||Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves Hike
See Area D-12: Carrizo Badlands, Trip 3, Arroyo Tapiado/Arroyo Diablo Loop, in Jerry Schad's book "Afoot and Afield in San Diego County" (c '98, pp. 341-342, map on p. 338) for hike details. ** to*** degree of difficulty out of a possible *****. This hike will be mostly flat and relaxing (depending on how many ATV's and campers are out there) 7-8 miles roundtrip drive with stops at cave entrances for exploring (plus excursions up into small side canyons with caves) and will take about 5 hours to complete, depending on how many caves we have time to explore.
This hike is located in the southern part of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Take I-8 East from San Diego, out to Ocotillo, then head northwest into the Anza Borrego Desert State Park on highway S-2. See the Maps page for more information.
To reach the starting point, find the signed Palm Spring turnoff at mile 43.0 on County Highway S-2. This is opposite (east of) Canebrake Canyon. Pull off and park at the turnoff, where we'll carpool in from there. We'll plan to meet out there at 11:15 am, then drive in to Arroyo Tapiado Canyon and start hiking thru the caves about 11:45. From S-2, we'll proceed east on the dirt road, passing the spur road to Palm Spring, and continue (if road conditions allow) down Vallecito Creek wash. About 4.5 miles down the dirt roadfrom the S-2 intersection, make a sharp left up into Arroyo Tapiado Canyon .
In this general area many fossils of land creatures dating back one to two million years have been found, including bones of mammoth, camel, sabertooth cat, dire wolf and rhinoceros. The highlight of the trip is the Arroyo Tapiado cave formations. Some of the caves are pitch dark, so for exploring them, bring two flashlights (per person) and if you have one, a hard hat or a rock-climbing helmet.
A few of the caves in the area are over 1000 feet long, with rooms up to 80 feet high and 30 feet wide. Others are tall and narrow, much like a meandering slot canyon with a roof overhead. Some have multiple levels, and one contains a 45-foot subterranean dry fall. Sinkholes (skylights) illuminate the interiors of some caves. Most cave passages eventually lead upstream through a swallow hole to a "blind" valley (a ravine having no exit for drainage except through a cave).
As usual, we require each hiker to bring their own appropriate hiking gear, food, and sports drinks. Be sure to do your "carb loading" before the hike by eating a good meal/healthy snack and drinking liquids, avoiding dehydration and fatigue. Carb loading the day before is useful, too. And if you leave the hike early, please notify the hike leader directly, so there's no question that you may have gotten lost or injured along the way. Remember... Safety first.
We're planning an overnight campout on Friday/Saturday nights, before the hike on Sunday. The campout will be at the Vallecito Regional Park Campground in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park, at mile 22 on the S-2 Highway. The 44 primitive campsites at Vallecito have tables, fire rings, and barbecue stoves, and water is available at scattered locations throughout the campground. Either way you filter your water, whether it be from any one of the locations here or you filter it from home with an appropriate water filter, make sure you pack plenty. Also make sure your water filtration is by today’s standards.
There is an average limit of 8 persons/2 tents per campsite. And since this falls on a 3-day President's Day weekend, campsites need to be reserved as far in advance as possible. For those interested in camping out before the hike, please contact the CyberHiker@sandiegotrailtramps.com .
More Directions to Vallecito Regional Park Campground:
ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN MILES FROM SAN DIEGO. FROM RAMONA THROUGH JULIAN: EAST ON STATE HIGHWAY 78 TO SCISSORS CROSSING THEN SOUTH 22MILES ON HIGHWAY S2 TO PARK ENTRANCE, FROM INTERSTATE 8: EAST ON I-8 EXIT AT OCOTILLO, THEN 26 MILES NORTH ON HIGHWAY S2 TO THE PARK ENTRANCE. FOUR MILES NORTH OF AGUA CALIENTE. Use Long 116.30 Lat 32.95 for MapQuest