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Roughing It At Its Finest

California Overland takes you deep amongst the cactus and canyons of the incredible Anza-Borrego desert in open-air jeeps and former military vehicles. Get ready for rugged adventure in an amazing terrain rich in beauty, history and natural wonder that’s a less than 90-mile scenic drive from downtown San Diego.

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1Roughing it in the California desert!

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See what it’s like to strip away the confines of a typical car or SUV and experience the desert with all your senses aboard the most exciting California desert tours. And our unique rating system lets you choose your own level of adventure. So check us out and you may find this is the journey you’ve always wanted to take.

About Us
California Overland, LLC. was created in the belief that the desert was made for adventure and that most people are adventurers at heart.

We are a concessionaire of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park®, licensed by the California Public Utilities Commission (passenger carrier permit TCP18546S), a member of the Julian and Borrego Springs Chambers of Commerce, a member of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and the Julian Merchants Association.

We have been featured in the Washington Post the San Diego Union Tribune, the Borrego Sun and San Diego Home and Garden.

California Overland welcomes non-profit charities to utilize our attraction for discount or no-cost outings.

Everyone here at California Overland wants you to have the greatest outdoor experience exploring the beautiful Anza-Borrego Desert or the rustic back country of the Julian region.

About the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
At over 600,000 acres Anza-Borrego Desert State Park® is the largest desert state park in the nation. It is also one of the most diverse; 6,000’ peaks, labyrinthine badlands, palm oases, cascading pools of water in lush canyons, and awe-inspiring overlooks. Its boundaries contain areas rich in western lore, native-american history, paleontology, archaeology and geology. There’s over 200 flowering plants that occasionally put on incredible displays of seasonal colors. Wildlife abounds as well with roadrunners, jack rabbits, lizards such as the chuckwalla, kit foxes, bobcats, cougars, coyotes and, of course, the Peninsular Bighorn Sheep.

It is the Bighorn Sheep that gives Anza-Borrego half of its name. “Borrego” is Spanish for this endangered mammal that is often seen by visitors on the rocky slopes of the park’s canyons. “Anza” refers to the Spanish explorer who first traversed Coyote Canyon in 1774 in a successful quest for an overland route to the mission at San Francisco.

Spring wildflower season brings the most visitors, but the park’s magnificent features are truly impressive any time of year. Autumn is near perfect in weather; comfortable temps and usually rain-free skies. And summer in the desert is an experience that an avid outdoor adventurer may want to experience for themselves. Time of day, place and activity can be adapted to suit even the hottest days where the mercury can push into the 120s °F. Usually the presence of low humidity makes even a 120° day seem more comfortable than a 98° day in more temperate climates. Summer nights are generally pleasant. Safety though should always be emphasized, especially during summer months when water intake is critical.

For more information on Anza-Borrego Desert State Park®, check out the park’s website at or call the Visitor Center at 760-767-4205.

Desert Tours
If you want to really experience the desert, you can’t just drive on a paved road and look at it through a windshield. You’ve got to climb into it, roll through it, feel it. Our two-hour light excursion, our multiple four-hour excursions or our all day, all out adventures are designed to take you on this kind of journey.

We serve a great bag lunch on both our 4 and 8-hour excursions. Our schedule changes to adapt to time of year so please contact us for set times and your menu selection. And check the Links Page for lodging in town.

Check out our 5 main routes: Sheep Canyon, Font’s Point (north or south), Blair Valley, or Split Mountain

Sheep Canyon Day Excursion – 10+ Hours
$160.00 per adult / $80.00 per child*
*Ages 7 to 16 accompanied by 2 adults

Sheep Canyon, within Coyote Canyon Pass, is one of the most beautiful and less visited locations in Anza-Borrego — a canyon oasis of native fan palm groves, cascading pools of water, sycamore trees and ferns. This cool and inviting place is home to frogs, kit foxes and honey bees. It’s also one of the best places to hear a coyote symphony or perhaps spot the elusive Peninsular Bighorn Sheep.

And getting there is half the fun. The vehicle, tracing the exact route of Juan Bautista de Anza’s historic 1774 march through Coyote Canyon, rumbles through an area called Desert Gardens where cactus and towering ocotillo abound. This is usually a key wildflower locale in the spring.

Three stream crossings are traversed. After the third and most challenging crossing you arrive at the base of the infamous Bypass Road. This arduous passage is the only way up into the Collins Valley and it will chew up most vehicles. Our trucks have conquered it but since we love them we don’t make it a habit — so this is where the hike begins.

