The Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are located in the Carrizo Badlands of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The “Mud Caves,” as they are called, are a popular attraction with adventure seekers.
The caves were created by water flowing through a thick deposit of silt. There are at least 22 caves, some up to 1,000 feet (300 m) in length and 80 feet (24 m) in height. A few of the caves include:
- Big Mud Cave: The only cave marked on most maps.
- Hidden Cave: Impossible to find without precise directions.
- Chasm Cave: A popular cave with a beautiful skylight.
- Carey’s Big Mud Cave: The largest cave in the arroyo.
- Plunge Pool Cave: A short cave that ends in a spectacular round room that towers above you.
- Dip Slope Cave: The small entrance is easy to miss.
Caution: There are some large open caverns you can explore, but most of the cave system is narrow and involves crawling through. The caves are made of mud which is prone to collapse. The ground is also very slippery.
Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves is a 3.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail. There are a variety of hiking options in the area, from flat to steep. Just pick the trails you feel comfortable with and start exploring.
Just be aware that exploring the caves solo is not recommended. Caves are dangerous places, and you should treat any trip inside them with the utmost respect. Remember the bring a flashlight.
There is plenty of dispersed camping options available in the area. There are also a few established campgrounds within 15minutes of the caves to include:
- Agua Caliente County Park
- Vallecito County Park
- Bow Willow Creek Campground
It’s a privilege to have Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves for our enjoyment, so please practice Leave No Trace principles.
It is recommended that you don’t drive your van or RV here if you don’t have a 4-wheel drive with a high clearance. The road follows the Vallecito Wash that gets very sandy.
- Located 8-miles off S2.
- Take the S2 (from the 8 head north) to mile marker 43.
- Take the Palm Springs or Vallecito Wash exit (dirt road heading east).
- Approximately 4.5 miles in, you will see a sign that says Arroyo Tapiado (on the left).
- Go left at the Arroyo Tapiado Wash, which will be heading north.
- Continue on Arroyo Tapiado Wash Road until you reach the canyon area where the caves are located.
References and Links:
- Visit: Desert USA – Mud Caves
What are the top 5 boondocking locations in SoCal for van and RV lifers? The top 5 boondocking locations are: Anza Borrego Desert Joshua Tree