Vista del Malpais

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 33.26085°N / 116.19832°W
Additional Information Route Type: Hiking
Seasons Season: Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: Hike
Sign the Climber's Log


Like the nearby Fonts Point, Vista del Malpais is one the two designated points with fantastic views of the badlands of southern California’s Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Most people reach Vista del Malpais via a network of scenic four wheel drive roads that span the desert floor or follow the sandy bottoms of dry washes. To better experience the area, I highly recommend that you hike the roads. I only saw a few vehicles on the route described below. The shortest route to Vista del Malpais is via Thimble Trail off of Route S-22.

Vista del Malpais
Vista del Malpais

Getting There

Directions to Thimble Trail four wheel drive road:

From Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs, CA, drive 12.5 miles east on Route S-22 to just before mile marker 32 (31.9). Thimble Trail Road is on the south side. There is plenty of parking (This is the same parking spot for climbing Villager Peak).

Route Description

Jct. Route S-22 & Thimble Trail
950 ft
zero miles
Jct. Thimble Trail & Short Wash Rd.
1040 ft
2.10 miles
Jct. Short & Malpais Washes
800 ft
1.25 miles
Vista del Malpais
1040 ft
1.1 miles
4.45 miles

Head south on Thimble Trail. The road remains on the desert plain with great views of the surrounding mountains.

Santa Rosa MountainsSanta Rosa Mountains
Torro PeakTorro Peak
San Ysidro MountainSan Ysidro Mountains
Coyote MountainCoyote Mountain
Travelers PeakTravellers Peak

You will then reach the junction with Short Wash Road. Right takes you toward Fonts Point. Turn left and head east a short distance until you reach the edge of Short Canyon. Follow the road down into the canyon.

Where the road drops into Short Wash CanyonThe road going into Short Wash Canyon

Once in the canyon, you will find yourself surrounded by badlands. Follow the sandy road at the bottom of the wash.

On Short Wash Rd.
On Short Wash Rd.
On Short Wash Rd.
On Short Wash Rd.
On Short Wash Rd.
On Short Wash Rd.

Turn right (south) at the junction with Malpais Wash and follow it uphill.

On Malpais Wash Rd.
On Malpais Wash Rd.

You will then reach the end of the road. Follow the trail to the top of a ridgeline at Vista del Malpais. Fantastic views are visible all around.

From Vista del MalpaisLooking west
From Vista del MalpaisLooking SW
From Vista del MalpaisLooking SE
From Vista del MalpaisLooking east
From Viata del MalpaisLooking south
Travelers PeakTravellers Peak
Santa Rosa MountainsSanta Rosa Mountains
Coyote Mountain & Torro PeakCoyote Mountain & Torro Peak

When to hike

Winter, late autumn or early spring. Summer can be dangerously hot.

External Links

Guidebook: The Anza-Borrego Desert Region by Lowell & Diana Lindsay.



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