Anza-Borrego Desert: Oyster Shell Wash Loop 2
|7.2 mile (return) - 4 Hour, 15 minutes (return trip). Moderate/Hard.
|500 - 1550 feet
|4x4/high clearance, see below.
The Oyster Shell wash and it's fork are spectacular rugged and steep canyons, most likely along fault lines.
This hike loops into two of the main Oyster Shell Canyon forks.
You will encounter a lot of dry falls, a couple of then huge.
The good thing, we managed to bypass all the falls without too much effort.
As you enter the Oyster Wash, take the first fork on the right (North).
Soon, the canyon is filled with small boulders.
The next fork is easy to miss, a crack marks the canyon, climb up to the left.
At point "Up" you may want to explore the canyon a bit further, sometimes there are nice pools with frogs.
Go up and follow the canyon, go down after the fall (Fall 2) in a small rather steep wash.
A couple of smaller falls that are easy to climb or bypass.
For a view you may climb up to the wash further. The best view is actually in the direction you came from.
Take the small wash to the left (North/West), on some slick rock filled with some gravel, up to a saddle.
Down is not too bad, cemented rocks with some small falls.
While we came closer to the end we encountered a rather big fall (fall 8) no problem to bypass on the left (East).
We thought we made it and then another big Fall (Fall 9). OK this looks like the main wash, but no, a huge drop, impossible to bypass easily.
So head back a bit, then go East and enter a small wash that runs South and slightly to the East.
Luckily this is a wash with no big obstacles. After entering the main wash again, some small obstacles and the road.
Follow the road back to the car.
In the canyons you may find numerous small pools, some with frogs, a great drinking spot for wildlife.
GPS provides you with an approximation of the actual route, the real route may be off by at least 100 yards.
At some points along this route, there are abrupt drops of several hundred feet.
The terrain may be challenging and slippery at times, a lot of big dry falls, very steep terrain, even dangerous if you follow the wrong route.
There are not that many places in the park this rugged and with so many big dry falls in the main canyon wash.
For extra safety good boots are essential and a hiking stick is a must.
How to get here:
From Ocotillo Wells take the split mountain road.
Turn right at the sign Fish Creek Camp-ground.
The road should be close to the middle of the wash.
Follow the wash road, at the Wind Caves (signed) keep right in the wash and turn right into the Fish Creek North Fork (signed).
Follow the North Fork and exit at the first wash road, the Oyster Shell Wash (may be signed/ there is normally a huge rock cairn.)
Enter the wash and park at the first fork on the right.
Parking not too far beyond the Fish Creek North Fork sign is a safe options, adds only minutes to the hike, beats getting bogged down, with no one around.
Some times you can make it to the Wind Caves in a regular car.
To make it up to the trail head a higher clearance car is essential and sometimes you wished you had a 4x4.
In the North Fork, there is a nasty rock plate in the road at the first bend to the left. You can easily hit rock bottom at this point, most likely on your way back, so park where we parked.
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