Anza-Borrego State Park is one of the hidden gems of Southern California. While it does not have the notoriety of Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, or the Mojave National Preserve; it does have abandoned mines, long-lost nineteenth century stagecoach stations, a mountain with a cabin atop it, petroglyphs, the best mud caves in North America, the largest free standing railroad trestle, and much more, including strange myths and legends. It also is home to "the Slot", a little known but excellent short hike that has become one of my favorite hikes in the park.
Until a couple weeks ago, I had not heard of "the Slot"; and when I was asked about it by fellow blogger Josh McNair, I responded cavalierly that the Anza-Borrego has lots of slot canyons (which it does). However, as he pointed out, there is only one "the Slot"; and as I found when he was kind enough to show me the location, it is a spot that is truly one of a kind. In case you hadn't figured it out, "the Slot" is a slot canyon in the Anza-Borrego Desert. However, that description leaves much to be desired. As I found when I visited with Josh, the Slot is perhaps the narrowest of all explorable slot canyons in the park; and in my opinion, the most beautiful slot canyon in the park. The Slot is reminiscent of many of the other canyons in the park, as it has been carved by the same forces - wind, water, and time; but in many other respects, it is not similar to the other slot canyons.
The main difference to me about the Slot, as compared to the other slot canyons in the park is the scope of the slot. Once you drop down into the Slot proper, the walls of the canyon soar far above you, making you feel well, somewhat insignificant. Second, in terms of distance, the Slot descends for roughly ~1.5 miles from the parking area. As the walls of the canyon close in on you as you walk, you start to wonder whether the Slot is a canyon - or a maze. Finally, while the other slot canyons in the park are beautiful, the Slot is stunning from a geological perspective, or any perspective. The walls have been finely carved over thousands of years, and are truly irreplaceable; and as a whole, the canyon seems a better fit for one of the larger parks mentioned above - or, if you have an active imagination, a better fit for another planet. While I generally hesitate to call things a "must-do" in areas, I will make an exception for the Slot, as it is a great, easily accessible hike for all that is truly a one of a kind experience.
Directions: The Slot is located off of Buttes Pass Road, which is an unpaved (but graded) dirt road in the Anza-Borrego State Park. Buttes Pass Road is located at Mile Marker 87.2 of California Highway 78, and the point is also a mile and a half East of Borrego Springs Road. From Highway 78, turn North on Buttes Pass Road, and follow it for one mile to the parking area. As noted above, this is a graded dirt road. When Josh and I visited we traversed the road in a non-4WD vehicle easily; and as Josh notes in his report, he also visited the site in his car easily as well. If my directions seem confusing to you, Josh also has some great directions in his post here. From the parking area, head Southwest (left) for about fifty feet toward the visible canyon below. The route is marked by various trail cairns, and is a relatively easy descent. Once at the bottom, follow the canyon through all of its twists and turns. The total distance of the Slot itself is about 1.5 miles one way; or a three mile roundtrip total.
Tips: The Anza-Borrego Desert, while beautiful, is a hostile environment year-round. Be sure to take proper precautions when heading out to the Slot as it is a remote area, and be sure to bring plenty of water for your hike.