Located deep in the southern section of Anza Borrego State Park, the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are one of the park’s most distinct attractions. That being said, getting out to them requires four wheel drive, and entering the caves is dangerous and should not be taken lightly. If you want to go, make sure you don’t go alone, take lots of water and bring a flashlight and helmet. If you are still with me and want to see the caves, here is all the info.
- 8 miles off the road on a 4×4 drive
- Don’t go after rain as the caves are made of mud and can collapse
- This information is from my visit in 2017
- Read more about Anza Borrego here
If you want detailed directions I recommend checking out this site. That being said, I used Google Maps to navigate all the way to the caves since it is popular enough to be a point of interest on Google Maps. Don’t just rely on this though, do your research as you will be driving through the desert, and there are no signs.
After getting off on the main road, you will be driving on the dirt in a sandy wash for most of the way. I would not recommend coming in a two-wheel drive car as it was OK in the beginning but much more sketchy at the end.
The road passes Palm Spring at about the 1.5-mile mark. You can drive up and see that if you would like, it is a small spring that has water seasonally and a historical marker.
Heading onward, you will want to keep your eyes peeled for the Hollywood and Vine sign on top of one of the hills to the left of where you are driving. It is easy to miss, but it is fun to see, so keep watch for it.
When you get to the sign, you can walk up the small hill to see the Hollywood and Vine sign that looks like something out of Mad Max.
Continuing on, you will reach another wash and will need to take a sharp left. There was a sign here when I went, but you can’t always count on that being the case, so again make sure to have a map and know where you are going.
Heading up this wash and into the canyon is where the 4×4 was really needed as there were lots of dips and loose rock/sand sections.
You will pass a plaque from the parks system that tells you about the caves and area.
We eventually made it to the base of one of the main caves. This is the most extensive mud cave system in the world, so there are many out there, but no one has been able to map them all.
If you enter the caves, please be careful as they are dangerous and can collapse, I recommend a light and helmet as you do not want to bump your head in the dark and often small caves. Also, make sure you come with someone else (I went with Chris from LastAdventurer.com) and that you never walk on the top of the caves (they can collapse, don’t do it).
The cave we entered was large and had about a half mile or so of dark.
There were two cave-ins that provided light while we made our way through the cave.
These collapses were awesome as it gave you a break from the monotony of the darkness and offered cool photo opportunities.
Eventually, the cave opened back up and entered into a canyon.
It was fun to walk through this section as well as some of the areas were very narrow, and it was like a slot canyon.
There was even a small mud arch to see here, but I doubt it will be there much longer with how small it was getting.
After exploring for about an hour, we made our way back out of the canyon and cave and started the long drive back to the road. This is an out of the way spot that requires a real adventure just to get to, but if you are careful, it can be a fun place to explore. Let me know what you think in the comments.