San Diego may be best-known for its ideal year-round weather, however over a century ago it was also known for mining. There are plenty of mines that can still to this day be found in San Diego, but most were used for gold and copper. Julian was once known for its gold riches. Nearby in Borrego Springs, calcite crystals were mined during WWII-era. Hikers and four-wheel-drive vehicles can visit this abandoned site and find left behind calcite crystals along the way.
To find the area where calcite was once mined, park your car near Calcite Mine Road. Four-wheel-drive vehicles can drive all the way to this area, however I would advise against it given how treacherous the road is and you’ll miss the slot canyon.
From the parking area, you’ll find a sign engraved in a rock, providing you a brief history of the area. To the east you’ll see the nearby Salton Sea, a reminder you less than a few dozen miles away from the historic area should you wish to extend your trip.
After your initial descent down to Palm Wash you’ll see a road that veers off to your right and a hill straight ahead. Follow the path that leads you northwest up the hill and away from the truck road. After walking nearly a mile, you’ll reach a junction. Both paths will take you to the mine site, however the path to the right will take you through a slot canyon that can’t be missed.
You’ll reach another sandy wash at which point you will go left up the wash. Here, we were able to find a few calcite crystals which intrigued us enough to stop and snap a few pictures before promptly returning them. Walk another .25 miles until the truck trail ends at a stack of large boulders. The slot canyon will veer to the left, taking you back to the Calcite Mine Trail, which will take you back to the starting point of your hike.
At the very end of this trail you’ll see a very faint foot path that leads to yet another small slot canyon. I recommend this route to take in one last slot canyon before it takes you up to your vehicle. If you miss it, no worries as the truck trail will take you back to the starting point as well.
One of the many benefits of hiking in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are the opportunities for side exploration along main trails. This is one of those trails where you can find other slot canyons, interesting sedentary rock formations, and cool canyons should you have the time and energy to venture off the beaten path. This is exactly how we found the slot canyon at the end of the path which spat us out directly at where the trail started.
I’d recommend safely venturing off the roads less traveled with caution.
Calcite Mine Trail Tips
- Bring sun protection. There is little to no shade coverage on this trail.
- Leave the calcite behind. It may be tempting to snag some calcite, but leave it behind for others to enjoy.
- Do not attempt this hike in summer. There are heat advisory warnings posted in warmer months for this trail, due to lack of shade. Hike this trail only in cooler months.
- Leave your dog at home. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park does not allow for dogs on trails.
- Highway legal vehicles only. No other vehicles are permitted on this trail.
From downtown San Diego, take CA-163 N for 3.1 miles. Use the right 2 lanes to take exit 3A to merge onto I-8E toward El Centro. In 35 miles, take exit 40 for CA-79 N/Japatul Valley Road toward Julian. Turn left onto CA-79 N/Japatul Valley Road. In 2.7 miles, turn left to stay on CA-79 N.
In 20.2 miles, turn right onto CA-78 E/Banner Rd. In 18.4 miles, turn left onto Yaqui Pass Rd. Contine straight onto Rango Way. Continue onto Borrego Valley Rd. In 2.4 miles, turn right onto Palm Canyon Drive. Continue onto Pegleg Rd. Continue onto Borrego Salton Seaway. The dirt turnout for this hike will be on the right side of the road, just past Calcite Mine Rd.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Total Distance: 4.25 miles
Trailhead Address: Calcite Rd, Borrego Springs, CA 92004