Carrizo Gorge itself is in San Diego County, located at the south end of Anza Borrego State Park and Carrizo Gorge Wilderness is a strip of narrow land and the watershed of the gorge.
The Carrizo Gorge Wilderness is located right next to the mighty Jacumba Mountains, providing quite a view to those who visit this neck of the woods. The entire wilderness is spread over an area of 14,735 acres of land. It is a seldom-visited wilderness region, giving it even more rawness and making it perfect for visitors who are seeking the thrill of adventure and solitude, rather than those looking for a crowded place and well-known attractions.
Don’t be mistaken by the name though. The wilderness does not contain the gorge it is named after. Nevertheless, it still remains an important watershed for the Carrizo Gorge and provides a corridor for several wildlife species. The entire wilderness is maintained and managed by the Bureau of Land Management and recognized as the only ecological transition zone between the Colorado desert and the peninsula mountain ranges in the National Wilderness Preserve System.
Don’t be surprised if you come across bighorn sheep herds during your adventure through the wilderness. Driving out this far into the wilderness gives you but a glimpse of the beauty of the Colorado Desert.
60 miles fromSan Diego on Interstate 8 lies the vast expanse of land known as Carrizo Gorge Wilderness. The best route to access the wilderness is via the Boulevard/Manzanita exit of Interstate 8. Driving North, you’ll find the Carrizo Gorge Wilderness to the east of the McCain Valley Road.
The road to Carrizo Gorge Wilderness is well maintained. When you are nearing the wilderness, drive slowly to avoid crashing into any of the wildlife that might have separated from its herd. We suggest you time your arrival in a manner that when you arrive you are just in time to catch the sunrise from behind the desert plains.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is located very close to the Carrizo Gorge Wilderness and has absolutely no shortage of camping spaces. The State Park hosts four developed campgrounds with 175 campsites. They also offer sites with accessible features.
The state park also hosts 8 primitive campgrounds with countless campsites. If you need a change of scenery, you can always head to this state-owned public campground to enjoy a few more days of camping and glamping.
You’ll even find vault toilets at some of the primitive campgrounds at the State Park. The maximum trailer length at this park is 35 feet.
Carrizo Gorge Wilderness has a Bureau of Land Management campground where camping is permitted for 14 days. If you wish to spend some more time in the wilderness, then you must relocate 25 miles from your previous site.
The campground is primitive and it is encouraged to set up camp in already used spaces instead of new and undisturbed sites. You can only collect dead or down wood for a campfire. Cutting live vegetation is not permitted. Pets are welcome at the campground as long as they are looked and cleaned after.
At Carrizo Gorge Wilderness, hiking is one of the major activities. The California desert has some pretty great expansive views with vistas extending as far as 100 miles, and most of these views exist in Carrizo Gorge Wilderness. You couldn’t find a better place to enjoy these views. Once you hike over to the overlooks, you can behold the Salton Sea to the northeast, Mount Signa on the Mexican border, the Chocolate Mountains, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that shares the eastern border with the wilderness.
There aren’t many maintained trails in the wilderness, especially on the west side. However, there are several springs that make for an easier hike and keeps you replenished along the trail.
Like hiking trails, equestrian trails aren’t well-maintained at the Carrizo Gorge Wilderness. However, that never stops horseback riders from enjoying the view of the wilderness offered from their friendly rides. The Bureau of Land Management has permitted horses in the wilderness. You just need to bring all your supplies, including water, for your horses.
Carrizo Gorge Wilderness represents a transition zone between the low Colorado Desert and the dry California coastal mountains, and that makes it an interesting spot for wildlife enthusiasts. At least three peninsular sheep herds are found here, and the San Diego coast horned lizard also calls this place home. Swainson’s hawks, golden eagles, and various other species of prey have been sighted here.
Carrizo Gorge Railway is a 140-mile San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railroad, funded by San Diego magnate John D. Spreckels. The construction of the Carrizo Gorge Railway began in 1907 and finished in 1919. The railways carried freight as well as passengers for some time.
The railway extends from San Diego to El Centro and a major part of these railway tracks are in Mexico. There’s a significant history behind these tracks and explorers risk pretty hard hikes to reach the railway. Hikers and bikers are advised to remain 100 feet away from the tracks as per official rules of the state.
It is no secret that some of the best and most expansive views in the entire California Desert are found here. Imagine capturing the Chocolate Mountains, the Salton Sea, and Mount Signal in your frame. You can take out your cameras as soon as palm trees along the edges of dry washes and narrow canyon come into view during your drive to the wilderness.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is less than a two-hour drive from the Carrizo Gorge Wilderness and is one of the most happening state parks in California. The State Park has an extremely rugged landscape caused by millennia of erosion, giving way to bizarre and spectacular rock formations. There are several recreational activities that you can partake in at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.