On foot the bypass is less arduous and after about a mile you enter the flat terrain of Collins Valley. After meandering among creosote bushes for 3 miles you see lush green of the canyon snaking down from the mountain ahead. Soon the sound of trickling water and song birds welcome you to this special and isolated ecosystem. Hike up and you can relax and enjoy lunch under the shade of a sycamore tree as you cool your feet in a cold, pristine pool and gaze back down at the valley below.

NOTE: This is a seasonal tour available only from October 1 to May 31.

Lunch Included
Relatively rough terrain in vehicle with stream crossings and 8-mile, round trip hike.

Font’s Point Excursions – North Sector
2 hour trip – $55.00 per adult / $35.00 per child*
Our easiest, shortest and most affordable excursion is still an exciting adventure that features a route that starts in pretty Palo Verde Wash. Here you’ll stop for a snack under a palo verde tree while your guide introduces you to the various desert fauna that thrives here. Then climb back in the vehicle and get ready to have a blast on a thrilling run through the upper badlands on your way to amazing Font’s Point (see below).

*Ages 3 to 12 accompanied by 2 adults
Snacks included.

Relatively smooth terrain, short walks.

4 hour trip – $85.00 per adult / $45.00 per child*
Start by rolling onto a classic dry lake bed surrounded by colorful alluvial fans. These are erosion debris fields that resemble lava, flowing down from the majestic Santa Rosa Mountains. Look all around and you’ll see and feel the incredible vastness of the desert.

The past lingers here from three major time periods including WWII and General Patton. Structures and artifacts are still visible from when prop-driven fighter planes roared overhead practicing for the North Africa campaign. Now though, silence is king once again.

Next, we continue on to Seventeen Palms for lunch. This is a special, quiet place far from the paved road where a group of native California fan palms invite you to sit, relax and enjoy your meal while the breeze rustles the palm fronds above. Or, as an alternate for those who’d like to hike a bit, we instead travel to a beautiful slot canyon carved smooth by constant flooding. We lunch just beyond the canyon’s graceful arched entrance and explore deeper in on a relatively easy 2-mile, round trip hike.

The grand finale is rumbling through the cathedral-like formations of the upper badlands to reach the breathtaking overlook of Font’s Point where the late day sun transforms the Borrego Badlands below into a kaleidoscope of color. Feel free to bring a bottle of wine to toast the view.
*Ages 3 to 12 accompanied by 2 adults
Lunch included.

Some bumpy terrain in vehicle at times.
Short scrambling in slot canyon.

8+ hour trip – $150.00 per adult / $80.00 per child*
Choose the longer 8-hour plus excursion and you’ll be able to experience all of the 4-hour excursion’s locales plus more fascinating desert terrain. Or hike up to the open Calcite Mine. From this perch the Salton Sea shimmers from 10 miles away and the desert’s topography rolls out to the vanishing point below you. Really an incredible view worth the climb!
*Ages 3 to 12 accompanied by 2 adults
Lunch included.

Relatively rough terrain, 3-mile round trip, uphill hike.

Blair Valley Excursion
5+ hour trip – $105.00 per adult / $55.00 per child*
Travel to a higher elevation of the Park (3,000’) to visit an ancient Kumeyay Indian village site set among giant rock monoliths in Blair Valley. Closer inspection reveals dozens of morteros — holes bored into rock surfaces. Each acted like a morter and pestle that the women of the tribe would use to grind seeds and acorns into flour. You can almost feel their presence, sitting and chatting in various family groups while the men hunted game or collected mesquite beans.

Afterwards, the vehicle travels just a little further through the valley to a trail head. A moderate, one-mile hike through a garden-like landscape of large boulders, juniper trees and yucca leads to a sacred rock where curious-looking pictographs still stand out vividly in their natural pigments. Their meaning remains a mystery to this day.

Another mile further along the trail brings one closer to a ridge line of this little valley-within-a-valley to a special location that’s best left as a small surprise.

On the day-long excursion we first travel a bit further south to enter into Oriflame Canyon. Here the “jackass mail” and wagons transporting hay for teams of the old overland stage companies ran between Vallecito Stage Stop and over the mountain to the gold mine town of Julian. Like those wagons, we rumble up the wild canyon until a beautiful and inviting stand of cottonwoods appear. Perhaps the resident great horned owl will startle you on arrival.We break out lunch here at yet another Indian village locale. Before heading back up to Blair Valley we’ll visit the restored Vallecito Stage Stop. These are the accommodations that greeted weary travelers of the old west stage lines. This particular stage stop even features a famous ghost — The Lady In White!

NOTE: This excursion has minimum participation requirements.
*Ages 3 to 12 accompanied by 2 adults
Lunch included.

A 40 min. paved road trip. Smoother off-road terrain. 4-mile mostly level hike.

