Early morning hike in the hills by Rockhouse Canyon Road boondocking area

A lovely, large boondocking area just ~7 miles from Borrego Springs and right next to Anza Borrego State Park in SW California.

Note/ Review updated as of last stay Dec 2013

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) at the corner of S22 and Hwy 86 by the Salton Sea.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 that may change! According to our info a large part of this area was just recently acquired by the State Park, so it’s probable that boondocking will still be allowed in the future, but possibly with a stay limit and most likely some dog rules too (NOTE/ as of Dec 2013 there is no further update on this. Not sure if the transaction to sell the land went through, or crashed? 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). Good Verizon 3G signal near the entrance (closest to S22), but poor to zero signal further back. NO 4G LTE signal.

Extra, Extra Info – OTHER BOONDOCKING? There is actually a ton of other boondocking around Boorego Springs

  1. 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.
  2. GALETTA MEADOWS – This private land inside Borrego Springs allows free camping (3-day limit). Great for sculpture viewing! Contact Galetta Meadows for more info.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

“Aerial” view of our very private boondocking spot from Coyote Mountain. You can see S22 snaking off into the distance in the far background.

Another “ariel” view towards some nicely-spaced rigs near the back-end of the boondocking aera.

View of our boondocking spot from dirt spur off Rockhouse Canyon Road

Typical boondocking site. You’ll see clear-out spaces and fire-rings like this all around.

Another site view, with another rig parked in the background

View of short, paved section near entrance of Rockhouse Canyon Road. Boondocking are starts right after the “no tresspassing” sign

Dirt-road section of Rockhouse Canyon Road. This is near the entrance with some rigs parked right off the road.

Biking around the dirt roads w Polly in the boondocking area

Very approximate map of Clark Dry Lake boondocking area. Borrego Springs in on the left. S22 constinues to Salton Sea on the right.

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22 Responses to Boondocking Site Review – Rockhouse Canyon Road, Clark Dry Lake, Borrego Springs, CA

  1. Grace says:

    Thank you, Nina! I tried and tried to figure this all out from other blogs and just couldn’t find the spots. You are soooo helpful!

  2. Gumo says:

    You should get paid for this excellent and appreciated resource. Thanks.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Aw, thanks. I’m in it for the sharing…and I usually get back as much as I share. So happy to give out the advice for free.
      Nina

  3. Great! I like it all! LOVE big-rig boondocking advice – thank you!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Glad it’s helpful :) I’m hoping Karma will pay me back with many more boondocking opportunities in the future.
      Nina

  4. Jerry G says:

    We are leaving chula vista for boon docking in that area. Thanks for info.

    Can you tell me @ roads. We too are in a 40 Mh w/toad. Are there any roads/routes we should avoid traveling to the area.

    I was planning to take sr67 to sr78 to cr S3 to Borrego Springs.

    Wife and I retired and went full time 4 years ago at 51 and 53. Will start following your blog. Maybe we’ll meet somewhere “on the road”.

    • libertatemamo says:

      No, I wouldn’t go that route. The ONE road I’d advise to avoid is the stretch of 78 right after Julian (called the “banner pass”). This pass doesn’t allow big rigs and frankly, I wouldn’t want to drive it in the big-rig anyway.

      So…instead of that I’d recommend going north at Santa Ysabel (so take 78 to Santa Ysabel, then turn north on 79 until you hit San Felipe Road). At that point you have a choice.
      -> You can take San Felipe to S22 directly to Borrego via the Montezuma Pass. It’s a steep pass, but we were fine taking it w/ the big-rig.
      -> Or you can take San Felipe back to 78 and recapture your original route (so basically you just do a big loop to avoid the Banner Pass).

      Nina

      • Jim Koski says:

        We took 78 east from Julian with our 35′ MH and Jeep toad to Borrego Springs without problems. Pulled over a few times to let faster traffic pass. BTW, fantastic apple pie a la mode at Julian Pie Company!!

  5. Jerry G says:

    Thanks. Left the campground a little while ago. Unfortunately having mechanical problems and are on the side of the road outside Jamul. We’re headed to cummins, so we get a few day delay it looks like. Maybe we can meet somewhere while we wait. I’ll touch base when wedge the rig off the road.

  6. Jerry G says:

    Thanks. It looks something to do with the inverter/alternator. Cummins El Cajon 8:00 am. Will have the day off while we wait before we get to head to Anza.

    Would love to meet and share some stories if you guys have time tomorrow. Just tell us where to meet you and we’ll swing by. Maybe we can share some spots you guys would enjoy. The wife is a photographer as well.
    Here’s a link to some photos from our awesome month long exploration and boon docking in November in SE Utah. http://s309.photobucket.com/albums/kk382/nancyjerry/Later%20Nov%20-%20Dec%202011/#!cpZZ2QQtppZZ16

    You can access all our albums at the top left of the page, but it is 4 years worth from Fla to NW Maine to across the south and up the coast to Alaska. There’s also photos from our 7 months in Yellowstone this past summer.

    Jerry and Nancy

  7. Slabber says:

    Peg Leg Pete seems to be controled by the State Park System. They gave my friend a notice to leave as he had stayed there 30 days (that is the yearly limit). We are checking in to see if that is really their land as a local said it was privately owned. Will let you know when we find out.

    The other option he used (he is down there building a solar plant) is that corner you marked off on Henderson Rd, S22 and Peg Leg Road. That seems to be fine and used often.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Interesting. As far as I know Peg Leg has always been private, but last year we heard rumblings that the State Park was looking to take over some of the area around there. They even came to another boondocker friend of ours and warned him that his rig would be on State Park the following year and so subject to stay limits. If this is true it will affect alot of boondockers who look to spend most of winter in the area.
      Thanks for the info and DO let me know what you find out!
      Nina

  8. […] you to gawk and write blogs about. Best of all, we had a 360 degree view of the whole show from our awesome boondocking spot in the Borrego Hills. It’s on days like this that I feel very, very lucky to be alive. In […]

  9. […] here and everytime we come I always wonder why we don’t stay longer. It’s one of the nicest boondocking spots I know with a really cool little town next door, a cute Friday farmer’s market and literally […]

  10. […] This remains one of our absolute favorite boondocking sites and it scores top marks in every category including 360 degree views, spectacular nature, good access, a cute local town and tons to do in the area. Best of all it’s FREE. I mean, what more could you want? It’s our highest-rated spot of the year and one we plan to return to again and again. CHECK IT OUT! […]

  11. Baddad53 says:

    Just visited your blog from see a post of your on IRV2 (which I use for info all the time) Great information on your blog. My wife and I love driving 395 to Reno and back from our home in Ventura. Have to tried the beach rv parks in Ventura County yet?

    • libertatemamo says:

      No we haven’t been to Ventura yet. We may do a coastal run next year so could be in the cards for that timeframe. Are any of the parks there dog friendly (I.e. Allow dogs on the beach)?
      Nina

  12. hector Lopez says:

    Here we sit off S22 at the Clark Lake bed area at a beautiful spot and a great sunset tonite. Your description is creepy accurate. Down to web coverage. We scouted in the car … amazing job. Thanks very much!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Excellent! Glad you found the spot and are enjoying it as much as we do when we go there. Sorry we couldn’t join you for margaritas!

      Nina

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