Some of the most expansive views in the entire California Desert--vistas often extending for more than 100 miles--exist in Carrizo Gorge Wilderness. From overlooks, you can see the Chocolate Mountains, the Salton Sea to the northeast, Mount Signal on the Mexican border, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which shares the Wilderness' eastern border. The eastern boundary actually runs near the western edge of Carrizo Gorge itself, where the In-Ko-Pah Mountains rise up from the desert. This Wilderness represents the only ecological transition zone in the NWPS between the low Colorado Desert and the dry California coastal mountains. Peninsular bighorn sheep find this remote, rugged region to their liking, and three herds call the area home. The San Diego coast horned lizard also lives here, eyeing the skies warily for Swainson's hawks, golden eagles, and other birds of prey. California fan palms line the edges of dry washes and narrow canyons, creating oases in the parched terrain. You will not find much in the way of trails from the west side, though several springs might provide water. From the east side, via Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, you can access Carrizo Gorge on a jeep trail, and the Wilderness on foot.
A north-south trending fault zone is responsible for the series of ridges and canyons at Anza-Borrgo's southern end. Carrizo Gorge, the most dramatic of these, divides the Jacumba Mountains to the east from the In-Ko-Pah Mountains to the west. These mini-mountain ranges are links in the Peninsular Ranges from the Laguna Mountains in the northwest to the Sierra Juarez of Baja California. Carrizo Gorge is best known for the railroad that threads along its eastern wall: the San Diego & Arizona Eastern. Built in 1907-1919, the railroad carried freight, and for a time passengers, between San Diego and Imperial Valley. At its heart it is a remote and rugged wilderness area.
A trek down the length of Carrizo Gorge is long, rugged, and memorable. It is one to be taken cautiously, with the right equipment and clothing. Essential are long pants to protect you from the sharp thorns of mesquite, catclaw, and the needle-like tips of a particularly wicked type of bunch grass. Thick growths of tamarisk, cactus gardens, and slippery rocks will all conspire to hinder your progress. Feral cattle used to keep paths through the vegetation clear, but they were airlifted out of the canyon in the late 1980's. The start of the foot travel only trail head is reached via a 6 mile dirt road,often passable only with a 4WD vehicle.
Fortunately, the California Conservation Corps has been involved in a project to eradicate the invasive tamarisk from the Carrizo Creek watershed. Past forays into the gorge from the north end have been relativity easy due to the removal efforts. Feel free to explore the depths of the gorge until your progress is severely hampered by dense growths of vegetation. A side trip up Goat Canyon can also be made here to view the worlds-famous railroad trestle.