Ocotillo Wells SRVA is one of eight State Vehicular Recreational Areas in the state of California, and provides a great off-roading escape and dispersed camping throughout the 85,000 acres that make up the park. Ocotillo Wells SRVA is designed to allow off-road enthusiasts of all types (i.e. dirt bikes, quads, Jeeps) to gather and use their vehicles in a safe manner that protects the natural environment, while discouraging use of their off-road vehicles to blaze new trails on open land or other state parks. The northern and western edges of Ocotillo Wells connect with Anza Borrego Desert State Park which has 500,000acres of open desert and mountains accessible to highway legal vehicles on established dirt roads.
There are no designated campsites within Ocotillo Wells, and you are pretty much allowed to camp anywhere, however people largely congregate in the same areas for camping. The only areas you where camping in not allowed are Shell Reef, Devils Slide, and Blow Sand Hill; all of these areas are restricted primarily for safety as these areas are often congested with off-road vehicles.
Camping within Ocotillo Wells SRVA requires that you are fairly self-sustainable, as there are virtually no facilities provided. There is no running water or trash services provided and there are no dump stations available for RVs. However, there are limited bathrooms available within the Main Street, Holly Road, Quarry Cove, and Hidden Valley recreation areas, and showers are available in the Holmes Camp area and on Ranger Station Road. All of the showers are coin operated and only accept quarters. Beyond these limited amenities there are some small towns (i.e. Borrego Springs, Salton Sea, and Ocotillo Wells) within Ocotillo Wells, which offer limited services such as vehicle repair shops, motels, bars, and restaurants.
Ocotillo Wells SRVA Bottom Line
Ocotillo Wells SRVA is a 4×4 paradise that offers great camping opportunities, however it is not a place that you will want to go camping at if you do not own an off-road vehicle; its just not as much fun. However, if you do own a capable off-road vehicle, Ocotillo Wells offers lots of places to use your vehicle and explore, all while returning to campsites that are often very social with one another, especially when there are off-road club events going on; making it a great place to meet like-minded folks that share your passion for the outdoors.
Ocotillo Wells is typically a sea of RVs, but tent camping is not uncommon, especially with people using 4×4 vehicles such as Jeeps, as they do not always require a “mothership” such as an RV or trailer/toy hauler.
Ocotillo Wells SRVA Campground Features
|Number of Campsites:||Virtually Unlimited Campsites
|Use Level:||Seasonally High|
|Toilets:||Yes, but far and few between|
|Showers:||Yes, in Holmes Camp and on Ranger Station Road
|Cell Phone Service:||All Major Carriers – Spotty Coverage
|Operating Season:||October 1 – May 31
|Nearest City/Town:||Borrego Springs, California|
|Location:||Imperial and San Diego Counties, California|
|Paved Road Access:||Yes, to Ocotillo Wells SRVA, but off-road to camping
|Proximity to Stores:||Varies. Borrego Springs is closest store location to Ocotillo Wells SRVA
|Directions:||From San Diego, take I-15 north to CA-78. Take CA-78 east for approximately 70 miles. Ocotillo Wells SVRA is on your left.
|Web:||California State Parks||Twitter:|
Be Sure to Bring
When To Go
Fall & Winter Holiday Weekends – Unlike most campgrounds, Ocotillo Wells SVRA is more fun when it is busier, which usually occurs on holiday weekends during the fall and winter. Ocotillo Wells is more fun during these times because there are lots of people that show up around holidays, and whether you go off-roading or not, you can watch others take their expensive off-roading rigs out and drive them fast (and potentially wreck them).
What To Do
There are lots of destinations that you can seek out from where you are camping in Ocotillo Wells SVRA, all of which will require a 4×4 capable vehicle such as a Jeep to reach, but all are worth the trip.
BLOW SAND HILL
Blow Sand Hill is one of the most popular destinations in Ocotillo Wells SVRA for drivers wanting to test the sand-driving capabilities of their off-road rig. Blow Sand Hill is essentially a large sand dune backed against a rock wall in a canyon. This spot is especially popular at night as one of the few destinations which is easily reachable from the areas where most people camp in Ocotillo Wells. The hill can often be seen from quite a distance at night, as it is often lit up by dozens of headlights.
A decomposing, ancient mountain, Devil’s slide is a 200 foot-high granite and sand island which is named for the difficulty of scaling it with an off-roading vehicle. Devil’s Slide is dotted with several mine shafts that are rumored to be haunted, and there have been reports of lights coming from the mines after rainfall at night.
Barrel Springs is made up of deep sand dunes from which natural springs seep water. The Barrel Springs area is a cultural preserve, as archeological findings describe ancient Native American settlements at the base of the dunes. These mesquite sand dunes are an oasis for wildlife. The springs seep from the ground, especially after a heavy rain. Coyotes often dig holes to drink. Part of the area is designated as a cultural preserve.
Shell Reef is made of fossilized oyster shells from the ancient sea that once occupied this land, prior to an land upheaval that pushed the water out. The reef itself is estimated to be approximately 4 million years old.
The Gas Domes are actually just outside of the park boundaries, but this natural phenomenon is a series of bubbling mud pots that release gas as grey-muddy water bubbles to the surface. To reach the Gas Domes, you must exit the park on the Gas Dome Trail east of Pole Line Road.
Pumpkin Patch is an area where the ground has eroded to reveal pumpkin-sized, globe-like formations that are the result of sand particles being naturally “cemented” to small objects such as an insect, shell, or event a grain of sand.
Image Credits: Justin Wilson