Road Miles: 87.3
Trail Miles: 6.2
Woke up to beautiful views on Little Blair Valley Road. After breakfast, I drove through Blair Valley to the Pictograph Trail. Blair Valley was beautiful and green – it was so amazing to see the desert so lit up with color. There is a ton of free dispersed camping along the canyon wall, and a bathroom at the entry to the campground. I would definitely camp there in the future. Hiked out to Pictograph Rock, and did the optional extension to Smuggler’s Canyon as well. I had the trail pretty much to myself; I only saw two other people on this hike, although there were more arriving at the trailhead when I returned to the van. The views from Smuggler’s Canyon over Vallecito were especially beautiful.
I then drove to the Mountain Palm Oasis trailhead, the most southern and remote of the 5 Hikes for 50 Years. There is a campground next to the trailhead parking, which is more of a dirt lot than anything. Other than being a large level space, it was not particularly appealing as a place to camp. The hike to the oasis was pretty chill, and again, I didn’t see any people until I started my return. I did the optional Torote Bowl extension, and the views from the Bowl are incredible! Also, there are a bunch of giant boulders to climb around on at the Bowl, so that was fun. The second part of the loop on this trail was much more scenic than the first – lots of big red rocks and great views.
After the second hike, I decided to stop in at Agua Caliente County Park to check out their hot springs. They have showers ($0.50 for 4 minutes) and a unisex locker / changing area, but there are stalls with doors for privacy. Day use is $3 which is a pretty great deal to get to chill out in mineral pools all day long. The general store at the entrance to the park is overpriced and the selection of items available is underwhelming. Mostly they sell tourist trinkets, and a few random snack & food items. Stocking up in Borrego Springs or elsewhere before arriving is definitely advised.
I spent a couple of hours in the pools, then drove out toward The Slot, and camped in a turnout off the road to the trailhead. All in all, an awesome day!