Vista del Malpais

Coachwhip Canyon to Inspiration Point
(12 miles, +1,200/-1,000 feet).

We’ve had a crazy cold and wet winter in San Diego.  And that means something special in the Anza Borrego Desert: Superbloom!

This year there are actually going to be two “pulses” to the superbloom.  There is one that just peaked along S-22 due to a local storm that dumped a lot of rain back in October.  And there should be another one coming up in March due to good rainfall in December and January that will blanket the whole place with psychedelic colors.

For this first pulse, I teamed up with MixMaster and Sobo Baggins to visit Coachwhip Canyon and the Borrego Badlands, two places that were supposed to be peaking for the first superbloom of 2019.  A good place to get up to date info on the best places to go is the Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association’s Wildflowers Update.

We got a later than usual start, leaving San Diego around 6am, but boy am I glad we did.  Even when the sun had been up for an hour, there was still black ice on the road through Cuyamaca State Park (thanks for driving MixMaster!).

Frozen Lake Cuyamaca makes its own fog

After passing through this high elevation winter wonderland, we descended back down to the desert and parked near Coachwhip Canyon.  The plan was to do a loop without the packs, then circle back to the car to set out for Inspiration Point.

And the superbloom was not hard to find.

Wooly Sunflowers

We actually started out by hiking the upper reaches of Smoketree Wash, but we didn’t think it would be too hard to find a place to climb up and over into Coachwhip Canyon.

Sobo Baggins
Ocotillo strikes a pose
Mmmmmmm pollen…..
Adding lupines to the mix

We found a little saddle to switch canyons, and it was even marked with a cairn, but it was not immediately obvious how to get down.



Found it!
Sobo makes his way down

There were two places where we had to do downclimbs with some exposure – one involved a bit of a leap of faith, but there was a very good handhold once an extended foot hit the slippery side of the canyon.

We’re still alive!!!
Desert sand verbena
Desert Lilly
Lupines everywhere!

We got back to the car, put our packs on, and headed down Ella Wash and then across on the Cut Across Trail.  Knowing what I know now, I would have avoided this part of the hike.  It’s a 4WD superhighway and there was a pretty steady stream of traffic that kind of ruined the mood (I didn’t take any pictures).

But soon enough, we found a wash off the main drag that was closed to offroading, and we followed this up to our first viewpoint near Vista del Malpais.

El Malpais
Our lunch spot at the very top of the wash

We followed a use trail on the ridge for a while, but it got sketchy in some places where it was safer to climb back down into a wash.  We would then follow that down to a tributary and then turn back up until that wash ended.  (Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat!)

Back down to safety
The absolutely stunning Borrego Badlands
Back into the maze!
Climbing back out
A wonderful place to take a break

After a long break late afternoon, we decided to veer away our trajectory towards Fonts Point and just take large washes around the badlands to head towards Inspiration Point.

This is much easier!

Back in the wide washes, however, we soon realized there was a lot of traffic heading up towards the points.  We decided to veer away from the main wash to find a campsite.

Home sweet home!

Oddly enough, the little hill above the saddle where we camped had a man made bench on it (you can just barely see it in the photo above).  It was a memorial to the previous owners who had donated it to the park.


After setting up camp we day hiked over to Inspiration Point to see what all the fuss was about.

Nice, but we liked our spot better

We then headed back to camp to eat dinner and watch the sun set.

What a great day!
JimmyJam snaps the sunset
Good night Anza!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. mark batz says:

    What brand of tent were you using? Do you use a rainfly?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. JimmyJam says:

      Check out my gear page – link at the top!


  2. Not such a malpais after all.

    Liked by 1 person

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