OverviewCoyote Canyon is located in the northern portion of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. In the springtime this area receives a lot of visitors because of its vast and beautiful wildflower displays. The area called Desert Gardens is a nice spot to see the flowers and explore the desert landscape. Wildflowers include sand verbena, desert lily, evening primrose, desert dandelion, phacelia, chuparosa, and chicory.
When wildflowers aren't in season the landscape is dominated by creosote bushes, ocotillo, and cholla and barrel cactus with willows and sycamores along the creeks. In the higher canyons native fan palm oasis beckon. There is a lot of wildlife including coyote, fox, bighorn sheep, frogs near the creek, and various species of migratory birds, desert reptiles, and rodents.
Those who own a Jeep Wrangler or similar very high-clearance 4wd vehicle can drive up the canyon all the way up Coyote Canyon to Collins Valley and Middle Willows. Hikers can use the road as well, or hike along one of many user trails paralleling it. The area above Collins Valley splits into several canyons very much worth exploring on foot. These include Indian, Cougar, and Sheep Canyons. In the springtime there is usually plenty of water in these canyons, as well as water further down Coyote Canyon. But it doesn't flow everywhere - sometimes the water disappears under sandy stretches of the wash. In the upper reaches of the canyons the water often flows year-round - if just a trinkle in the late summer and fall.
In the 1770's the Anza party camped at Santa Catarina Spring beside Lower Willows. In the 1880s, an American cattleman named Joel Reed claimed squatters rights and built a home at Santa Catarina Spring. He spent a good portion of the rest of his life protecting his claim. Indeed, a man named John Collins took possession of the area for a while in 1910 while Reed was away. Unfortunately for Reed, this was also the year they drew up the maps. Hence the name Collins Valley.
From Borrego Springs, take S-22 east from Christmas Circle. Then take DiGiorgio Road north. In about 5 miles the road turns to sand and becomes Coyote Canyon Road. From here high-clearance and 4wd is recommended. The road crosses the creek in several places. Many vehicles park at 1st Crossing and people hike from there, but if you have high clearance and 4wd you can proceed to 2nd Crossing. During a wet year the road after 2nd Crossing may be very tough to negotiate, so many vehicles choose to stop here. If you choose to drive further at 3rd Crossing the "road" is pretty much in the creek itself and the water can be high. After 3rd Crossing the road departs from the creekbed and ascends a canyon that is very, very rocky and all but the toughest of vehicles and most experienced of drivers proceed this far. After ascending the canyon, however, the road turns to sand again and the rest of the way up Collins Valley is fairly easy. As an alternative hikers can follow the creek through an area called Lower Willows, but the hike can be quite soggy. The creek bed and road rejoin near Santa Catarina Spring. The end of the road is at Middle Willows, but you can proceed further on foot.
Link to park map
Coyote Canyon is closed June 1 through October 1 to leave the area protected for bighorn sheep and other wildlife. From October 2nd until May 31st street-legal vehicles, hikers, bicyclists, and horses are allowed on the Coyote Canyon Road. Please share the road and trails. No off-road vehicle travel is allowed. Campfires are allowed in metal pans only. Bring your own firewood - you cannot collect it in the park. All plants, animals, geologic and cultural features are protected. Dogs are not allowed in the upper canyons to protect the bighorn sheep. Pack out what you pack in. Camp at least 200 feet from water sources. Please practice Leave no Trace ethics.
Dispersed or primitive camping is allowed in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. You can pretty much camp anywhere, just make sure you follow the red tape rules above. Permits are not needed but it is a good idea to check in at the visitor center and inquire about current conditions wherever you go.
There is a primitive campground at the head of Sheep Canyon. There are a couple of tables, one shade structure, and roof-less outhouses here. No trash service, so pack it in, pack it out. There is no potable water, but water can be filtered from the nearby stream if it is flowing, usually during the winter and spring.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association
Weather forecast for Borrego Springs - please note that Coyote Canyon is north and a little higher in elevation