Want a great off-highway riding experience? Add Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area in California to your list of favorite winter riding areas.
Ocotillo Wells is about 70 miles east of Escondido on Highway 78. The area offers more than 85,000 acres of magnificent desert open for off-road exploration.
The trails offer all kinds of desert riding, rocks, hard pack, hill climbs, sand washes and twisty trails through the scrub.
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. Repair shops, fuel, telephones, groceries, a motel and restaurants are in Ocotillo Wells on Highway 7, Borrego Springs and Salton City. Fuel is available in Borrego Springs and Salton City.
Blow Sand Hill (above) 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 time exploring. Park officials say waterholes at Gas Domes produce large gas bubbles that ride up through muddy water.
For rules and other info go to www.ohv.parks.ca.gov.