Preview Arroyo Tapiado

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Located in the Southern half of the Anza Borrego Desert, Arroyo Tapiado has some of the most extensive mud cave formations found anywhere in the world. It's location is in several popular guide books and is well known, but the location of all of the mud caves is not.

After more than 100 hours of field work, information from caving enthusiasts and using details from a 1970's thesis written about the area, Hidden San Diego has put together three custom maps that detail the locations of 22 mud caves and the best slot canyons in the area. Created from detailed aerial photos, these maps can be clicked on to bring up dozens of photos and additional information about each cave and slot canyon. Each has a section showing you exactly how to get to the area. Caves with hidden entrances are even more detailed, so you don't miss a thing. These maps are exclusive to Hidden San Diego, you won't find them anywhere else.

Using a GPS receiver is not required. The maps are detailed enough to find each cave and canyon feature. If you do have a GPS, your job is even easier. Using it along with a chart found on the site will allow you to drive to within one-hundreth of a mile of most caves. Spend more time exploring caves and less time searching for them.

Here is a list of the mud caves detailed on this site:

  • Bat Cave One of the most reliable caves for finding bats.
  • Bedding Plane Cave - The entrance leads to a dead end falls, but the cave does continue...
  • Big Mud Cave - The one everyone visits because it is easy to see from the road.
  • Blind Canyon Cave - This cave ends in a blind valley. Use caution when exploring the canyon beyond.
  • Carey's Big Mud Cave - The largest cave in the Arroyo. Rooms with 80 foot ceilings.
  • Chasm Cave - One of the most popular caves. It has a great skylight in the center.
  • Cool Cave - Come here for a dependable cool breeze. The entrance is often like standing in front of an air conditioner.
  • Dead End Cave - It's a squeeze 'til the end.
  • Dip Slope Cave - Has one of the smallest entrances of any mud cave.
  • Drip Cave - A tall, narrow cave with beautiful mud formations on the walls.
  • D-Ticket Cave - An unusually wide cave. Don't get lost in this one.
  • E-Ticket Cave - Multiple tight passageways make for a fun trip.
  • Footprint Cave - Hidden in Big Mud Cave.
  • Hidden Cave - Finding the entrance is half the fun. You'll be treated to some of the tightest meanders of any mud cave in the area. And it has a second level...
  • Little Mud Cave - This fun cave goes on and on and may be the coolest cave (temperature) in the area.
  • Mud Flow Cave - A fun cave with a tricky continuing canyon.
  • Murcielago Cave - This cave has a beautiful (and rare) straight section with filtered light.
  • Oxbow Cave - A short cave just past Skylight Cave.
  • Plunge Pool Cave - This short cave dead ends in a spectacular round room dry falls.
  • Serpentine Cave - The most northerly mud cave. Have fun tracing the path of this cave.
  • Skylight Cave - The name says it all.
  • Tight Cave - The smallest cave I would ever consider exploring. Most of it is unexplored.


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There are more than just caves in the arroyo. Some of the best slot canyons in the desert are found here. We've highlighted these as well as a few other natural features you won't want to miss. These areas include:

  • Bat Canyon - A fun canyon to explore. It has a little of everything: mud caves, bridges, multiple levels...
  • Bridge Canyon - A great mud slot canyon with mud bridges and concretions.
  • Concretion Canyon - Climb up a series of dry falls while exploring this short canyon.
  • Dead End Canyon - Go under a mud arch and right to the dead end.
  • Mini Cave Canyon - Cross under a mud arch and follow the canyon past numerous small mud cave.
  • Round Room Falls - A huge round room carved out by water.
  • Rubble Canyon - Another great mud slot canyon that goes on and on. It has some fun side canyons too.
  • Slim Slot Canyon - You have to be very small to make it far in this canyon.
  • Start Canyon (all three forks) - Arroyo Tapiados' only side canyon you can partially drive into. At least four mud caves can be found in its upper reaches.


Also included are details from Dwight Carey's 1970s thesis. His thesis was the first scientific exploration of the area and details how the caves were formed, how old they are and what happens as they age.

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You'll find the most complete information on Arroyo Tapiado found anywhere:
  • 3 clickable maps detailing 22 mud caves.
  • Directions to beautiful slot canyons.
  • Over 200 photos.
  • The science behind the formation of the caves.
  • Cave temperatures.
  • The complete details to finding each cave.

There is enough here to keep you busy for many trips to come. Join today and start exploring online before you go.


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