Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, located in Southern California, is the state’s largest park. Spanning 600,000 acres and boasting 110 miles of hiking trails, it is ideal for a fabulous natural getaway. The park’s name comes from 18th-century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and a Spanish word for sheep: Borrego. Native Americans have inhabited the area known as Anza-Borrego for many thousands of years. Cairns, petroglyphs, and other artifacts bear witness, especially to the culture of the Kumeyaay tribe. Some of these artifacts can be seen on the Pictograph Hiking Trail.

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Millions of years ago, the now-arid landscape was lush and tropical, partially covered by the sea. Marine and land animal fossils (including mammoths and saber-tooth cats) exist under Anza-Borrego’s living flora and fauna, and archaeological sites appear throughout the park. The area is so biodiverse it is part of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Planning the Anza-Borrego Adventure

Anza-Borrego is at its best in the winter and early spring, when temperatures are pleasant and mild, unlike the sweltering heat of the desert in summer. Spring is also the wildflower season with a spectacular, colorful display drawing visitors from across the globe!

Camping is OPEN throughout the park’s 600,000 acres. Do not camp within 100 feet of a water source or have ground fires. Bring a metal container instead.

Developed Campgrounds

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Typical features of developed campgrounds include showers, flush toilets, fire rings, and shade ramadas. Additionally, developed campgrounds often come equipped with picnic tables and drinking water. Reservations are also a feature at some locations.

Borrego Palm Canyon Campground

  • 122 sites
  • $25 – $80 per night

Tamarisk Grove Campground

  • 27 sites
  • $25 per night
  • Non-potable water only

Bow Willow Campground

  • 16 sites
  • $15 per night
  • No reservations

Vern Whitaker Horse Camp

  • 10 sites
  • $30 per night

Primitive Campgrounds

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Primitive campgrounds come with little to no amenities. These campgrounds typically include free admission, vault toilets, first-come-first-serve accommodations. Listed below are just a few of the primitive options and their amenities (if any):

  • Blair Valley Primitive Campground
  • Sheep Canyon Primitive Campground: Picnic tables, Shade ramadas
  • Culp Valley Primitive Campground
  • Arroyo Salado Primitive Campground
  • Yaqui Pass Primitive Campground
  • Yaqui Well Primitive Campground
  • Fish Creek Primitive Campground: Fire rings
  • Mountain Palm Primitive Campground: Fire rings

General Park Fees and Cost

  • $10 per day to enter the park
  • Free to camp in the backcountry or primitive campgrounds
  • Borrego Palm Canyon Campground charges $10 for day use (Borrego Palm Canyon Trail access)
  • $35 annual day pass available for frequent visitors

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When to Visit

The park can be visited year-round. Summer gets hot - up to 120 degrees during the day. Many visitors enjoy using the campgrounds for easy access to early morning or night hiking, taking advantage of the cooler temps. Font’s Point is a great place to see what might be the very best sunrise of your life! Camping also affords the privilege of stargazing in the park. Stay out late and see the Milky Way - then go to sleep right under it.

  • The temperature in summer - up to 120 degrees
  • Try wildflower time which peaks in July and August!

Bioregions Within Anza-Borrego

Badlands

The Badlands were once underwater millions of years ago, and the sea has left gifts in the form of fossils and badland formations. This stunning area features many washes which serve as roads, and the Badlands are best explored with a four-wheel-drive. If water is present like after a rain, avoid the washes. They are dangerous, and there’s a likelihood of vehicles getting stuck. When exploring the Badlands, do not climb on or disturb any rocks or vegetation, as they are surprisingly fragile.

Borrego Springs

Borrego Springs is home to the park’s beloved sculptures. Artist Ricardo Breceda has constructed over 100 metal sculptures throughout the park. A surefire win for kids, these sculptures are amazing enough to impress anyone - and make for great photo-ops! From dinosaurs to serpents, let this map serve as a guide through the art of Borrego Springs. Note that a vehicle is necessary for this adventure. The sculptures are too far apart to walk.

Borrego Palm Canyon

Borrego Palm Canyon is a popular tourist area within the park. In spring, wildflowers cover the area. One of the park’s best trails, the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail, runs through it. The canyon is also home to one of the best campgrounds. The name tells no lies! Palms cover the area, and the park as we know it began here. There is a well-known palm oasis at the canyon as well! Perfect on a hot day; it’s an oasis but not a mirage.

Finally, mid-to-late summer is famous as wildflower time at Anza-Borrego. A variety of flora inhabits the park year-round, including spectacular specimens of cacti. Wildflower time attracts travelers from around the globe. The season continues into September, giving a decent window to view the millions of radiant blooms. The best places within the park to view the wildflowers are the slopes and valleys around Borrego Palm Canyon or the Cactus Loop Trail.

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Hiking Trails

Hiking is abundant in Anza-Borrego, with over 500 miles of trails. Some highlights:

  • Maidenhair Falls - 5.5 miles
  • Calcite Mine Trail - 4.25 miles
  • Borrego Palm Canyon Trail - 3 miles
  • Pictograph Trail - 1.8 miles
  • The Slot - just under a mile
  • Cactus Loop Trail - .7 miles

Maidenhair Falls features the best waterfall in the park. Calcite Mine offers a winding trip through an essential mine in the area’s history. One of the best trails in the park, Borrego Palm Canyon Trail, starts conveniently at Palm Canyon Campground and ends at a lush oasis of palm. A fitting reward for time well spent! Borrego Palm Canyon Trail also provides the best viewing for the Bighorn Sheep - the Borrego. They are accustomed to people from a distance, but please be respectful.

The Pictograph Trail allows visitors to see actual pictographs made by the Kumeyaay people over 2,000 years ago. The Slot trail is short but exciting, meandering through the encroaching walls of the canyon (some places giving only three feet of width!). For wildflower viewing time, the Cactus Loop Trail is suitable for all skill levels.

Night hikes are also an option for the eclectic adventurer or just ones who want to avoid the heat.

Hiking Preparation

  • Take plenty of water
  • Remember sunscreen and/or light clothing coverups
  • Consider limiting summer hikes to morning or evening hours
  • Make plans based on having no cell reception during a hike - let others know when to expect calls and check-ins after a hike

Satisfying hunger

When choosing the camping option, food choice is obvious and likely via a responsible campfire. Even if only spending the day, wrapping up adventures with a hearty meal can be fun. There are no dining options inside the park, but many eateries are less than two miles away.

Top 3 Food Joints Near the Park

  • Big Horn Burgers and Shake
  • Kendall’s Cafe
  • Carmelita’s Mexican Grill

Anza-Borrego State Park has stunning and diverse areas, no matter the day or the season. It’s nearly impossible to fit all 600,000 acres into any one guide. The more prominent tourist spots are popular for a good reason, but remember there are always different places and spaces to explore. The park is just waiting to be crafted into personalized Anza-Borrego adventures.

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