El Parral, El Berrendo, El Carrizo, Agua Caliente, El Cajon

Three days (Easter weekend) in April, 2004 Baja Internet amigo Gerald Jide and I visited five desert canyons on the east side of the Sierra San Pedro Martir (southwest from San Felipe) and found palms, running water, hot springs, and more! Another Internet amigo (Baja Lou) and his friends explored with us in Parral and Berrendo canyons.

Jide and Picacho del Diablo

We entered Valle Chico from the north, using Hwy. 3 for 100 miles from Ensenada then turning south to Diablo Dry Lake and into Valle Chico. Jide points to Baja’s highest (10,154′) mountain.

David K at 30°47.04′, -115°10.00′ (WGS84)

At the junction of east and west Valle Chico routes is a Baja sign: Agua Caliente, El Carrizo (left) and Algodón (straight).


Following their four days backpacking to Baja’s most remote mission, with Jack Swords, is (L to R) Baja Taco, Huddo, Mexitron, and Pappy who met us at Parral’s entrance gate.


Also at the Parral gate was the gang from El Dorado Ranch, led by Baja Lou. The San Pedro Mártir group headed down to Matomí Canyon to camp and the rest of us went up to the big corral, 3.0 miles from the gate at 30°30.65′, -115°6.53′. Baja Lou wrote an article about this trip: http://www.blueroadrunner.com/Writing/parral.htm


After we set up camp in the Parral canyon, we went to the next canyon north as far as one can drive, then hiked on. Trail head: 30°32.60′, -115°7.96′ (WGS84), elev. 2,260′.

Blue and Green palms line the El Berrendo arroyo.

Water is soon seen flowing…


A spectacular scene was this giant boulder creating a grotto above a pond… GPS: 30°32.12′, -115°08.16′ , elev. 2,388′.


If you can, see Jide to the right of the boulder… Now do you see the SIZE of this rock?!!

Friday afternoon there was a brief thunderstorm, but the skies cleared up near sundown.

SATURDAY APR. 10, 2004.

From our camp in the corral, the road can be driven 0.6 mi. to a major washout where the hike begins. Almost a mile up the trail this was the view.

The view back east, down Parral’s arroyo and on to Valle Chico.

Water flow increased as we neared the site of Rancho El Parral.

Several hundred feet of rock wall enclosed the coral area above the ranch.

RANCHO EL PARRAL 30° 29.43′, -115° 07.02′

Named for the grapevines (parral) growing just up stream, the ranch is abandoned. Perhaps the flash flood that wiped out the road, a mile away is why this beautiful location at 2,901′ is unoccupied?


…was this beautiful scene.

A granite pinnacle and more rock walls are southeast of the ranch.

Going downstream, along the creek, is a different route back.

‘WILD BILL’ (of El Dorado Ranch)

Bill and I followed the creek down from the ranch.

Another look back west… I almost hated to leave this place!

Barrel cactus were everywhere, and very large.


Just as I was putting my foot down, I spotted this fellow…

I coaxed him out from the shade so ‘Dan-Over’ and I could get a better photograph. The red diamondback rattlesnake was about FOUR feet long! We let him be, and returned to our vehicles at the trail head.

WOW… !!!!

A BIG HORN SHEEP skull, with horns intact was found by one of the El Dorado gang, and placed on the dune buggy for size relationship.

Giant Barrel Cactus and David K

In the next valley north of Parral, ‘jide’ spotted blue palms on a ridge. On our hike to investigate was this big barrel cactus.


This cliff was almost a mile from the road (between Berrendo and Parral)… the yellow coloring was very unusual.


The mineralized stained (dry) waterfall, the yellow moss covered rocks and soil were quite a sight… Add a few blue palms and you have another magic Baja location!


The GPS at the tallest palm is: 30°32.87′, -115°6.05′, elev. 2,412′. We could see far north into Valle Chico from here. After our ‘exotic cliff’ visit, we went north to Carricitos and turned west on a very faint track (30°35.60′, -115°07.05′) hoping to drive into El Carrizo Canyon.

We were just getting into the canyon when a fence ended the road 2.8 miles from Carricitos. We hiked a short ways, spotted a lone blue palm, and elected to return here another time to hike further.

From Carricitos, going north to the road for Agua Caliente Canyon (at Plan Nacional Agrario/ Agua Caliente) is 5.6 fast miles. Then, turn west 2.0 miles to the canyon and 2.7 more miles to the end of the road, deep in the canyon.

The hike to the hot springs is 1.1 miles and takes just over a half hour. Stay to the right side of the canyon the entire way.


Here see great amounts of super hot water flow out and go about 400 feet to where it merges with the cool mountain stream. HOT SPRING GPS: 30°38.86′, -115°12.46′, elev. 2,041′


Jide is by a hot water tub built where the spring water flows down from the terrace, then heads downstream. The water was too hot in the tub. Photo looking south.

Photo looking north/ downstream. Here is the tub just below the spring, but the water is a scalding 140°F! We go over 300 feet downstream and make a tub where the temperature is closer 105°F.

I climb high up the canyon for an ‘almost aerial’ photo (looking south) of the hot springs and hot stream, along right edge of arroyo. Beyond, at the next bend is a lone blue palm tree.

This barrel cactus in the is about 7 feet tall. I stood next to it and it was over a foot taller than me. You just never know what wonders you will find in Baja!

SKY VIEW (Thanks to Baja Lou!)

Photo looking eastward, down stream. Shown (going upstream) is: the end of the 4WD road, a former cilantro* farm area, hot springs, and a palm tree location. (*or other cash crop)


A short distance hike up the canyon was this 6 ft. high steel reservoir. If we had a ladder, this would be a great swimming pool!

This Baja desert canyon soon changes, in less than a mile.

Canyon El Cajon’s first waterfall.

Jide and I both agreed this looked more like a coastal mountain scene than a Baja desert!

North of El Cajon Canyon, the old ‘west valley’ road passes east of Diablo mountain before reaching Diablo Dry Lake.

Just before reaching Highway 3, we stop to stretch our legs. Diablo mountain is above my truck. GPS at the junction with Hwy. 3 is 31°16.87′, -115°19.27′.


Shows the roads and mileages used on this trip.

Just for fun…

The ‘Green Angels’ are a fleet of trucks with mechanics to provide assistance to broken down tourists in Mexico. As we passed, jide took a photo of a tourist being pushed by a Green Angel!!!