Coyote Canyon Trail

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Coyote Canyon Trail Map
Coyote Canyon Trail
Photo: Looking into Upper Coyote Canyon from Turkey Grade.
Trail Information
Other Names: North Coyote Canyon Trail, Upper Coyote Canyon Trail
Part of: Cleveland National Forest
Trail Length: 9.6 miles
Trail Time: 2.5 hours
Off-Road Use:
County: San Diego County, California
Nearest Cities: Anza
Map Links: Google Map Yahoo Map
Satellite Map: Google Satellite
Special Map:
GPS Start: N33 30.05 W116 37.80
GPS End: N33 27.10 W116 31.41
Google Earth: Coyote Canyon Trail.kmz
Elevation: 2,400 to 4,200 ft.

Coyote Canyon Until the mid 80’s this canyon was drivable all the way from the Terwilliger Valley to Borrego Springs City and back, now the 3.2 miles between the Upper willows and middle willows is permanently closed to motor vehicles year around. The trail is now divided in Upper Coyote Canyon and Lower Coyote Canyon and both of these sections are closed between June 1st and September 30th to preserve the watering rights of the Desert Bighorn Sheep.

Upper Coyote Canyon[edit]

Lies along the San Jacinto Fault and divides the Santa Rosa Mountains from the San Ysidro Mountains. This is a deep canyon trail offers some great scenery and desert quiet within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The trail begins as a paved road passing through settlements in the Terwilliger Valley and it turns into a dirt road a little distance away. You will not find any signs leading the way in this place until you reach the park boundary.

This middle section consists of fragile riparian areas and lies in Upper and Lower Willows. Between June and September this section is closed to protect the habitat of the rare peninsular bighorn sheep that use it as a watering hole in peak summer. You can also find many reptile and bird species, including Bell’s vireo. A great place for hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers, vehicles are not allowed entry in the middle section.

After you pass the houses at the Terwilliger Valley the trail turns rough and takes you through the San Carlos Pass. You start descending into the Coyote Canyon and some amazing views greet you. The trail descends Anza Ridge by the Turkey Grade, a shelf road that has been cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps in as far back as 1933. This road has an uneven surface and only one vehicle can pass at a time, that too with some difficulty. Your 4WD faces deep holes, uneven cambers and loose surfaces in this section.

It does not get much better as you reach the bottom. There is water all around and it makes the trail even more difficult. If you choose to do this trail in October, soon after it reopens, the challenge is greater. There is no one to maintain this track except the passing traill users.

When you do finally reach the bottom however, the pressure eases. The ground turns sandy and after you cross Tule Canyon and enter the main Coyote Canyon it is good. A point to be noted: you may require lowering your tire pressure to do this stretch. Also you may be unable to choose the correct path as the terrain alters after the rains, especially the Fig Tree Valley to Baily’s Cabin track.

The end of this trail is a short loop crossing Baily’s Cabin. You can rest here for the night if required as long as you keep it clean and neat.

The last leg of this trail is past a fence which ends the vehicle route and loops around to rejoin the main trail. You can climb back the Turkey Grade if you wish.

Lower Coyote Canyon[edit]

The Lower Coyote Canyon Trail begins at the end of Di Giorgio Rd in the city of Borrego Springs, I do recommend to take Borrego Springs Rd to the north making a sharp right on Henderson Canyon Rd and then left on Di Giorgio Rd, in doing so you will drive pass several of these amazing metal sculptures like the sea monster and the off-road Jeep. The trail is mostly easy, medium difficulty are encounter after the 3rd water crossing (going up and around the lower willows) and near the end of the trail by the middle willows. Along the way there are several hiking trails and primitive camping areas. Overall the trail is perfect to take the family and enjoy nature.


Campers can use the park in the designated areas. No camping is permitted to the south of the vehicle trail between Upper Willows and Lower Willows.

Maps and GPS Coordinates[edit]

Coyote Canyon Trail Coordinates: 33.500833° -116.630000° Coordinates: 33.500833° -116.630000°