Anza-Borrego Desert: Butler Canyon - Hidden Spring - Rockhouse Canyon

Rating *****
length 9.6 mile - 4 hour 20 minutes (Return trip). Easy/moderate.
Elevation 1300 - 2250 feet
Access Take the S 22, close to mile 26, take the Rockhouse Canyon TL. A higher clearance vehicle is needed, most of the time a 4x4. Warning the "dry lake" may be muddy.

Hike up to the canyon to the left, the Butler canyon on your left is the one with the boulders.
The road sometimes goes a bit further, so don't go too far.

The canyon entrance may be marked with cairns at the right side, where the sandy wash exits the canyon.

The first part of the canyon looks more troublesome than it actually is. There are several easy ways past the boulders, mostly following the sand and the footprints of others.

Soon after the boulders the narrow canyon looks more and more like a normal sandy wash.
At first the sand is loose but becomes more firm, further into the canyon.
At a branch of the canyon take the left one.

Eventually the canyon widens into a sort of valley. This is Jackass Flat.
Keep to the right and head east.
Eventually you can see the Rough Rockhouse canyon entrance ahead.
Keep going that way, as the only? way down is in that direction.

Suddenly the steep canyon wall appears, looks hard to get down.
But there is a nice trail leading down. It's close to the point where the Rockhouse Canyon bends to the right (North/East).

A couple of yards, further up into the canyon, you find the marked, not so hidden "Hidden Spring".
Hardly a stream, but you will notice the bees and see the Southern Cattail.

Head downhill towards the car.
A bit further and you meet the first jeep trails.
There may be some cars out here, but they can't go very fast on this very rocky road.

If you don't have a GPS, the route is a lot easier to find in reverse.
Follow the rockhouse canyon up until you reach the sign "Hidden Spring"
At that point go back, west, you should see the trail just past the mesquite.
Once up the mesa the Butler canyon is the first canyon on the left (South).
Lately that's our preferred route as well.

Alternative route:
Going up Rockhouse canyon (counter clockwise route). Leave the route at point "Alternative up", a short scramble up to a wash that leads to a playa.
Than down again at point "Alternative", next go into the wash below, heading South/West eventually ending up in Butler canyon.
Some boulders on the last (short) part, try going down on the right (North) side of the drainage.
This Alternative route is about as long as the original route, but makes the route more diverse.

How to get here:

Take the S 22, close to mile 26, take the Rockhouse Canyon TL.
This road leads past a primitive campground. Follow the wide dirt road and turn left at the marked Rouckhouse crossing.

The wide road leads towards the installation of Sand and Rock (A Mixer?)
At that point you man run into trouble, even months after heavy rain.
As the road crosses part of Dry Lake, that wasn't that dry in February 2010, but completely dry, the same time in 2011.
So you may want to check to road condition at the visitor center.
And at least drive carefully into the lake.
On the other side the road is more narrow and filled with gravel.

Further on the road is sandy, sometimes deep soft sand and some rocks.

The road is about 8 miles long and it will take up to 40 Minutes, to reach the trailhead.

Park close to the 3 way crossing Butler Canyon / Rockhouse Canyon, the road may be pretty bad further on.

Disclaimer: Read this first before you start your hike. Contact: info/at/borregohiking/./com (leave out the /)
Hiking the Borrego Springs Area (Anza-Borrego Desert SP, Cuyamaca Rancho SP, Imperial Sand Dunes (Algodones Dunes), Jacumba, Laguna Mountain, Warner Springs) California, Hike with gps, gpx and kml (Google Earth).

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