell service, make sure to download an offline map of the area before you leave.
It’s only four miles of off-roading to get to the trail head, but you should plan on the drive taking about 20 minutes. It’s slow going, and the road winds through rock cliffs during a few points. The worst part is the random bumps and holes in the road that aren’t always visible.
If you’re driving, the difficulty of the terrain can make it difficult to enjoy the drive. But make sure to check out your surroundings because it really is a beautiful drive. Massive rock cliffs frame the road on either side, so you’re essentially driving through a canyon. It’s so beautiful that we had to get out and take pictures.
The trail head will be on the left hand side. There is a sign that says “Wind Caves”, but the it’s a very small sign. Make sure you keep an eye out for it–it’s about where Google Maps says it should be. We accidentally tried hiking the wrong trail since we drove past the actual trail head.
Hiking to the Wind Caves
The hike to the Wind Caves is steep, but fairly short. The sign at the trail head says the hike is 1.0 miles, but the Wind Caves are actually much closer than that. We’d estimate around a half mile.
The first part of the hike is the steepest, and then it evens out again. Then there are a few more somewhat steep stretches before you reach the Wind Caves. The trail is very well marked and maintained. You won’t have any difficulty following the trail or the caves.
By the time you get to the caves, you’ll have gotten a pretty solid hike in. For reference, my FitBit said it was about 40 flights of stairs to get to the top.
Other Highlights of Anza Borrego
There are countless amazing hikes in Anza Borrego, but one of our favorites is Slot Canyon. This short hike leads through a narrow siltstone canyon. The canyon gets pretty narrow at some points, but it’s always big enough for an average human to pass through.
Another great option is the Mud Caves. We haven’t done this hike yet, but we’ve heard great things about it.
The nearby town of Borrego Springs is also worth visiting. We love driving around and checking out the amazing metal desert sculptures. Each one is more beautiful than the next, and they are free to check out! We love the massive serpent that’s so long, it crosses over to the other side of the road.
The Wind Caves are a great way to spend a sunny day in Anza Borrego. In addition to getting a great hike in, you’ll also be able to explore some pretty amazing caves. We’d recommend allotting yourself between one and two hours for this hike. That will leave you time to fully explore and enjoy the caves once you arrive.
The caves would also be a great spot for a picnic since there are plenty flat areas. Bring a picnic blanket and some food for a relaxing afternoon at the Wind Caves.
Lastly, we recommend you read our post “Hiking Slot Canyon in Anza Borrego Desert State Park” if you are looking for other hikes to do in the park. We also have a post on “Borrego Springs Sculptures: The Ultimate Guide” if you are looking for something fun to do nearby.
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