Thursday, March 4, 2010

Undercover San Diego: Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves

I chose to start my backlog of San Diego Adventures with the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves because they are one of my favorite places (I have been back several times) and there are not on any maps. They aren't even on the Anza Borrego State Park map. I found out about them on one of my favorite sites that I also contribute to, Hidden San Diego. If you live in San Diego and are looking for new adventures you will want to subscribe to this site.(cheap). Out of respect for that site, I will go into limited detail but feel free to ask questions through email for more details (description of each cave, map with every cave).

To get there if you are coming from the north part of San Diego then drive toward Borrego Springs before you get there turn right onto S2. If you are coming from the Southern part of San Diego use 8 East and exit on the S2 in Octillo. You can use this address to get directions in google "Stag Horn Rd, Julian, San Diego, California 92036", it will get you close enough. Once on the S2, look for the mile markers, the turnoff is located a Mile 43. You will turn east off S2 into a sandy wash you will see signs for Palm Springs and Vallecito Creek.

You do not need 4WD but it would make the drive more safe and fun. There are plenty of undiscovered caves and slot canyons in this area.(If you know of any please comment). You will want to stay on one of the compacted roads that travels through the wash. Reset your trip odometer as soon as you turn off S2. The turn to enter into the Arroyo Tapiado canyon is around 4.5 miles. About halfway along the wash you will see the mysterious "Hollywood and Vine" signpost on a hill on your left. In another couple miles you should see a sign for Arroyo Tapiado on your left and several roads leading that way. Shortly you will be in the winding former river bed.
Try to imagine this as a large flowing river (after a rain), most of caves were created as small spur springs off this river. You will notice how the caves serpentine and this is simply water trying to find the easy way out. By knowing how these caves were created it will be easier for you to find them. Larger caves are near the main road and smaller caves have openings in some of the side slot canyons.
There are around 30 discovered caves in this area, to find out details about all of them you will need to join Hidden San Diego. I will however describe how to get to some of the larger and more obvious ones. Refer to the map below.
Carey's Big Cave is the main attraction. It is named after the guy responsible for charting and studying the area. It is found off the main road about a mile from the start of the twists. You will see a large group of bushes on your left and several trails around the bushes. Behind the bushes will be the entrance to this large mud cave (about a 1/4 mile long). This cave has several off shoots and large rooms, have fun exploring. It ends at a small sky light that is at the bottom of a cave-in.
Chasm Cave is the next largest cave and is just around the corner. Once you exit Carey's Big Cave then walk north or to your left. Go around the corner and then walk another 20 or 30 ft and you will see a well used trail. This is also a very large cave and has several sky lights. It gets tight in sections but is still walkable.

My next favorite cave is hardly a cave but is very neat place to have lunch in the dark. Pool Plunge Cave is a bit more difficult to find. As you leave Chasm Cave follow the main road for another couple hundred feet. You will see the opening for a large slot canyon on your right with broken rock in front. Just before that you will see a slender opening in the wall of the wash. If you follow this skinny cave it will open into an amazingly large room with a skylight.

There is a lot more exploring to be done here and if you have any questions please let me know.

1 comment:

  1. I've hiked in these mud caves almost ever year over the last 20+ years (I usually camp at Vallecito campground thanksgiving weekend), but I never knew the names of the caves! Awesome website (I'm a fellow homebrewer/QUAFF'er).
    Here's my blog:


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