Anza Borrego is a California State Park located in the desert about 85 miles northeast of San Diego, California. This was our second ever outing destination in our new Airstream in April 2014, and we have returned several times since. We usually stay at the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, but it’s dangerous as you can see!!
To date, we’ve camped at Borrego Palm Canyon Campground in April 2014, November 2014 (Thanksgiving), November 2015 and April 2016. This is a great place with lots to see. The summer months are brutally hot, so if you don’t like sweating profusely, I would advise only visiting in the fall and spring months.
So far we have stayed in campsites 32 (twice), 44 and 47. Campsite 47 is the best campsite, in our opinion, with a great view of the desert and mountains. There are a few campsites with even better views, but they are reserved for handicapped campers. Each campsite has a fire ring, picnic table and a very reasonable amount of space between campsites. All of the sites are pull-through for those who are back-in challenged. The bathrooms and showers are clean and the showers work great.
The following is a tip for the guys: I let my wife run the hot water in her campground shower for a while before I start my shower so the hot water is in the pipes ready for me. I know when to start my shower when I stop hearing noises coming from her shower stall next door.
The first place you may want to visit when staying in the Palm Canyon Campground is the Visitor Center. It’s an easy mile or so hike from the campground on a paved pathway. Dogs on a leash are permitted on this trail. Dogs aren’t allowed on any other trail for various reasons I won’t get into here. Along the trail are informative placards that talk about local plants and animals. In addition, there are planetary solar system markers, placed to scale, indicating the distances between the planets and Sun.
There are also other informational placards that share information about local plants and animals, like this one.
Once you arrive at the Visitor Center, you can investigate all kinds of displays about desert plants, animals (even an endangered pupfish pond), native americans and settlers who lived here. This is the place to get park information, guidebooks, maps, souvenirs and so on. Free interpretive walks and talks are presented by Park Rangers and volunteers. Schedules are published for your convenience. They even host stargazing presented by a Park Ranger, so check out the schedule for that if you are interested.
The Visitor Center is open daily, 9am to 5pm, October through May. In the summer months, June through September, it’s open the same hours on weekends and holidays only. Remember what I said about the heat in the summer?
Borrego Palm Canyon
The next thing you may want to do is a hike to Palm Canyon on the Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail. The trail starts in the undeveloped campground, northwest of the developed campground. This is a 3 mile round trip hike that will require some scrambling over rocks (not too hard though). The first half is uphill, the second downhill. This trail winds along a canyon at the foot of mountains. There are spectacular rock formations, native plants and, if you are lucky, Bighorn Sheep. The payoff is a grove of California Fan Palms and a waterfall where you can relax in the shade and take in a great view of the area you just hiked through. I believe California Fan Palms are the only “native” palm trees to California. Take ample water and drink it both ways on the hike! It’s amazing how fast you lose water in the desert and there isn’t much immediate help if you get in trouble.
This is a must see. Scattered all through the area, in the desert, are some beautiful metal sculptures by Ricardo Breceda that were commissioned by Dennis Avery. These are life-sized, anatomically accurate metal sculptures of dinosaurs, horses, turtles, Bighorn sheep, people, birds and an unbelievable dragon. Maps of sculpture locations are available in town (Borrego Springs), the Visitor Center and the Internet. You’ll need one if you want to see all of the sculptures. Here are pictures of a few sculptures to whet your appetite:
Here’s an Internet link to more sculpture pictures and a location map:
Anza Borrego State Park offers so many things to do that I can’t list them all. There are numerous hiking trails that range from easy to strenuous. There are pictographs, badlands, slot canyons, stunning views, off-roading areas and hot springs to name a few. If you like nature, you’ll love this place. Some places in the park require 4 wheel drive vehicles so check at the Visitor Center before adventuring off paved roads. There are desert tours available that will take you to 4 wheel drive destinations. These are offered by privately owned businesses. You can find out about those in Borrego Springs.
We hope to see you there some day!!