Lute Ridge (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park)

Interesting geological features abound in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Lute Ridge is an easily accessible example of natural forces at work. The ridge is actually a fault scarp – an uprising of land where one side of a fault has moved vertically from the other. Lute Ridge is the largest known fault scarp in North America.

We set off down the sandy path heading north.

Just to our left we could see the gentle curve of Lute Ridge rising up in the foreground. It didn’t look like much from this side, but as we’d see in a little bit, it is actually a pretty dramatic uprising of land. In the distance were the Santa Rosa Mountains, much of which were obscured by a dramatic layer of clouds.

The path was easy to discern in the soft sand as it wound through clumps of creosote and brittlebush.

The tentacle-like branches of Ocotillo stood tall. Only a few branches were starting to sprout their red-tips.

At .6 miles a narrow trail branched off to the left, heading up the ridge. The other fork continued towards Rattlesnake Canyon, and Villager and Rabbit Peaks (buried in the clouds). You can continue straight ahead for a little bit to get some nice views of the ridge from below. We turned left to begin ascending the ridge.

The “trail” faded in spots, but the route was simple enough – we were just following the ridgeline straight ahead. The immediate vicinity was rather rocky and barren. There was the occasional Cholla and Ocotillo to avoid, but mostly sand and rocks.

It was the wider landscape as a whole that made this hike scenic. Looking southeast, towards the Salton Sea, we could see a low cloud bank accentuating the distant mountains.

To the northeast was the open expanse of Clark Valley. The clouds parted just enough to let us catch tantalizing glimpses of a snow-capped Toro Peak in the distance.

We continued along the ridgeline, taking opportunities to cautiously admire the steep drop off on our right. The ridge we were on was the result of a fault uplifting the ground.

Our destination was a survey marker, which we spotted around 1.4 miles, somewhat beyond the apparent high point. A small pile of rocks marked its location.

We spent some time exploring the ridge top and taking in the views before finally retracing our steps and heading back to the car. You could pretty easily make a loop by continuing down the ridge and turning right, then returning by travelling below the ridge until you meet up again with the trail where you initially turned off.

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From Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs, head east on Palm Canyon Drive (S-22) for approximately 12.7 miles, past mile marker 31, to an un-named turnout on the left, across from the signed Thimble Trail turnout. map

Total Distance: 2.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 300 feet
Dog Friendly?: Dogs not allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes not allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
California State Parks: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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