Outbound Collective logo

Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves

San Diego County, California



10 miles

Route Type



Added by Backyard Overlanders

The Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are some of the largest mud cave systems in the world. There are approximately 22 known caves and 9 slot canyons.

These caves are AWESOME. However, they are also a little tricky to find so my main advice is research and make sure you know where your going before you get out there because more than likely you will not have service. 

The best way to get there is to drive down the S2 (Great Southern Overland Stage Route) road until you see Vallecito Creek Road. Vallecito Creek Road is a dirt trail that you will need to drive approx 7 miles down until you get to a point where you can turn either left or right. On your way to this point there will be a couple of trail heads, but do not go down them just keep driving. A good tip is follow the tire tracks in the sand if your in doubt. Once you get to the point where you see a sign that says "Arroyo Tapiado" turn left and follow that dirt road. There will be a couple of markers down that road about a mile down but ignore them and keep right and drive on. I was in a Chevy Cruze on these off-road trails and my car did just fine. You will have a point where you will need to stop and continue hiking unless you have a 4WD. I had to park 3/4 of the way in because I didn't have 4WD, but not to worry the first entrance is less than half a mile down the road.  You will see a sign (see above pic) once you have arrived. Keep walking down the right side of the road once your at the sign and you will see the first entrance on the left. There you will begin to see other openings and cracks on the left side of you on the walls of the canyons.The caves are not always obvious.  You may need to do a little searching and exploring to find the hidden entrances. 

If you have 4WD you can continue into the canyon by car and stop where you want to hike into a cave or slot canyon - there are many along the route.

Important tip: do not climb on the outside of the caves because they are made of mud and can risk falling through if you don't know what's below. Also beware of flash floods - I recommend going when the weather is nice and sunny.

Once your in the caves they are pitch black and you will need a light. I recommend a headlamp because there are alot of tight spaces and some crawling you will have to do to get through.

Read More

Download the Outbound mobile app

Find adventures and camping on the go, share photos, use GPX tracks, and download maps for offline use.

Get the app



Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves Reviews

Have you done this adventure? Be the first to leave a review!

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


Hike to Mountain Palm Springs, Anza Borrego SP

Exploring Anza Borrego's Wind Caves

Hike Canyon Sin Nombre

Agua Caliente Hot Spring

Off-Road through Split Mountain in Anza Borrego

Ghost Mountain Trail to Yaquitepec