California: Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area

Ocotillo, Calif.

Want a great riding experience? We recommend you add Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area in California to your list of favorite winter riding areas.

Ocotillo Wells is approximately 70 miles east of Escondido on Highway 78. The area offers more than 80,000 acres of magnificent desert open for off-road exploration. If somehow you manage to ride and explore all the trails here, you can always expand your riding into the adjoining BLM-managed lands that surround most of Ocotillo Wells.

The trails offer all kinds of desert riding, including rocks, hard pack, hillclimbs, sand washes and twisty trails through the scrub. There's also a special track set aside for kids. Stock tires are the norm, as most riders don’t use sand paddle tires unless they are riding only in the sand areas.

Open camping and day-use is permitted throughout the area and is free. Vault toilets, shade ramadas, picnic tables, and fire rings are located in the Quarry, Main St., and Holmes Camp areas. Water isn't available, so bring plenty.

Blow Sand Hill is perhaps the most popular spot in the park to camp and ride. In the evenings, don’t be surprised to see a circle of headlights illuminating the hill.

Devil’s Slide is a 200-foot-high granite and sand island, named for the challenge it presents. The mountaintop has a dark coat of desert varnish covering the rocks as a result of exposure to sunlight. There are several old hidden mine shafts along the mountainside.

At Shell Reef, park beneath the reef and explore on foot. You will find fragments of fossilized oyster shells. The reef is estimated to be 4 million years old!

Gas Domes and Pumpkin Patch are two other natural wonders that are worth exploring.

Please help preserve Shell Reef and all the geological phenomena. Find other hills to climb—preserve the experience for future generations and encourage others to do the same.

All ATVs must display a California OHV Permit sticker or your state sticker for non-residents.

Riders under 18 must have an appropriate Safety Certificate or be supervised by an adult who has a Safety Certificate. All riders must wear a safety helmet and carrying passengers isn't permitted, unless the vehicle is designed for two people.

All vehicles must have a working spark arrester and meet the J1287 96-decibel sound requirements. If you plan to ride at night your vehicle must have working headlights and taillights.

For more information and maps, contact Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, P.O. Box 360, Borrego Springs, CA 92004, (760) 767-5391 or log on to