Baja's El Camino Real again


Aug 29, 2019
Here I go again.

Work ½ a day.

Drive 575 miles to Indio, crash in the Hilton for the night.

Next day I drive to Calexico, do some last minute shopping, fill up with gas, exchange some dollars to pesos.

Drive across the International Border and be waved over for inspection by the Mexican immigration.

Drive through Mexicali (and bonus points for not getting lost this time!) and head south towards San Felipe.

Have a brief inspection at the military checkpoint.

Drive through San Felipe, Puertecitoes, Gonzaga Bay where I fill up the gas tank again, and then on to Lake Chapala where I spend the night.


Up early the next day, boil some water, make some coffee, pack up camp and head south again.

Another brief inspection at the military checkpoint and on to Villa Jesus Maria where I again fill up the gas tank and stop at Kassandra's for some delicious burritos before heading south.

Stop and pay the 20 peso's to have the bottom of my car misted at the 28th parallel.

Bypass Guerrero Negro, pass a coyote relieving himself on the shoulder, and then pass my turn off to El Arco. A quick u-turn and I am on dirt roads were I will be for the next 6 days.

Drive the 22 miles to and then through El Arco, to the turn off to Pozo Aleman.


12 miles takes me through Pozo Aleman and then through Calmalli to my turn off on an even less traveled dirt road.

Then to a massive wash (La Sandia) which has me worried. It looks like loose sand and it is probably a ½ mile. All I can think about is making it part way across, hitting a soft spot and sinking the Subaru.

Yeah, I am driving a 15 year old Subaru with street tires.

I walk across the wash and back and believe I can make it.

I buckle up, start the car and away I go.

Up the far side and on to Rancho Nuevo where I pull up and Francisco comes out and I try to explain that I wanted to park nearby and go walk in the desert for a week.

He kindly offers his yard and I kindly decline hoping to get a little closer to Los Corrales where I ended my hike the year before.

1139 miles after leaving home I find a place to park and camp for the night, and spend the rest of the afternoon getting the backpack ready.

Early Sunday morning I hoist my pack, which is much too heavy with food for 5 days and 2 gallons of water.

A few minutes of road walking and then I am in the wash in front of Rancho Los Corralles where I had turn around the year before.


From here on out it was all going to be new to me. Trudging along in the loose sand of the wash with a 35 lbs backpack was not much fun and I was barely past the Rancho when I came upon water. and with in a mile I was along side a small running stream that would be with me for four of the next five days.

I wanted to dump all my water out right then and there and lighten my pack by over 15 pounds but I wasn't sure at the time what the future had in store for me.


I hike up the wash past the historic site of Tres Palmas. There is not much to see there, some rock walls and the remnants of past human occupation.



It is tough walking up the wash but there was serious flooding recently and it is almost impossible to find the bypass trails. The wash is filled with boulders and short sections of sand.

It is here were I find the first of the quicksand and with a single step off of a boulder I sink in up to my knees.

I pass La Rabia, the wash that the El Camino Real is supposed to go up, before I realize my mistake.

My next mistake it to try to cut across the desert in between the two washes. It quickly becomes an impenetrable mess of thorns.

When I finally reach La Rabia it is even more boulder choked than San Luis/San Sebastian wash that I had been following all day.

I quickly become discouraged and head down stream to the larger wash and find a place to camp for the night.

I consider if I should just continue up what is now labeled as San Sebastian or try La Rabia wash and hope it opens up further along.

In the morning I decide to try La Rabia which turns out to be the wrong decision. It is a narrow canyon with large boulders all the way to the first of several 'oasis' along it's length. There are a dozen or more Palm Trees and an area that has water year round.

Lucky I find a side trail since the creek bed looks damn near impassable through here. The trail leads up the west side and fairly quickly climbs several hundred feet above the wash were it peters out and I lose it for good.

I push through the vegetation along the steep hillside until I am 250 feet above the creek bed.

