A lesser known marvel that we recently discovered is Slot Canyon, located in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. This stunning canyon features a hiking trail that snakes right through the bottom of the canyon, making for an incredible experience and even better pictures.
We did this hike during the summer and it was pretty dang hot since it’s in a desert. We definitely recommend you plan to take this hike during cooler months. Here’s everything you need to know about hiking Slot Canyon:
About Slot Canyon
Slot Canyon or “The Slot” is a narrow siltstone canyon located in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Hiking in The Slot is open to the public; visitors can do the 0.8 mile trek through the canyon.
While Slot Canyon does get pretty narrow at some points, the opening is always wide enough for a normal-sized human being to pass through. And since there are many cracks and crevices along the wall of the canyon, you can even try to climb your way up at certain points.
Slot Canyon makes for an excellent weekend adventure. And the best part is visiting Slot Canyon is free for visitors–there is no pass or permit required. Just show up with your hiking boots on and bring plenty of water!
Hiking in Slot Canyon
While the trailhead of Slot Canyon isn’t clearly marked–it lacks any sort of trailhead–it’s easy to find. Google maps will take you right to the parking lot, and from there you can just follow the footsteps down into the canyon.
Don’t be fooled by the small false path that lies just left of the actual trailhead like we were–it’s not the right trail and doesn’t actually lead anywhere. We followed the path for a while and while the sights are pretty cool, it definitely doesn’t lead to any part of the slot canyon.
The true trail to the slot starts with a steep descent to the bottom of the canyon. Don’t let the steep first portion of the trail scare you. After you make the initial descent, the path is actually pretty level. There’s only 100 feet of elevation loss on the entire trail.
As you follow the trail deeper into the canyon, it doesn’t take long to arrive at the slot. The sides of the canyon start to close in around you, and suddenly you are on a narrow trail flanked by two stunning canyon walls.
Being in the heart of the canyon is a nice reprieve from the hot desert sun, which is blocked by the canyon walls. We spent plenty of time just exploring within the canyon and taking lots of pictures.
We even tried to make our way to the top of the canyon walls at a certain place. While we couldn’t make it all the way to the top, it was amazing climbing along the side of this amazing canyon.
To get back to our car, we simply retraced our way back through the canyon and climbed up where we thought the parking area was. We were slightly off from the parking lot, but were easily able to walk along the top of the canyon to get back to the parking lot.
If you plan on hiking in Slot Canyon, here’s a great hiking resource for what to expect. It explains in detail how to get into the canyon, as well as your options for getting out.
Directions to Slot Canyon
The Slot is located in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, which is located in Southern California just east of Julian and just west of the Salton Sea. It’s about a two hour drive from San Diego, and a three hour drive from Los Angeles.
When we first decided to go to The Slot, we thought it was going to be very difficult to find based on other blog posts that we read. But you can actually put “Slot Canyon Hiking Trail” in Google Maps and it will take you right to the parking lot.
The Drive to Slot Canyon
It’s a very beautiful drive to Anza Borrego Desert State Park, with lots of scenic views of a part of California we weren’t used to seeing. The drive is easy at first and follows main highways. Then, the drive transitions onto windy mountain roads.
When you get closer, you’ll have to follow a dirt road for a mile or two–it gets a little bumpy. We drove on the dirt road in my little Ford Fiesta and were totally fine, so I think the road is okay for any cars. Just make sure it hasn’t rained recently or I have a feeling you could get stuck in the mud.
Google Maps will take you right to the parking area, where there is plenty of parking. There was even a bright orange dune buggy parked while we were there! From the parking lot, follow the footsteps down the steep descent and into the canyon.
About Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Anza Borrego Desert State Park is a lesser known state park located in Southern California. It is California’s largest state park, encompassing over 600,000 acres of land. Since the park is located in a desert, it can get as hot as 115 degrees during the summer months.
There are many mountains within Anza Borrego Desert State Park, in case you feel like doing a more challenging hike after doing The Slot. One of the most popular hiking trails is Hellhole Canyon Trail, which leads to a waterfall! Here is a post on the 5 Best Hikes in Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
Some other great things to do in Anza Borrego Desert State Park include Palm Canyon and the Badlands & Font’s Point.
Hiking Slot Canyon is an incredible experience, so don’t miss out on seeing this marvel in real life if you are ever in the area. Just make sure to go during winter months and bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
Also, you can’t miss the Borrego Springs Sculptures that are located closeby. These incredible metal sculptures were all created by one artist and are open to the public–free of charge. We highly recommend that you check out our post “Borrego Springs Sculptures: The Ultimate Guide” to see what these amazing sculptures are all about.
Heading to Slot Canyon for a breathtaking hike? Let us know if you have any questions.
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