Places to Ride:
Southern California’s Ocotillo Wells SVRA
Map of Ocotillo Wells SVRA area.
Some of the most diverse, challenging and
impressive off roading available in Southern
California can be found all
in one place; the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular
This vast area boasts some 80,000 acres with
several different types of terrain, satisfying
riding passions ranging from trails, roads, and
washes to narrow canyons or wide open deserts,
mountains, a sand dune, and enough technical
riding to test both your skill and endurance.
Ocotillo Wells SVRA is located on State Highway
78, right around the San Diego/Imperial County
line. It offers a relatively close OHV area for
much of San Diego and Imperial counties, and is
well within day-trip range from either.
The Ocotillo Wells SVRA is run by the
California State Parks Department, and it
borders some pretty big sections of OHV area to
the South across the 78 which is controlled by
the Bureau of Land Management.
The Pumpkin Patch
Ocotillo Wells offers several skill
levels of riding ranging from young children on
their first ride around camp to the most
seasoned hard-core veteran looking for their
next adrenaline rush. You can literally spend
all day riding and not ride the same trail
twice. At the southwest end of the SVRA, there
is a children’s track available for kids.
Several trails, washes, and
roads that run through Ocotillo Wells have
“street signs” at some of the intersections.
It’s truly an odd sight when you’re riding in
the middle of the desert on a trail and come
across a street sign at an intersection. But as
odd as it is to see these “street signs” in the
middle of the desert, it makes it a very simple
matter to plan your rides or to find your way if
you lose your bearing.
There are even some GPS-based routes
available to guide you on rides throughout
Ocotillo Wells, including some that take you on
exciting night rides, or day rides for the
family that include hitting up Blu Inn for ice
cream, or stop for what at least one San Diego
rider claims are “the best Milkshakes in all of
the desert” at Superburger.
If you are a camper, you'll appreciate
the beautiful sunsets.
Camping & Amenities
There are several different options for
camping in Ocotillo Wells. Obviously, if you’re
self-contained, you can camp just about anywhere
you can get your rig to. There are also some
popular spots, like Holmes Camp or near the
Ranger Station and Blowsand Hill. Camping
throughout Ocotillo Wells is free, so is regular
day use. Depending on where you camp, you can
get access to things like vault toilets and
shaded areas with picnic tables. The Ranger
Station has a dump station.
Along State Highway 78 lies the small town of
Ocotillo Wells, California. This town offers
amenities such as gas, food, vehicle repair, and
lodging. There is also the San Diego County
Airport which is really nothing more than a
small dirt landing strip.
There are several very distinct aspects of
Ocotillo Wells SVRA that you simply will not
find in other riding areas.
View from Shell Reef.
Arguably, one of the most significant
and impressive of the distinct aspects of
Ocotillo Wells is Shell Reef. This mountain is a
huge depository of fossilized oyster shells 6
million years old, which are nearly 100 miles
away from the ocean in the middle of the
Shell Reef was formed about 4 million years
ago during vicious upheavals in the earth’s
crust which pushed mountains skyward from the
sea. While much, if not all of that area is open
to ATV and other off road use, people are
encouraged to stay off of the reef in order to
preserve the natural beauty.
Another interesting phenomenon that
occurred in this area over millions of years are
thousands of small and large round rocks which
were formed over time from what is referred to
as the “natural cementing of sand particles to a
small object.” These small objects could be
anything from a piece of broken sea shell to an
insect. They are formed much the same way as a
pearl is formed inside an oyster.
These “desert pearls” of sandstone are being
exposed over time as wind and rain erode the
surrounding terrain. There are constantly new
pearls being exposed, so like Shell Reef, it is
requested that you not ride in that area and the
surrounding ridges in order to help preserve
this fascinating natural phenomenon.