Calcite Mine Loop

Hike Calcite Mine Loop at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Epic badlands vistas? Check. Unique geological wonders? Yep! Interesting historical remnants? You got it! In the remote eastern section of the massive Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the 4.3-mile (round-trip, out-and-back with 700 feet of gain) Calcite Mine hike checks all the boxes for an Anza-Borrego highlight hike; and in the spring, adds a bonus blanket of wildflower blooms.

Park on the dirt shoulder on the side of the paved Borrego Salton Sea Way (S22) and take the Calcite Mine Trail heading north towards the southern spurs of the Santa Rosa Mountains. You’ll be rewarded immediately with great views of the Palm Wash (which can also be explored via an 8-mile loop) as you descend sharply on a rugged 4x4 dirt road.

Feel free to explore some of the sandy wash before ascending above the canyon floor. As you climb, the views of the surrounding desert become more and more expansive, and while perhaps not quite as epic as famous Font’s Point, the badland vistas are some of the best in the park. 

At the 0.6-mile mark, a spur trail heads right back into the ravine, where you can explore a slot canyon and reconnect with the main dirt road at the 1.4-mile mark. The slot canyons here may not rival the legendary Slot, but they are far less traveled and incredibly cool to maneuver through. After another half-mile you reach the site of your history lesson—an old calcite mine, marked by interpretive signage. You may be able to spot sparkling bits of the mineral, which was important during WWII in the manufacturing of Norden bombsights (this was the only US site). 

While the history is certainly cool, the views here are unreal, stretching from the surrounding mountains to Borrego Badlands to the south and even the Salton Sea to the east. If you’ve come during wildflower season, the valley floor will likely be dotted with desert lilies. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic and some solitary desert reflection—since you may be the only one there, enjoy the pun opportunity to say “today, these desert views are all mine.” Before leaving, don’t miss the jagged geological specimen that is Locomotive Rock, an impressively large sandstone slab with intricate cavities just northeast of the mine. Talk about a desert delight at Calcite!

To get to the Calcite Mine trailhead from Borrego Springs, take Palm Canyon Dr. east for 4 miles, continuing left onto Pegleg Rd. After 2.4 miles, continue right onto Borrego Salton Sea Way (S22). After 12.4 miles, the trailhead will be on your left. Park on the dirt shoulder on either side of the road. No dogs!

Story and photos by Matt Pawlik, @mattitudehikes

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