Anza-Borrego Desert: Cairn wash - pirate wash loop
||7.7 Mile - 4 hour (Loop), Moderate (Steep and slippery).
||500 - 960 feet
||4x4 preferred, see below.
This hike takes you along the Elephant knees to the rugged Cairn canyon wash and Pirate wash.
A zigzag route following washes and old dirt roads and takes you to one of the less visited spots in the Fish creek area.
Most of the route is easy, but there are two short scrambles and at one point the road is eroded, resulting in a rather steep and slippery drop to enter the wash below.
Make sure you exit the Pirate wash at point "Leave the wash" and enter a narrow fork.
If you would continue the Pirate wash, you might enter the forbidden Carrizo Impact Area.
This is a GPS hike only, it will be almost impossible to follow otherwise.
How to get here:
Take Split Mountain Road for about 8 miles.
Follow the road towards the Fish Creek camp ground.
The road starts in the middle of the wash in most years.
Road condition vary a lot from year to year.
But normally any AWD should do. The road is sandy with some rocks.
[In some years a regular car can make it all the way up to the wind caves. But unless you check at the visitor centre, don't even think about it. As the road, in some years, may even be challenging for high clearance cars.]
As soon as you see the wind cave sign on the left side of the wash (after 5 miles), keep left and turn into the South fork.
Drive another 1000 yards or so and park at the wash entrance.
The Carrizo Impact Area has been in use until 1959. it is an closed off area with unexploded ordnance. Sometimes buried deep in the sand.
The hike is well outside the impact area.
That said if you do not follow the GPS route and keep on going down the Pirate wash, you may end up in the forbidden area. There are no warning sighs whatsoever.
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