Borrego Springs, CA
Right behind our campground is a trail leading up into Palm Canyon. This is one of those hikes that can go on and on for miles if you are up to the challenge. We had hiked it once before two years ago, but since it is so close to us and it was later in the day, we decided to tackle it one more time. The main destination for hikers is a classic California palm oasis, complete with a grove of California Fan Palm Trees, the only palm native to the Western United States and the country’s largest native palm .
As we approached the Palm Oasis we could hear water trickling through the canyon, an unusual sound in the desert. We were surprised to find a flowing stream with a pretty fair amount of water.
We didn’t see any water at the mouth of the canyon, so where did it go? We followed the stream and found a spot near the trail where it became a trickle before disappearing into the sand.
This park is known for its Peninsular Big Horn Sheep (borrego is Spanish for sheep) so we kept our eyes on the sides of the canyon as we hiked. Our diligence was rewarded just before we finished when we spotted a group feeding on the nearby hillside.
The next day we drove just a couple of miles up highway S-22 to the trailhead for Hellhole Canyon. This was another hike we did during our last visit, but there is suppose to be a twenty foot waterfall in the canyon that we didn’t find on that hike. We were determined to find it this time!
You wouldn’t want to be in this canyon in the summer, as temperatures reach 124 degrees!
There is a great deal of variety in the hiking on this trail. The first mile and a half is over flat desert. Once in the canyon we had times where we had to navigate thick vegetation followed by some pretty challenging scrambling over rocks.
After three and half miles we knew that we had again missed the falls. The canyon began to flatten out so there was no way there could be a significant drop for water. At this point we turned around, disappointed that we had again failed in our quest for the falls.
At certain places in Hellhole Canyon there is no main trail, as people have created a number of different paths through the large rocks. On the way back down we ended up on a path different from the one we used going up. As we made our way around a large rock formation we came to a drop off of about twenty feet. Ah, the elusive falls!
Since there was little water in the canyon, the falls was almost completely dry. But there was a bit of moisture dripping off some vegetation at its base. As you can tell from the photo above, the “falls” is hidden by vegetation and difficult to see. No wonder we missed it!
OK, so the “falls” wasn’t very exciting. But the hike to it and beyond was very challenging and the views back toward the desert were very good. If you go on this hike take your lunch and plenty of water. You’re going to need it!