I must confess , I had never heard of Anza Borrego state park till my recent visit to California. While I was planning my trip and was searching for dark sky and desert landscapes around Joshua , Anza Borrego popped up on my google maps. The name intrigued me combined with the fact that it is the largest state park in California and the largest desert park in the U.S. – I decided to add it in my itinerary. Before we dive into what we did and what we saw , I want to give a spoiler alert – We visited this state park in mid February and it was insane cold . The nights were freezing and it was very windy through out the day. Because of the weather conditions , there were some areas of the park that were close , so we could not enjoy the park to its entirety. But none the less , I will say if you time your trip well – this park is a gold mine . So lets dig in – Anza Borrego State Park – Things to See
1) If you are visiting Anza Borrego in summer , plan your hikes early in the morning as it gets readlly hot during the day.
2) Some of the hikes are off-road and might require 4WD. Invest in a good car rental.
3) The only restaurants available are in the town of Borrego – Springs so plan your meals accordingly. Stock up water and refreshments from the town.
4) There are no gas stations in the park. And trust me the park is huge. I will highly advise to fill up the gas on your way to Borrego springs.
If during your visit you need to fill up more gas , the only gas stations are available in the town of Borrego Springs and they are expensive.
5) The internet and cellular service are quite patchy in the park. Do not forget to download offline maps.
Where to Stay :
Never in my life have I seen so many camper-vans enjoying dark skies and stars as in Anza Boreggo. So if you have any interest in camping or RV-ing , Anza Boreggo has many sites.
If you are looking for hotels , town of Boreggo Springs has a few.
I stayed in Borrego Springs Resort and Spa hotel. The hotel has a golf course, restaurant , swimming pool and tennis courts.
Some other hotel recommendations because of their proximity to the park are : Borrego Valley Inn , Palm Canyon Hotel and RV resort and La Casa del Zorro Resort.
Things to Do :
1) Palm Canyon Hike :
This is one of the most popular hikes of the park. It is a three miles roundtrip on a rocky trail that goes up 700 feet to an oasis and also features a waterfall which is guaranteed to cool you off. The trail is best used from October until May. Borrego Palm Canyon Trail is located just north of the park visitor center, making it a convenient place to begin your exploration of the Anza-Borrego Desert. To reach the trail-head, drive through Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, pick up an information pamphelet , pay 8 – dollar day use fee and that is it -> you may start your hike now.
Note : The hike to Palm Canyon is weather dependent. At times because of bad weather or unsafe conditions , the trail is closed . Check trail conditions before you attempt the hike at Park website.
Trailhead address : Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, CA 92004
2) Fonts Point :
You do not have to be a photography enthusiast to search for Font’s point also known as California’s Grand Canyon. This amazing view point provides sweeping views of Boreggo Badlands .The views are more phenomenal at sunrise and sunset times because of the bold shadows caused by sun’s placement in the sky against creased and wrinkled ridges of Badlands. It will give you an illusion of a maze of golden hills making it a view to behold. To reach to Fonts point , you will have to take a sandy road and that is where your 4 WD will be needed. If you do not want to drive , its an 8 mile hike ( in and out) which is more like walk on the sand on a flat surface with no elevation.
Note : If you do not want to hike or drive through rough terrain to reach to font’s point , you can opt for an excursion or guided Jeep tour with California Overland Desert Excursions or Borrego Jeep Photo Adventures.
3) SLOT Canyon :
The Slot canyon is a narrow silt-stone canyon that will give you feel of Antelopes. I mean not exactly because Antelopes is more of canyon in rocks and Slot is canyon of silt . But nonetheless it is a hike of lifetime. Slot Canyon is an un-maintained trail off a sand road where flash floods formed a breathtaking canyon. At points, its forty-foot high walls arch above a foot-wide canyon floor.
Slot Canyon is not easy to find . I mean we missed the point from where we were needed to take the dirt road – twice. My suggestion would be to check in with the visitors center before trying to head out to the canyon as they will tell you about road markers for the dirt road and also if it is safe to hike the canyon. I will not advise to visit the canyon on a cloudy or rainy day – its too risky and the area is very prone to flash floods.
4) Wind Caves :
Overlooking the Carrizo Badlands , there is a short but steep hike of about 1.25 miles ( round trip) that will take you to wind caves. Wind caves are a sandstone formation with wind-eroded pockets that are too whimsical and literally screams for exploration. Take your time to do the hike and do look at the awesome view of Corrizo Badlands. If you time your hike right , you may get some amazing pictures of the badlands. We did around noon , so sun was direct over us , making it a bit challenging to capture the beauty of this terrain.
The hike itself is not very difficult , but reaching the starting point is a challenge for sure. You will be off- roading for a few miles through Fish Creek wash and hence a high-clearance 4WD vehicle is pretty much a must. If you wish to camp near the caves , there are couple of camp sites as well.
Note : Dogs are not permitted. No fee or permit is required for this hike.
5) Galleta Meadow Statues :
You do not need to hike to see these statues because they are spread across entire state park. Many of the statues are right off the road, so you’ll spot them as you’re driving by. You wondering what are these statues? Well , Galleta Meadow Statues are a massive, permanent art installation by Ricardo Breceda in the desert near Borrego Springs. There are thirty larger-than-life sculptures dotted throughout these desert sands. You will see the likes of 350-foot-long serpent, a faceoff between a scorpion and a grasshopper, dinosaurs, camels, and elephants. Now I have heard that these statues make for excellent for foreground for capturing night sky. We did not do any night photography but I have seen photos on the net , and it does look amazing.
Note : Find the exact location of these statues here.
6) Clark Dry Lake :
I have been to Death Valley and till date I regret missing the opportunity to visit race- car bed . But here I was , in Anza Boreggo and the moment I heard there is a dry lake bed , on which I could actually walk , bingooooo – I HAD TO GO THERE. As the name suggests , the lake is dried from the scorching sun. It is flat, dusty and cracked. To reach to the lake drive about 10 miles from the center of Borrego Springs, off the S-22 and down Rockhouse Trail. You will see a sign – do not trespass from the park services and I will suggest to respect that. The dry lake bed is not to be destroyed by driving your car over it. Also state park police patrols the area quite often and you do not want to get fined by them.
Note : There is a great camping area next to the lake. It seemed one of the most popular ones considering its location near to the lake and also the Font’s point.
Anza Borrego is massive. And, there are a lot of things to do beyond the ones I have listed. Its proximity to San Diego , makes it an excellent location to explore over the weekend. Not to mention 99% of the park is free. If you’re looking for a low-cost vacation, this park is just perfect. I mean you can literally enjoy free camping, hiking and site-seeing at Anza Borrego. From adventure seekers to the golf course bumms , this place has something for everyone. If you are planning a trip to this state park , I will love to know about your experience. I know this state park is very popular for wild flower season and I will love to see your photos if you visited the park in that season. Thank you so much for stopping by.