I see no choice but to slowly work my way back down to the wash and try to follow it. After sometime I make it through to come upon a second 'oasis' where I break for lunch and ponder my next move.


I am in section with room-sized boulders of granite and it takes the rest of the day to cover the miles to the upper reaches of the wash.


I have to climb over, under, and around boulders. Way to often I reach an impassable section that forces me to backtrack and find and alternate route. After one final challenging section La Rabia finally starts to level out some what and I camp near where the tie trail crosses a low pass over to San Sebastian.

I barely covered 6 miles in a long and arduous day of hiking, and went to sleep dreaming of easier trails tomorrow, and dreams were all they were.

Day 3 started with a quick detour to the saddle in between La Rabia and San Sebastian where I cached a few things.

Then for the first time I was on a trail that continued on and on. For miles through a pass into a large valley. Crossing the valley I came across some horses and continued on to the pass at the far side of valley which then lead to another large valley.

The trail climbed down the pass in to this second valley and continued on to a third pass, where it petered out.

It was lunch time so finding a nice place to kickback and happy with the progress I had made so far today I pulled out the GPS.

With a little shock I realized I was in the wrong drainage and was over a mile away from where I should have been.

Torn between just turning around and heading back and trying to cross over the ridge to the trail I sat there slightly dejected.

I decided I would try to cross the ridge and get back on the trail. I climbed a 100 feet or so and started traversing across the steep hillside. The hill was steep and full of loose rocks and cacti.

Halfway across a bee flew up and became tangled in my glasses and stung me above my right eyebrow.

Normally a bee sting would not worry me EXCEPT….

Last July I was stung by a bee at work and a few minutes later I started feeling a little dizzy. Then my vision started fading, so I sat down to let it pass.

After a few minutes I stood up, took two steps and passed out. I ended up waking up in the ambulance with a paramedic saying over and over again to his partner he had never seen a blood pressure so low.

It all turned out well but here, miles from were I should be, far from any help it may not turn out so well. Was I feeling off now because I was a little dehydrated, hiking in the full sun in the desert?

Or was I feeling off because of the bee sting?

Being a little distracted I kneed a barrel cactus and was lucky to only have one thorn stuck deep into my kneecap. Dropping my pants and grabbing my pliers I gave a quick jerk and pulled out a string of cuss words along with the thorn.

30 minutes later I give up, the vegetation was just too dense, the trail was just too far away and it was too late in the day.

Heading back through the valley and back on the trail I became a little careless and let my hand brush up against a cactus and come away with a piece stuck in my hand. I have to remove my pack to retrieve the pliers.


This took a strong jerk to remove, and for miles around birds took flight to my cussing.

Being more careful I retrace my steps back to my cache and then on down to San Sebastian where I set up camp for night number 3.

Like Tres Palmas, there is not much left of San Sebastian.



Day four finds me heading downstream in a much easier wash than the one I came up two days before.

The only real problem was all the quicksand, 6 or 7 times I was suddenly up over my knees in it. My boots were soaking wet and full of sand and I would stop to get the sand out and drain some of the water out only to have it happen again.

All in all it was some of the easier hiking of the trip with lots of flowers and nice views.




Turns out this is called a Baja Fairy Duster…

8 1 red flowers.jpg

Hiking until dusk, I set up camp as the wind starts blowing.


I figured the wind would blow for a few hours until after sunset then it would be calm again. No such luck it blew hard all night almost flattening my tent and was still blowing in the morning after I had packed up and started my 5th and final day.

5 miles and 2 hours later I was back at my car.

The whole time I am hiking in general I am always thinking about food after the first couple of days, I bring plenty but you do have to ration it to a certain extent so it is always in the back of my mind and I always feel just a little hungry.

Then in the desert it is not just food, but also water. I just want to drink all I have and that last morning I only had about a cup left and didn't feel like filter some since I was so close to the car.