8+ hour trip – $160.00 per adult / $80.00 per child*
See 5 hour trip description.

*Ages 3 to 12 accompanied by 2 adults
Lunch included.

A 50 min. paved road trip. A bit bumpier off-road terrain. 4-mile mostly level hike.

Split Mountain Excursion
4+ hour trip – $95.00 per adult / $50.00 per child*
Explore a landscape of stark beauty and dramatic geology…
As the vehicle rumbles up Fish Creek Wash at the bottom of Split Mountain Gorge, rock starts to rise up on both sides exhibiting fascinating geologic features. Soon you are entering the insides of Split Mountain itself. The ancient torrents of Fish Creek has literally carved this mountain in half. You’ll feel dwarfed by this enormous slot canyon where massive rock walls tower almost impossibly above you. Tortured sedimentary layers called sinclines and anticlines testify to the tremendous forces at work in this area.

After coming out of the slot canyon the truck pulls over in a broad wash for everyone to climb out. A one-mile hike uphill on a nondescript trail leads you to a rewarding vista of the Elephant Knees, a columnar formation that looks like — well elephant knees. The 360º view is amazing, but it’s the Wind Caves at the end of the hike that will really rock you. They look like a village built by a primitive culture but they’re actually created by nature. Really cool. Here lunch is served on the promenade of one cave where the view is better than you would find at any 4-star restaurant.

On the day-long excursion we continue further up the wash to inspect a 4-million-yr-old shell reef and the fossilized footprints of a mammoth and prehistoric coyote. Round out the day by hiking colorful Sandstone Canyon (one of the most beautiful canyons in the Park) and marvelling at the towering temple-like features of the Mud Palisades in Olla Wash.
*Ages 3 to 12 accompanied by 2 adults
Lunch included.

Relatively rough terrain in vehicle and 1-mile, uphill hike to reach wind caves.

8+ hour trip – $165.00 per adult / $80.00 per child*
See 4 hour trip description.

*Ages 3 to 12 accompanied by 2 adults
Lunch included.

Relatively rough terrain in vehicle and 1-mile, uphill hike to reach wind caves.

Font’s Point Excursion – South Sector
5 hour trip – $95.00 per adult / $50.00 per child*
New to it or not, if you love the desert this excursion has your name on it. It will allow you to see many of the features that make the Anza-Borrego desert such a varied and beautiful place. You’ll pack a lot of sights into one trip as the vehicle leads you through an ever-changing terrain of canyon, dry washes, palm groves and surreal sedimentary formations. And once off road you’ll be rambling through rugged desert terrain until the end.

Start off by leaving the asphalt at San Fillipe Wash. This broad wash is accented by many species of plant life such as agave plants and chollo cactus. Later, enjoy a relaxing lunch in Hawk Canyon under the shade of a desert ironwood tree while you take in the panorama of the canyon’s multi-hued rock formations. In spring this is a surefire place to find flowers flourishing, even in less spectacular wildflower seasons.

Leaving Hawk Canyon you travel down a dry wash full of robust smoke trees onto the desert floor where the Borrego Badlands appear to your left. The vehicle conquers various terrain until it enters the San Fillipe Hills, an extraterrestrial-like land almost completely devoid of life that resembles the Martian surface. And yet, near here three palm groves defiantly flourish. The truck winds through ever more serpentine twists as it passes the first two palm groves.The route here is much like that of a bobsled run and you may be amazed that a vehicle of this size can maneuver through the banked turns between these reddish formations.

The third palm grove is Seventeen Palms where Native Americans and prospectors alike took respite from the desert’s heat in the grove’s cool shadows. Here you can have a snack, wander about and check out the “prospector’s mailbox” as the breeze rustles the palm fronds above.

The grand finale is a rumbling fast-paced trek through the upper badlands to reach the breathtaking overlook of Font’s Point where the late day sun transforms the Borrego Badlands below into a kaleidoscope of color. Feel free to bring a bottle of wine to toast the view.

Choose the 8-hour Excursion and you’ll have a chance to hike into the slot canyon of Borrego Mountain and check out a gold mine or hike deep into the Borrego Badlands up the alien terrain of aptly-named Hills-of-the-Moon Wash. You’ll literally be walking through millions of years in an area that contains North America’s richest, continuous fossil record.
*Ages 3 to 12 accompanied by 2 adults
Lunch included.

Varied terrain in vehicle at higher speed.
One hour longer.

8+ hour trip – $160.00 per adult / $80.00 per child*
See 5 hour trip description.

*Ages 3 to 12 accompanied by 2 adults
Lunch included.

Varied terrain in vehicle at higher speed. Moderate hikes with light scrambling.

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