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Ride Report: Ocotillo Wells to Anza Borrego Desert

Bikepacking the Salton Sea

This past week a few buddies and I attempted to ride our bicycles through the scorching hot Imperial Valley sun over to San Diego by way of the SoCal Desert Ramble from We picked up on the route just south of Borrego Springs, California at mile 225. My lovely partner @hifi.wifeeye dropped us off in the desert late Wednesday night where we car camped to prepare for our departure Thursday morning. 

Enjoy this photo collage of our trip through the Anza Borrego Desert State Park and into the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. At the bottom of this page you can find the interactive RWGPS Route in case you're ever interested in checking out some of what SoCal has to offer.

Salton Sea Desert Camping

Salton Sea to San DiegoBikepacking the Salton SeaSalton Sea Bike Camping

Kyle (above) enjoying the palm tree farms scattered across the desert. Dates (below) were found off the side of a date palm in a field of palms. Some of the best dates were the ones pulled from the sand. It appeared that the fallen dates had a sweeter taste compared to the picked ones.Salton Sea ForagingSalton Sea Bikepacking in Da Brims

The route takes you through a series of slot canyons that traverse out of the Imperial Valley and slowly into the Anza Borrego Desert State Park where you find yourself hike-a-biking through the sandy washes all while slightly gaining elevation. The sun is hot but proper headwear is choice for surviving the desert heat. Plenty of water is a must! A minimum of 6-8 liters per person per day is ideal for riding through the California desert. More is preferred in case you find yourself pushing your bike through the sand.

Salton Sea BikepackingSalton Sea BikepackingSalton Sea Bikepacking and Bike Camping

On the route out of Ocotillo Wells via Split Mountain Road, we began riding into the Fish Creek Wash where we were met with Sandstone Canyon Walls exceeding 150' in height. These ancient walls, encrusted with boulders of any shape and size, take over the landscape. Their size was intimidating at first but once I realized that shade can be found behind most corners, excitement set in.Bikepacking the Salton SeaBikepacking the Salton Sea
As you can see, the kitty liter sand is quite thick and impassable. While we may be riding our bikes in the image above, I can tell you that we rode about 50% of the 13 mile Fish Creek Wash in +/- 5 hours. That's a comfortable 2/3 miles an hour. Salton Sea Bikepacking and CampingEarly morning wash riding. We started our ride at 7am to avoid the sun as much as possible. At this time of the year, we saw 11 hours of sun with temps reaching upwards of 90°.Bikepacking the Salton Sea DesertBikepacking the Stage Coach 400Riding out of the desert, we were met with high elevation California chaparral landscapes that were rich in mesquite trees, oak trees and many other native Southern California species.  Salton Sea BikepackingWhile most routes were passable, we were met with quite a few impassable routes that left us hiking our bikes for miles.Impassable Routes while bikepacking the Salton SeaWe laughed, we cried (well, perspired out of our sweat glands) and we ate. Wow, did we eat! From the mid-day burritos to the late night Mountain House packable meals; we had many great conversations around many great meals. 
Because of the intense difficulty of this route, I wouldn't go as far as recommending it to anyone but I would recommend that you take the time to visit some of Southern California's deserts by bicycle. There are many fun (and easy) routes to be found out near the Salton Sea. Just don't forget your sun hat!
A big shoutout to Tom for planning the route and to Kyle for traveling all the way over from Berlin, Germany to bike camp the desert with us and of course for supplying us with the route and que sheet.
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