Visitor's View – The Slot


Last updated 2/24/2023 at 11:16am

If you are new to exploring Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, or only have a few available hours, one of the most interesting places to discover is The Slot, just a few minutes away from Borrego Springs and accessible by a regular vehicle.

On the western slopes of Borrego Mountain, the powerful forces of erosion have carved a twisting, narrow canyon that offers a hiking wonderland to those willing to enter.

The Slot is an iconic example of how natural forces have created the Borrego and Carrizo Badlands, a curdled landscape carved by wind and water over millions of years.

Over time, these powerful forces have carved a nearly half-mile long gash in the landscape with towering sandstone walls reaching 50 feet or more, and in some places so narrow that a hiker with a large backpack might not get through without taking the pack off.

In the heat of summer days, the shadowed depths of the canyon are often much cooler than the surrounding landscape, but it's the beauty of The Slot that attracts most Visitors.

There's almost a poetry to this weathered place as The Slot snakes through the sandstone formations. Depending on the time of day, bits of sunshine may reach into the narrow canyon, but mostly you will be in the deep shadows created by the high walls.

Different colored layers of sandstone add subtle hues to the canyon walls, and in places you will see interesting formations of mud that have dripped into the canyon like wax from a melted candle.

On a small ledge you can see droppings or a pile of sticks, indicating the nesting site of a native species such as the American kestrel or white-throated swift.

Deep into The Slot, look for the sandstone arch that is actually a sandstone column that broke away from the walls and rests against the opposing wall.

To reach the slot, leave Borrego Springs on Borrego Springs Road from Christmas Circle and continue east, through Texas Dip until you reach Highway 78 in 11.5 miles.

Turn left and go east about 1.5 miles and look for a low, state park sign that says Buttes Pass on your left. Turn here and go north on the well-maintained dirt road for about 1.8 miles until you reach the Slot Canyon Trail parking area.

For those of you who enjoy the adventure of navigating with GPS, the coordinates of the parking area and trailhead are 33.18217, -16.21395.

There is a restroom facility here and this is a fee area requiring a park day use fee.

A trail leads off to the northeast from the parking area and then there is a short scramble down into the slot canyon where the adventure begins. Initially, the canyon is quite open, but it soon narrows as the sandstone cliffs become vertical and begin to get higher.

As the canyon winds through the landscape, it will widen and narrow. In some places there will be small chambers while in other places you will not be able to stretch your arms out without touching both walls.

Near the end of The Slot, before it spills out into Borrego Mountain Wash, portions of the canyon walls will be no wider than two feet.

If you want more adventure and have the time, continue hiking north in Borrego Mountain Wash once you exit The Slot. Another mile or so down the wash, look for the sandstone formation of eroded wind caves on your right.

This is an area rich in geological formations, exposed to view, thanks to the lack of vegetation.

If you have packed a lunch, this is also an enjoyable place to sit for a while and enjoy a desert picnic before making the return hike.

The Slot is a popular destination in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It can be crowded on weekends, so if you can plan a weekday visit, you might have this magnificent geological wonder all to yourself.