Anza-Borrego Desert: Rockhouse Bow Willow Loop

Rating *****
length 10.5 mile - 5 hour 35 minutes (Return trip). Moderate/Hard.
Elevation 970 - 2340 feet
Access All cars. At mile 48.2 turn to Bow Willow campground.
A hike in a boulder rich area.

Warning: the part past Bow Willow Grove is rather steep, and more dangerous, hike as always, on your own risk.

Hike North/West around the mountain on the left.
Hike the large light wash uphill.
After about 10 minutes, turn left at the first canyon to your left.

You have to climb a couple of small boulders, but nothing serious.
There is only one palm left ("Palm 1")
Thereafter a flat wash with boulder mountains all around.
Follow this wash until you find a yellow marker, with an arrow.
This arrow points to a saddle in the mountain far away.
Keep going towards that point.

Rocks block the path, a short climb to the other side.
On the other side you may still find the remnants of a yellow marker.

The path turns a bit to the left (South) and goes downhill in a wash.
Watch for cairns marking the trail.
This is a boulder rich area, so some boulder climbing is involved, but you should always be able to find a fairly easy trail down.
Once in the Valley below (Rockhouse Canyon), turn right and keep closer to the mountains on to the right (North).
The Rockhouse shack can be found a bit more to the left.
A deep wash is on the left side of the shack.
Watch for water pipes, that end close to the shack.

North of the shack you find "Marker 3" if you didn't cross it already.
At this point the easy route is north, over the saddle at "Marker 3"
On the other side is the valley leading back.
(There may be other markers we didn't find and the markers are not numbered, they are just yellow.)

We took the more difficult route to Bow Willow Grove.
At "Marker 3" keep on going West straight for the mountain peak.
The mountain looks more difficult to climb than it really is.
Keep a bit to the right of the peak, where it's a bit less steep.
Still this is a rather exhausting climb and sometimes a bit steep.
Try to see how the Borrego's climb the mountain, they sometimes find a better path.
Closer to the top the terrain changes to an easy hike.
On top you can see the palms of the Grove.

Hike West over a saddle into the Bow Willow Canyon.
This looks like an easy stroll downhill, but as always, there is a supprise.
The wash drops very steep, impossible to hike down on.
Find a passage to the left, along the mountain, to the wash you see in front of you to the left.
Still a steep wash, but with boulders and rocks, so you have a firm footing on the way down.

Once in the Valley below, the wash turns very wide and very sandy.
The wash is close to level all the way back.

From your right the easy route joins, from another canyon to the right.

How to get there:

At mile 48.2 turn to Bow Willow campground, on an excellent dirt road.
After about 1.7 Mile, park at the end of the campground at the daytime parking, before the brown logs.
There is a daytime parking fee. ($5 in 2018)
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 State Park) California, Hike with gps, gpx and kml (Google Earth).

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