Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Visitor's View – Inspiration Wash


Last updated 9/14/2023 at 11:11am

The days may be sizzling right now, but it's not too soon to begin planning those fall desert adventures when mild weather and the vast open spaces of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park welcome your exploration.

A good way to launch the desert season is an off-road adventure close to Borrego Springs that will polish your off-road driving skills while you explore sand dunes and the maze-like landscape of the Borrego Badlands.

The inspiration Wash Trail is a moderately challenging four-wheel drive route that snakes through the curdled desert landscape for about 8 miles, returning to pavement just east of Borrego Springs.

While 8 miles is not very far, there is much here to see, side canyons to explore, rippled sand dunes, geological wonders and driving challenges to navigate.

The turn off to Inspiration Wash is on your right, 10.3 miles east of Christmas Circle on Highway S-22, also known as Borrego-Salton Seaway.

Here, travelers will leave the pavement, shift into four-wheel drive and begin heading south in a wide, sandy wash. There is a small state park sign at the highway that identifies Inspiration Wash.

Soon, the wash narrows and begins winding into barren badlands where there are many places to pull over and hike a bit to explore this fascinating terrain, take photographs, or enjoy overlooks into untracked areas of the park.

The dusty walls of the wash will begin to rise and narrow as you push deeper into this spectacular landscape.

Like a wonderland maze, Inspiration Wash twists and turns sharply, climbs and dips as the terrain becomes more eroded. A barren, tilted layer cake landscape exposes the geological history of this area that is rich in fossils of now-extinct animals that once roamed here during the Pleistocene era nearly three million years ago.

But the challenging terrain allows for a slow, comfortable pace that gives visitors ample time to study and enjoy the unique desert terrain.

The most difficult section of the trip is Inspiration Pass where you climb to a high point and then drop into Dump Wash to continue your tour back to Borrego Springs.

Dump Wash is so named because it originates near the County waste disposal facility to the west.

After Inspiration Pass you will again drop into a deep, serpentine canyon that slowly widens as it flows through the eroded landscape.

As the desert flattens once again, the wash will pass a beautiful field of rippled sand dunes that are part of a county preserve.

While it might be tempting to try your off-road driving skills here, the dunes and the fragile plant and wildlife there are protected, and vehicles are prohibited.

A short distance beyond the dunes will bring you back to pavement at Dump Road and a 10-minute drive back into Borrego Springs.

Inspiration Wash, Dump Wash and the Borrego Dunes are areas that come alive with wildflower clusters of purple sand verbena, yellow desert sunflowers or the showy white desert lily during a few brief weeks when spring rainfall has been generous.

A drive through Inspiration Wash can be interesting anytime, but especially in the early mornings or late in the day when low-angle sunlight adds texture to the rugged mountains or enhances the delicate ripples of the sand dunes.

This 8-mile route is an easy trip in a few hours, but you can also pack a lunch and enjoy a day driving, hiking and just enjoying the grandeur along the route.

There are also plenty of places along the way for off-grid camping if you prefer spending a night or two under the stars in the quiet beauty of the Borrego Badlands.

You can reach the author at Ernie at

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