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Rock Tanks Loop

  3.0 ( 1 ) Favorite


6.3 mile 10.2 kilometer point to point
87% Runnable


Ascent: 1,246' 380 m
Descent: -1,201' -366 m
High: 2,011' 613 m
Low: 871' 265 m


Avg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 39% (21°)


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Trail shared by Matthew Kidd

A partial loop that visits an unexpected water source.

Matthew Kidd

Features Views · Wildflowers


This run traverses both Palo Verde and Smoke Tree Canyons, crossing over a stark steep ridge. In the middle of the run, there is a set of natural rock tanks that may be filled during wet years or at least provide an unexpectedly verdant view in an otherwise brown place.


This isn't quite a loop run. You can close it with a 1.7-mile run along the S22 Highway, but it is more pleasant to set up a car shuttle.

Park at mile 32.9 along highway S-22 in a sandy parking area. Strike out across the desert northward across the braided Palo Verde wash. There is no trail in this section. Keep in mind that north is about forty five degrees clockwise of S-22. Avoiding straying into the smaller canyon to the northeast perpendicular to S-22, even though this feels natural. After about a mile, you'll come to Palo Verde Canyon proper, a clear cut in the mountains. The canyon gradually narrows.

At 33.314550, -116.179200, which is about 1.7 miles in (though it could be a shorter or longer depending on your route across the wash), look for a minor trail going straight up the rock on the right, marked by cairns. Follow the cairns for 1.3 miles over an old Indian trail, keeping above a small wash on your left. This will bring you to Smoke Tree Canyon.

The natural rock tanks begin at 33.319400, -116.162300, very close to the drop into Smoke Tree Canyon, the start of the northeastern spur on the loop. With tenacity, you can made it to the fifth rock tank after which it becomes challenging to proceed further. Head back and exit through Smoke Tree Canyon, a straightforward 3 miles to SR-22.

Similar to most Anza-Borrego runs, November to April is best, but it is ideal to do this route in the spring after a period of rain.

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3 Views Last Month
8 Since Jul 7, 2019



Super bloom in Smoke Tree Canyon
Jul 7, 2019 near Salton…, CA
Super bloom of purple sand verbena at the intersectin of Palo Verde Wash and SR-22
Jul 7, 2019 near Salton…, CA
End of the hike at SR-22 after exitiing Smoke Tree Canyon
Jul 7, 2019 near Salton…, CA
First natural rock tank
Jul 7, 2019 near Desert…, CA
Smoke Tree Canyon
Jul 7, 2019 near Desert…, CA
Hiking out of Smoke Tree Canyon
Jul 7, 2019 near Salton…, CA


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