Sheep Canyon January 2012

We took advantage of some mild weather to explore Sheep Canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We drove our old truck northwest out of Borrego Springs into the desert about as far as we could drive it on Coyote Canyon Road (a dirt road), to a point just beyond Third Crossing. We took the truck because there were six of us on this trip and all of us and our gear fit inside nicely (we never could have fit all of them, even without backpacks, in our old Saturn).

Coyote Canyon Road at Di Giorgio Road
Coyote Canyon Road at Di Giorgio Road

Third Crossing on Coyote Canyon Road

Six Backpacks and a Truck just beyond Third Crossing on Coyote Canyon Road
Six Backpacks and a Truck just beyond Third Crossing on Coyote Canyon Road

We backpacked from there (the road becomes four-wheel drive only at that point). If we’d had a decent 4WD truck we could have driven the whole way. Oh well. It was a nice hike anyway, up and over the hill, then across the gradually-sloping desert floor. We set up camp at the mouth of Cougar Canyon, which the kids were going to explore the next day. We went there last year, so we wanted to check out Sheep Canyon this time.

The 4WD section of Coyote Canyon Road. 4WD pretty much mandatory!
The 4WD section of Coyote Canyon Road. 4WD pretty much mandatory!
Sheep Canyon on the left, from Coyote Canyon Road
Sheep Canyon on the left, from Coyote Canyon Road
Sheep Canyon Trail
Sheep Canyon Trail
Cougar Canyon Foot Trail from Sheep Canyon Campground
Cougar Canyon Foot Trail from Sheep Canyon Campground

Video of Water flowing at the mouth of Cougar Canyon

HDR sunset shot of our campsite near Cougar Canyon, with Toro Peak and Santa Rosa Mountain in the distance.
HDR sunset shot of our campsite near Cougar Canyon, with Toro Peak and Santa Rosa Mountain in the distance.

The next day, four of us explored Cougar Canyon, while Vicki and I day-hiked around the corner to explore Sheep Canyon. Sheep canyon has two parts, the South Fork and the main fork. We explored the main fork, so that we would have something else to check out next trip. Like Cougar Canyon, Sheep Canyon also has water in the stream year-round.

Sheep Canyon has a stream that flows all year, so it differs from most desert hikes in that there are trees and shade in the canyon.
Sheep Canyon has a stream that flows all year, so it differs from most desert hikes in that there are trees and shade in the canyon.
Sheep Canyon in winter colors.
Sheep Canyon in winter colors.

We hiked upstream for quite a distance, until our turn-around time of noon-ish. We found many beautiful waterfalls, and also a nice shady cave-like grotto with waterfalls inside. There was a fairly prominent foot-path all the way through the canyon, although we had to climb up on the right side (heading in) onto a small canyonside ledge/plateau in order to get up and around one of the larger waterfalls. We placed a couple of “ducks” (cairns) to help other hikers find this easier path upstream. We ate lunch on a nice flat rock with a great view down-canyon, and Vicki took a short nap in the sun. The temperature was a comfortable 70 degrees, just perfect for enjoying the desert.

Lots of nice quiet pools.
Lots of nice quiet pools.
Plenty of stunning waterfalls.
Plenty of stunning waterfalls.
And even a private cave (or grotto) with a built-in shower!
And even a private cave (or grotto) with a built-in shower!
The fourth (and highest) waterfall we found
The fourth (and highest) waterfall we found

We couldn’t find our way around this waterfall without going beyond our pre-designated turn-around time, so we headed back downstream for some lunch with a view.

Looking down from the high rock in Sheep Canyon where we ate lunch
Looking down from the high rock in Sheep Canyon where we ate lunch
Relaxing for lunch and a nap in Sheep Canyon
Relaxing for lunch and a nap in Sheep Canyon

We hiked back downstream and made it to camp before sunset, just as the larger group arrived back from exploring Cougar Canyon.

fter we got back to camp we ate dinner by moonlight.
After we got back to camp we ate dinner by moonlight.

The next day we had breakfast, packed up, and hiked out. It was much easier hiking out as it was mostly downhill. Just the same, it wasn’t a long hike, and almost anyone could do it with ease. After reaching the truck, everyone agreed that it had been a truly excellent weekend. Just as importantly, the truck also did great in the desert, and it may go back again soon!

Hiking out along the road into Collins Valley near the mouth of Sheep Canyon
Hiking out along the road into Collins Valley near the mouth of Sheep Canyon
The truck parked near Third Crossing on Coyote Canyon Road. Time to drive home!
The truck parked near Third Crossing on Coyote Canyon Road. Time to drive home!

The rest of my pics are on my Flickr album page.

Caltopo Interactive Topo Map of the hike

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