Hellhole Canyon Hike in Anza Borrego

One of the standout outdoor areas in Southern California is the huge State Park located about 2 hours east of San Diego called Anza-Borrego. This park is much less busy than any of its other California counter parts probably due to its large collection of land which is all spread out among many different sites. We set out on two hikes while we were there, one was the Slot and the other was Hellhole Canyon that you can see here.

Hellhole Canyon 9


  • Duration: 3 and a half hours
  • Length: 6 miles
  • Total Elevation Gain: 1000 ft
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

Hellhole Canyon 3

According to the visitor center, Hellhole Canyon is one of the more intense hikes in the park. That being said it not that intense and most people in decent shape should be able to complete it. The hike itself is about 6 miles round trip with about 1000 feet of elevation gain.

Hellhole Canyon 1

It starts out in the barren desert like the above photo, with a large canyon in the distance that you are hiking to. Then as you get closer the canyon starts to close in and the trail becomes harder to find.

Hellhole Canyon 12

The real highlight of this trail is two-fold, there are at least four palm tree oasis and there is a waterfall that is hidden up in the top of the fourth one. The palm tree oasis are beautiful and as you proceed up the canyon they get more dense in their appearance. It is pretty crazy to see such a lush collection of trees in the middle of the dry desert like this.

Hellhole Canyon 6

These trees provide a ton of shade during the hot desert days and I really enjoyed sitting under them and soaking it all in. They also provide a great place to relax when you need a break as well.

Hellhole Canyon 4

The waterfall itself is hard to find. You have to keep pushing back into the canyon and make your way around rocks and plants until you finally stumble on it. When we were there it didn’t have much coming from it, only a trickle, and I imagine it would have nothing in the drought we have had.

Hellhole Canyon 7

I cannot really provide much directions to this as we just kept pushing forward, scrambling over rocks and listening for the sound of water. Even if you do not see the waterfall, the hike is still worthwhile though as it is a great way to see both the desert and an oasis.

Hellhole Canyon 5

This hike is easier during the winter and spring months, but if you are going during the summer I would recommend you take a lot of water as there is almost no shade until the end of the hike.  Check out the statistics and pictures below.

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