Anza-Borrego Desert: Moonlight Canyon - Inner Pastures Loop
||8.7 mile (the loop) - 5 hour (the loop). Moderate. (Some smaller boulders).
||1120 - 2200 feet
||All cars, on the S2, mile 39.6, park roadside. (not far from to Aqua caliente)
A very scenic hike in the narrow Moonlight canyon, up the pass, into the inner pastures and looping back in an easy sandy wash.
From the parking, start hiking south/west toward the canyon entrance.
Hike into the narrow canyon, with lots of small (dry) falls.
The first part looks a bit like a tropical rain forest, if there is water, that is.
At the fork, take the right, less obvious one. The left one has a sign no entry, as it ends in a steeper fall, not impossible to climb up, but more dangerous.
Don't stay in the right (west) fork, the marked trail, because it's the wrong canyon, but move over to the left, when you see a saddle, as the canyon bends more to the right (west).
As of 2015 2 signs where put up that forbid entry to the side forks. Hike a couple of hundred yards further and hike south. Make sure not to end up in the closed of canyon too soon.
Point "Over" mark the in and out point we used.
Over the saddle hike toward the main wash (moonlight canyon).
Follow the wash/boulders all the way up to the pass.
At point "Fork Right" keep right, the other one leads the same way, but the right one is easier.
Look for the morteros.
Once on top of the pass, hike down into the inner pastures.
The descend looks boulder rich, but it's easy to find a way around them.
The canyon is filled with lots of small boulders, so be prepared for a wash/boulder hike.
Nothing difficult, but harder to hike in.
Once down, keep left and you will end up in a sandy canyon wash. The return wash may be partially softer sand, depending on the number of hikers and the last rain.
WARNING: Watch out for jumping cholla. They are mean and plentiful out here. Sturdy higher leather boots are nice to have.
Make sure you stock some tweezers and a comb.
A more extensive list of the flora in the area:Tom Chester.
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