Photogenic fun at the Truckhaven Rocks outside Borrego Springs

Mountain range in miniature

The tilted Truckhaven Rocks are visible from the highway.
  • The tilted Truckhaven Rocks are visible from the highway.

Brown-eyed evening primrose go quickly through their life cycle.

Brown-eyed evening primrose go quickly through their life cycle.

Weathered rocks with small wind caves

Weathered rocks with small wind caves

Map to the Truckhaven Rocks

Map to the Truckhaven Rocks

Truckhaven Rocks are blocks of reddish-brown sandstone made from sedimentary deposits that were tilted to a 45-degree angle by geological forces eons ago. They rise up 100 feet or more from the alluvial plain and are named for the first road east out of the Borrego Valley — the old Truckhaven Trail. The sandstone has been eroded by wind and rain to create a miniature mountain range, complete with canyons, peaks, and ridges. Located in the eastern part of the Anza-Borrego Desert, it is an area that receives even less rainfall than Borrego Springs, giving the area surrounding the rocks a barren appearance when viewed from the highway. However, keep your eyes open as you hike across the alluvial plain to reach the rocks, as there is a diverse array of life, including wildflowers in the spring. The rocks themselves provide a fascinating place to explore and are highly photogenic. Bring a camera!

Although the Truckhaven Rocks can be reached by hiking up Arroyo Salado Wash, it would be a more strenuous hike than the one recommended here. Instead, start walking north across the gently tilted alluvial plain from Milepost 35.5 toward the rocks that remain visible throughout the hike. There is no official trail but rather numerous parallel routes across the plain, some of which have been marked with ducks.

The desert floor here is composed of sand and an assortment of granitic and metamorphic boulders that have been carried down from the rapidly eroding Santa Rosa Mountains by intense but infrequent rainstorms. The storms have created a series of interconnected channels of varying age. In the oldest channels are paths of desert pavement lined with random piles of deeply bronzed, desert-varnished boulders to follow. The more recently carved channels have a sandy floor and the boulders have lost their varnish, if they ever had it.

In this sparsely vegetated area are many of the shrubs found throughout the Anza-Borrego area, including creosote bush, burrobush, ocotillo, catclaw, Gander’s cholla, California barrel cactus, and beavertail cactus. You can also find some of the less common shrubs, particularly indigo bush. There are a few desert smoke trees in the washes. In late winter and early spring many wildflowers are scattered over the alluvial fan. Gold poppies are abundant, forming a carpet in patches. Desert phacelia, Mojave lupine, desert lily, desert star, and brown-eyed primrose can easily be found, although some of these are markedly reduced in size due to the sparsity of water. The beautiful desert star observed in the wash had flowers smaller than a nickel and only a few leaves on the plant. Its strategy for life in this dry desert is to live fast and die young.

Distance from downtown San Diego: About 104 miles. Allow 2 hours driving time. (Borrego Springs) From Christmas Circle go 17 miles east on SR-22, also known as the Borrego Salton Seaway, to the Truckhaven Rocks at Milepost 35.5 and park on the north side of the highway. The rocks are visible from the road at the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains.

Hiking length: 1 to 3 miles out-and-back, depending on the amount of exploring that is done. Allow 2 hours.

Difficulty: Easy. Elevation gain/loss 200 feet. Dogs and mountain bikes not allowed on park trails. An interesting hike for children. No facilities or water.

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