Once at the car I drank a little, but just knowing I could have all I wanted seemed to quench my thirst, weird.

Car started (I have been known to leave something on and come back to a dead battery before) and I headed out.

Upon arriving at Rancho Nuevo, I made sure to wave at Francisco's wife who was out sweeping the porch and started leaving, when I heard yelling and whistling coming from the rancho.

I stopped and got out, Francisco walked up to me and said he relieved him and his wife were to see me. They had prayed everynight for me. I was truly touched by his kindness.

He invited me in for coffee with him and his wife, which I very sadly declined.

Leaving there feeling overwhelmed by their kindness I wished I had taken him up on the offer.

Soon I was at La Sandia, the large sandy washed that worried me. I decided to try a different way out.

On and on I drove passing a few Rancho's in the 50 miles of dirt roads it took to reach pavement almost 3 hours later.


From there a quick stop in Villa Jesus Maria for a repeat of my visit of a week earlier. There was a young couple from Pennsylvania driving down the peninsula for the first time and so we talked for a few minutes while I was waiting for my food.

I made it all the way to Laguna Salada where I spent my last night in Baja.

The next morning I followed Highway 5 to Highway 4 to Highway 3 to Highway 2 and I crossed at San Luis after my quickest border check in decades.


Nov 26, 2015
Seeing those blue skies brightened my day.....Thanks for a great trip report.


Aug 29, 2019
Living in Northern California, it was nice for me too to get out of the weather for awhile too....Thanks!


Aug 29, 2019
Hiking with pliers is new to me but pretty much required in some off trail desert hiking trips.

Georgia Yankee

Aug 23, 2016
Great adventure. Love the photo of the tree growing around the rock. Looks like a flow of thick goo... We are thinking of driving to Loreto next winter. Might bother you at some point for Baja driving tips.


Aug 29, 2019
Georgia,. Driving to Loreto is pretty straight forward with a few exceptions.
Baja is changing every year and I am afraid more for the worse.... So do it while there is still a little of the charm of Baja left. And I will gladly answer anything I can for you.

Georgia Yankee

Aug 23, 2016
Georgia,. Driving to Loreto is pretty straight forward with a few exceptions.
Baja is changing every year and I am afraid more for the worse.... So do it while there is still a little of the charm of Baja left. And I will gladly answer anything I can for you.
I had heard about the army checkpoints. I also understand that even the main roads can be narrow and not in the greatest condition. We plan to carry a full-size spare tire and tire repair kit plus a good amount of drinking water. Were also advised keep our gas tank full. What else should we be thinking about?



Aug 29, 2019
Depending on your actual route.... Highway 5 to Highway 1 or Highway 1 all the way and any side trips you plan on, fuel is not really an issue. Biggest stretch without a gas station is probably the section north and south of BOLA turn around Punta Prieta and even that should not be a problem for most cars and trucks today.

Water is always a given but I would not say it is any worse the driving across the American Southwest except you will have no cell service.

Same thing with tires, decent tires to start with and a decent spare is more than enough for travel on the main roads.

Now the roads, even the main paved ones would be a little concerning for some. They are not very wide at all, a semi or a bus will use ALL of their lane with only inches to spare on either side. Combine that with no shoulder and it can be a little nerve racking. You need to pay attention to the road and hope the person coming at you is to!

One trend that is scary though is the last 5 to 10 years has seen a lot of people traveling it on bicycles. Your doing 60/70 mph and come around a corner or over hill to find a bicyclist in your lane doing 15mph with no shoulder can cause some real fright!

Knock on wood - but I have done dozens of trips to Baja, including 2 trips to Cabo and back, and 4 trips to La Paz and back with many more to the Guerrero Negro and back with no accidents myself.

I have seen the aftermath of several though accidents, including 1 with a poor soul covered in a sheet in their smashed car so the driving is dangerous no matter where you are.

Go, enjoy, use common sense and be aware and it should be fine.

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