There isn't much more manly than facing the elements and exploring the world beyond the confines of the paved roads. Unfortunately, unless you are with an instructor or first experience it as a passenger, this can be a challenging task that you might not feel comfortable exploring. However, there are trails in Southern California's Anzo Borrego Desert that are perfect for learning the basics of off-road adventure.
While most people think about San Diego as being lush palm trees blowing in a cool ocean breeze, on the other side of the mountain - less than a two-hour drive is a harsh desert that is perfect for a guys weekend adventure. This is your opportunity to explore new terrain, learn new skills, and frankly escape from technology for a while since your mobile phone is almost certain not to work except at the resort itself! For our adventure, Jeep provided Greg from Suburban Men and I with two vehicles - a Jeep Wrangler and a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk - which was surprisingly capable and we hope to do a full review in the future.
The desert in Southern California is a weird place where artists imaginations somehow manage to give life to fantastic artwork in the middle of seemingly nowhere. That's true for Borrego Springs as well and Galetta Meadows is one of the coolest places you will find anywhere. It also provides you with a great opportunity to test your wheels since there are paths to and through the sculpture gardens where if for some reason you get stuck - the road is withing just a few yards.
In total, there are approximately 130 metal sculptures representing everything from prehistoric animals that once roamed the terrain, to more modern subjects representing the people and culture of Borrego Springs today. They are mostly located along Borrego Springs Road but can be easily missed if you drive too fast.
Borrego Badlands at Font's Point
This trail starts off of the S22 Borrego Salton Seaway about 17 miles north east from La Casa Del Zorro and there's a loop to turn around in overlooking the badlands. It's an easy mixture of hard and deep sand that will allow you to test your skills in four-wheel-drive. This trail is mostly flat, so clearance isn't as much of an issue as traction since there are pockets of very soft sand that tend to shift around.
The Slot Trail
This is about 8 miles south east from the resort. It is mostly hard packed sand initially, but will get progressively more challenging. At The Slot, there is a short hike in rugged terrain where you will want to have proper gear despite it being a short path through a narrow slot canyon. This trail could be done in good weather without a 4x4 but as always, when you leave pavement it's good to have more capabilities than you think you need.
Fish Creek Wash and Split Mountain
Further down the road from The Slot is Fish Creek Wash, leading into Split Mountain. The trail starts about 21 miles from the resort off of Split Mountain Road. This is actually a fairly long trail that gets progressively more challenging. As always, only go as far as you feel comfortable and keep an eye on both time and gas since you are a long ways from a cell phone signal.
Once again here you will find large sections of very soft sand as well as some small rocky areas and larger rocky areas if you want to play around but not damage the vehicles. It's an easy drive, but be very aware of weather since a sudden storm even miles away can lead to a flash flood very quickly and in parts of Split Mountain, there is really nowhere to go.
Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area
Finally, once you've had the chance to get some dirt on the wheels, it's time to see what the car can do in a "safe place" and take your new skills to the next level. Personally, I'd rather test going over a large obstacle where I knew people (including rangers) are near, rather than find out miles from civilization.
The Ocotillo Wells SVRA is 14.8 miles from the resort, just past Split Mountain Road off of CA 78. You will also find a ranger station here and maps to tons of other trails throughout the park.
Return to La Casa Del Zorro!
After a long day off-roading, being able to head back to La Casa Del Zorro for a dip in the pool, a burger, and then some star gazing! This road is really amazing, with a variety of accommodations ranging from rustic casitas with private pools that are perfect for a small group of guys to luxury hotel rooms where you can walk out to a shared pool.
It's in a great position to access a ton of off-road trails, while only being a few hours away from downtown San Diego.