Boondocking Site Review – Rockhouse Canyon Road, Clark Dry Lake, Borrego Springs, CA
A lovely, large boondocking area just ~7 miles from Borrego Springs and right next to Anza Borrego State Park in SW California.
NOTE/ NEW INFO AS OF Nov 2015. RULES have changed!! According to multiple reports from other boondockers, Anza Borrego State Park has acquired the land north of S22 around Peg Leg/Rockhouse Canyon Road and there are now new rules in effect.
The new rules include 30-day stay limit, new doggie rules (dogs on leash, only allowed on park roads), no open ground fires and parking limited to 1-vehicle length from main road. The latter rule is the most restrictive and “may” mean that many of old campsites in this area are now off-limits. We have not personally been, so I am awaiting final confirmation of this before I update my review. If you choose to boondock here this winter please report back on the area in the comments section!
Below review updated as of last stay Dec 2014
Location: Rockhouse Canyon Road, left-turn off S22 ~7 miles NE of Borrego Springs, CA
Coordinates: Approx. 33.2954N,-116.2893W (= SW corner of boondocking area). Link to map location HERE
Cost: FREE (no official stay limit at the moment)
How We Found It: This is a fairly well-known boondocking spot in the area. We first discovered it when we met a guy who was staying there our very first year in the area. The RV forums also talk about it, as do other bloggers. Much of this area is still private land so there is no “official” info on the place, but it’s a well-known/well-used location.
Nearest Dump/Water: Nearest dump at Borrego Palm Canyon campground inside Anza Borrego State Park ($8 fee). If you’re headed east there is also a dump at the ARCO station ($8 fee or free with gas/diesel fill up) at the corner of S22 and Hwy 86 by the Salton Sea.
- Access – 4.5/5 Very easy access for any sized-rig here although as usual a little extra effort is needed to access the best spots.
Directions -> From Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs take Palm Canyon Drive (S22) east towards Salton Sea. Drive ~7 miles until you see Rockhouse Canyon Road on your left.
Boondocking Spots-> Take Rockhouse Canyon road, up a short hill and past the “no trespassing” sign. Initial 100-ft of hill is paved, but road becomes reasonably firm dirt/sand after this spot. Boondocking spots are all over the desert after the sign, many off dirt spurs that depart from either side of the road. You’ll see plenty of cleared-out spaces with home-made fire-rings used by previous folks. Most people stay closer to the entrance (best Verizon signal here), but there are lots of really nice (and very private) spots further in. Some of the dirt spurs can be rather sandy/rough so check out the road before bringing in a big-rig.
- Nature – 5/5 Fabulous nature spot. You are in the middle of the desert valley surrounded by scrub with outstanding views of the mountains all around. Good and easy-access hiking on nearby Coyote Mountain too.
- Isolation – 4.5/5 Good to great isolation here depending on where you park. Only slight ding is this is a fairly well-known boondocking area and the Verizon signal is strongest near the entrance (closest to S22), so if you want a spot with good internet, you’ll likely get some rigs in your view.
- Pet Friendliness – 5/5 Another great pet spot. You have days-worth of hiking and exploring in the surrounding hills, plus lots of space to hang out in camp. Also this is mostly “scrub” desert so not alot of cholla around which is a big positive for paws on the ground.
Overall Rating = 4.75
Summary: This is probably one of our absolute favorite boondocking spots. It has easy access, lots of space, gorgeous desert nature and simply fabulous mountain views all around. Although it’s fairly well-known amongst boondockers, Borrego Springs is a lightly-visited town so there are lots of opportunities to find space to yourself. In boondocking circles you’ll sometimes hear this called “Clark Dry Lake” although the boondocking area is actually up the hill before the dry lake bed. The spot is only ~7 miles NE from town, right off S22 on Rockhouse Canyon Road which is an easy dirt road that takes you back into the boondocking area. Front area (nearest S22) is super-easy to access and has the best Verizon signal, but is also the most popular. Further back on Rockhouse Canyon (nearer to the dry lake bed) the spots get much more isolated, but Verizon signal fades fast. We chose a spot a few miles down the dirt road which had very poor Verizon signal (just barely usable w/ our external antenna/amp), but really great privacy. The area is on private land inside Borrego Springs so there are no “official” rules about camping (this also means no restrictive dog rules), but it could change at any time! The State Park has been in process (or in plans) to acquire this land for years so at some point in the future there may be a stay limit here and most likely some dog rules too (NOTE/ as of Dec 2014 there is no further update on this and it’s very possible the State Park ran out of money to do the acquisition. Either way the “old rules” still exist for now). Lots to do & explore in the surrounding area including the cute town of Borrego Springs plus no end of historic trails and natural beauty in Anza Borrego State Park. Overall a fabulous spot and one we’d come to again and again.
Extra Info: No water or facilities (nearest dump/water inside Anza Borrego State Park). There are a few bars of Verizon LTE signal near the entrance (closest to S22), but poor to zero signal further back. Also some decent ATT 4G around, although it is spotty. Both are improved by boosting. Signal drops off fast as you move further away from S22, so if internet is important to you make sure you check out your signal before you bring in/park your rig.
Extra, Extra Info – OTHER BOONDOCKING? There is actually a ton of other boondocking around Boorego Springs
- PEG LEG – This is actually right next to Rockhouse Canyon Road and is a great “beginner” boondocking area. It’s a large, flat and super, super easy-access “dirt parking” area right off Peg Leg road next to the Peg Leg monument. Cute little area and always rigs around. There’s a free book-swap in the mailbox. This is the same area where the annual Peg Leg Liar’s Contest is held. More info HERE. Free and no official stay limit.
- ANZA BORREGO STATE PARK – One of the unique things about Anza Borrego State Park is that they actually allow free, no-permit back-country camping anywhere within the state park as long as you stay within 1-vehicle length of the road, don’t trample vegetation and stay 100-feet away from any water source. There are lots of dirt roads leading to interesting spots around the park, but for those looking for a specific spot there is “official” free back-country camping at Blair Valley (could fit big-rig at the entrance), Yaqui Pass (easy, large area), Yaqui Well, Culp Valley, Sheep Canyon, Arroyo Salado, Mt. Palm Springs and Fish Creek. Download the State Park magazine for more info HERE.
NOTE/ If you have a dog be aware that Anza Borrego State Park does *not* allow dogs on any trails or in any wilderness areas. So if you go back-country camping w/ pooch you can only walk him/her on-leash on the park road.
- OCOTILLO WELLS SVRA – This large off-road vehicle area east of Anza Borrego SP off Hwy 78 allows free 30-day camping anywhere within the area. It is also surrounded by BLM land. More info HERE.