“An off-trail desert route along a broad and rolling ridge that starts from the desert floor and climbs over 5,000 feet.”
— Matthew Kidd
The Villager–Rabbit traverse offers views of the entire Anza-Borrego desert clear into Mexico. Though it is not as technically challenging as Mile High Mountain
loop just to the east, the shear length and 7,200 feet of climbing make it at least as difficult.
Need to Know
It should go without saying to take plenty of water. Take a headlamp too, since even a round trip to Villager Peak is almost 14 miles.
The trailhead parking is at mile 31.8 on the north side of S-22, opposite the parking on the south side for the Thimble Trail
. The parking area has some signage regarding packing out your trash and used to have a call box, which is gone as of May 2018.
From the trailhead, strike north across the desert for 1.5 miles, first over a series of braided washes at the base of Rattlesnake Canyon before crossing a ridge. The trail isn't clearly defined for the first mile or so which makes it easy to miss the better defined trail for the next 0.5 miles. No worries though, just make sure you get to -116.198096, 33.320284 at the north side of the wash where the serious climbing begins. The initially very steep trail is hard to spot from a distance but a cairn marks the aforementioned coordinates.
Once you are on the ascent, it's hard to go wrong. Outside the immediate Borrego Springs area, this is one of the best worn trails in Anza-Borrego State Park. You might lose it for 10 or 20 yards at a time but just head up the most direct way to find it again. The views from the ridge are good from the start and only get better. After three miles, you can see a green patch of Rattlesnake Spring at -116.198096, 33.320284, directly east across Rattlesnake Canyon.
Again and again, the trail appears to be reaching a peak, only to flatten briefly before climbing another section of the ridge, finally ending at Villager Peak, 6.5 miles in.
Strong hikers can push on another 4.3 miles along a rolling ridge to reach Rabbit Peak for a 22-mile day, with another 3,300 feet of climbing just from traversing to Rabbit Peak and back to Villager. But most people should plan an overnight stay if they want to reach Rabbit Peak.
After reaching Rabbit Peak, head back the way you came.
Flora & Fauna
Ocotillo, cholla, barrel, and hedgehog cactus, agave, and creosote bush.