Published: Mon, May 15, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

Canyon Sin Nombre | Modern Hiker

Canyon Sin Nombre | Modern Hiker

One of the advantages of being the largest State Park in the California while accounting for half (yes, half) of the California State Park system is that Anza-Borrego contains such a rich variety of geological wonders that you sometimes Get the feeling that there is no end to it. In addition to the spring-fed oases at Mountain Palm Springs and Borrego Palm Canyon, botanical islands atop rugged Whale Peak, ancient sea beds and marine fossils at Split Mountain, and a bewildering granitic wilderness at Bow Willow and Rockhouse Canyons, Anza-Borrego also Serves up intricately carved sandstone canyons with numerous slot canyon off-shoots and geologic mysteries.

Canyon Sin Nombre is a fine example of the latter. Here, you will find weathered sandstone cliffs interspersed with bands of igneous and metamorphic rocks. Late afternoon is a fine time to visit the canyon when the low angle of the light draws out some of the color in what at first appears to be a beige palette. The more adventurous-minded will enjoy exploring the slot canyons, while those with off-road, high-clearance vehicles will be able to navigate down the canyon to find some remote and isolated camping spots.

The hike begins At a dirt road lot on the east side of Sweeney Pass Road (State Route 2). From the lot, you will descend to steep slope that becomes more gradual on the way down. This steep initial descent is an important consideration, as you will have to get it back up at the very end of your hike. On a hot afternoon, this ascent on the return trip could be a bit of trouble.

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The sandy road you'll be traveling on gradually comes closer and closer to the entrance of the canyon proper between two large rock bodies. Both of these hills are banded with different kinds of rock, which will be the common occurrence along the way. As you pass the mouth of the canyon, the walls close in and you pass through reddish-brown and gray layers of metamorphic rock shot through thin bands of white igneous (granitic) rock called "dikes." Not too long after this section, You will see a swirl of sedimentary rock layers in which various strata of rock have twisted inward due to movement from the nearby Elsinore Fault. I do not know much about geology, but even a complete novice with a limited understanding, it is easy to see that some really awesome stuff is happening here.

After a series of sharp curves, The floor of the canyon opens up into a broader plain. At this point, the rock transitions from metamorphic and granitic rock to a mixture of soft sandstone and mudstone. Water and time have carved some of these cliffs into formations reminiscent of the area around Zabriskie Point in Death Valley. Late evening light adds warm glow and tinge to the walls of the canyon, while smoke trees dot the sandy wash through which you walk.

This marks the final destination for this particular hike. From here, you have the option of returning to the start by retracing your steps to the parking area. If you do not have any drawbacks, if that is what the canyon is, you can continue down the canyon and follow the many twists and turns until it merges with the entrance to Arroyo Tapiado and Arroyo Seco del Diablo.

A large amount of vehicle traffic from off-road enthusiasts. While we are in no way question their rights to enjoy the canyon in their own safe and responsible way, you can expect to step off the dirt road frequently the vehicles make their way through the canyon, breaking the silence and leaving a whiff Of exhaust in their wakes. This should not deter you from visiting the canyon, as this is a beautiful place to visit.

We would also like to note that while you can camp no further than a car's Length away from the road, you MUST bring a metal container to hold your fire, you should decide to camp here. You will also need to pack your ash. The scarring from a fire burning in an illegal fire ring takes years to disappear, which mars the natural scenery and damages the environment. While here, we destroyed an illegal fire ring and scattered the ashes as broadly as possible to discourage this sort of thing. Please do not contribute to the gradual diminution of the desert's natural beauty by burning illegal fires and leaving behind waste.

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