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Coyote Mountains & Andrade Canyon

My favorite area of the desert region east of San Diego is without doubt the Coyote Mountains Wilderness. I’ve been there plenty of times by now but the sights (and sounds) do not cease to amaze me. With regards to the area’s photographic potential, I think I’ve barely scratched the surface, and I’m always looking forward to return.

The photos below were made in early January 2020, when “that pandemic” was yet unknown, on a hike with my friends Hans and Kevin. Hans had learned of a slot canyon that we had not visited when we did that hike together for the first time, in December 2011 (Into The Badlands) or during our return in April 2015 (Badlands & Domelands, Andrade Canyon).

In the short days of winter, the sun doesn’t reach into the canyons even around noon, creating quite nice photographic opportunities even on a blueskied and clear day. We proceeded on the route we were already familiar with (photos 1, 2 and 3), and where the canyon reaches the Carrizo Badlands, had to cross some mud hills to reach the entrance to the slot canyon. Climbing up those mud hills is quite exhausting because they’re fairly soft! You make two steps uphill and slide one step back down.

At the top of the mud hills, some quite interesting views of the area opened up (photos 4, 5 and 6, below). The slot canyon itself was quite narrow (last photo) – we squeezed our way through for as far as it seemed enjoyable, but also had to keep an eye on the time a little bit. On the way back through Andrade Canyon, a climb of some 20 or 30 feet past a dry fall awaits, and it’s not something you want to do in poor light, or even the dark.

Here are a few impressions:



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5 thoughts on “Coyote Mountains & Andrade Canyon”

  1. That’s an absolutely fascinating environment, and I love the variety of textures and types of terrain. When I saw Desert Face my first thought was on a Pablo Picasso painting. And some of these almost have a sense of mystery to them. With The Portal there’s the natural thought of what else is beyond the portal. And that last one has such a mix of tonal values you almost can’t tell what the actual shapes and depths are. It also gives the feeling it could go much deeper. Don’t trip or you’ll fall forever!

  2. Looks like such an amazing place! I really enjoy the ambiguity in some of the photos. Takes me a while looking at them to start to make some sense of what I’m looking at.

  3. I can easily understand how this could be your favorite area and as usual, your beautiful images make me want to visit. Such beautiful natural earth tones in these photos.

  4. Spectacular scenery, Alex! It’s great that you can dream of visiting places like this in winter when the harsh summer light gets to be too much. #2,3 &4 are favorites this time.


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