||Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves Hike
See Area D-12: Carrizo Badlands, Trip 3, Arroyo Tapiado/Arroyo Diablo Loop, in Schad's book* (c '98, pp. 341-342, map on p. 338) for hike details. ** to*** degree of difficulty out of a possible *****. We won't do the full loop, so this hike will be a flat and relaxing (depending on how many off-road ATV's are out there) 7-8 miles roundtrip (plus excursions up into small side canyons and caves) and will take about 5-6 hours to complete, depending on how many caves we have time to explore. Elevation gain/loss is about 300'-400'.
This hike is located in the southern part of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Take I-8 East from San Diego, out to Ocotillo, then head northwest into the Anza Borrego Desert State Park on highway S-2. See the Maps page for more information.
To reach the starting point, find the signed Palm Spring turnoff at mile 43.0 on County Highway S-2. This is opposite (east of) Canebrake Canyon. Go east on the dirt road, passing the spur road to Palm Spring, and continue (if road conditions allow) down Vallecito Creek wash. Park at the intersection of the road into Arroyo Tapiado, 4.5 miles from S-2. We'll plan to meet out there at 11:15 am and start hiking about 11:30.
In this general area many fossils of land creatures dating back one to two million years have been found, including bones of mammoth, camel, sabertooth cat, dire wolf and rhinoceros. The highlight of the trip is the Arroyo Tapiado cave formations. Some of the caves are pitch dark, so for exploring them, bring two flashlights (per person) and if you have one, a hard hat or a rock-climbing helmet.
A few of the caves in the area are over 1000 feet long, with rooms up to 80 feet high and 30 feet wide. Others are tall and narrow, much like a meandering slot canyon with a roof overhead. Some have multiple levels, and one contains a 45-foot subterranean dry fall. Sinkholes (skylights) illuminate the interiors of some caves. Most cave passages eventually lead upstream through a swallow hole to a "blind" valley (a ravine having no exit for drainage except through a cave).
As usual, we require each hiker to bring their own appropriate hiking gear, food, and sports drinks. Be sure to do your "carb loading" before the hike by eating a good meal/healthy snack and drinking liquids, avoiding dehydration and fatigue. Carb loading the day before is useful, too. And if you leave the hike early, please notify the hike leader directly, so there's no question that you may have gotten lost or injured along the way. Remember... Safety first.
* "Area", "Trip" and corresponding page numbers listed for each hike refer to descriptions in Jerry Schad's book "Afoot and Afield in San Diego County". It can be purchased at any major bookstore or online.