Anza Borrego Desert State Park ranks at number #21 of 90 state parks in California, and yet such are the riches of the state that this place is awesomely beautiful. It’s easily worth a visit, so read on and learn all about it!
Anza Borrego Desert State Park is California’s largest state park at 600,000 acres, so getting away from the crowds and into the desert isn’t that difficult. If you like biodiversity, or just adore a place with so many flowers that many describe it as being a botanical garden, this is where it’s at! Rare and exotic plants, cacti, and lichens abound in this unique arid transition zone where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge and the park is bolstered on its northern fringe by the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountains national monument.
But, equally, when it comes to fascinating land formations, incredible stargazing, and some of the best sunrises on earth, you can’t beat the deserts of the American West.
Situated in southern California, the park is an important part of the Mojave and Colorado deserts biosphere reserve. Although much less famous than other desert parks in California it has a host of wild and natural attractions going for it. While most notably you will have heard of the Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park, the Anza-Borrego Desert state park offers equally as amazing outdoor adventure opportunities.
There are 110 miles of hiking trails and 500 miles of dirt roads to explore here. Almost two-thirds of Anza-Borrego is wilderness. Although it’s only two hours east of San Diego’s beaches, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a world apart from the city and coast. Its location on the eastern side of the Peninsular Ranges means that most storms coming in off the Pacific fail to make it into the park.
Make sure that you watch our video below. It’s no ordinary video. It summarises this article and we made it for you to enjoy!
Anza Borrego Desert State Park Area Campgrounds
The Borrego Palm Canyon Campground is possibly the most popular of all in the park. It is fairly basic and many that stay are tent campers. The campground has bathrooms, running water, and showers. All meals and plenty of snacks are available to the group from dinner the first night to breakfast the last day.
The Borrego Palm Canyon trail is located adjacent to the Borrego Palm Canyon campground (near the Anza-Borrego desert state park visitor center). This trail is a top favourite in the park, being a 3 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of about 700 feet.
Anza Borrego Desert State Park Best Places California
The best places to see the Anza-Borrego spring wildflowers are the valleys and lower slopes around Borrego Palm Canyon and along Henderson Canyon Road just outside Borrego Springs.
Besides desert scenery and wildflowers, the main town Borrego Springs is also famous for some remarkable works of art. Around Borrego Springs, no fewer than 130 scrap-metal sculptures lie dotted around on the arid plains. They make a particularly good photo around sunset.
In the far southeastern part of the park, the Wind Caves Trail makes for a fun little hike to a viewpoint overlooking the Carrizo Badlands. Note that any 4WD vehicle you hire will most likely be required to get to the trailhead. Only about 2 miles there and back again, this hike features badlands, desert scenery and a bunch of rock formations, arches and holes to explore.
The pumpkin patch is located just east of the Anza-Borrego park boundary. It’s an area about the size of a city block covered with rocks the size of a large pumpkin. You can access it off of highway 22, though you will need to drive some dirt roads and washes to actually get to the pumpkin patch. Like much of Anza-Borrego, you’ll need a four-wheel-drive, high clearance vehicle.
Anza Borrego Desert Flowers
The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park wildflowers are a fascinating sight to see, attracting huge crowds of campers and day visitors. In March, millions of flowers spring into bloom in the Southern California desert parks. At peak bloom, which lasts just a couple of weeks, the desert floor transforms into a dazzling tableau with carpets of yellow, red, and purple. The bloom typically climaxes in early march, but the intensity and timing of the bloom vary each year.
Anza Borrego Desert State Park Stargazing
Borrego Springs is the first International Dark Sky Community in California, having earned that distinction by restricting and modifying lights on public streets, outside of businesses, and even on residents’ front porches. That’s why the streetlights in Borrego Springs are intentionally subtle, not glaring, and the local airport adjusts its aircraft beacon to angle downward.
Visitors who like to learn more about the night sky, schedule an evening under the stars with the local astronomer.
State Park Trails
AllTrails has documented 78 great hiking trails, trail running trails, mountain biking trails and more, with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers, and nature lovers. Ready for some activity? There are 40 moderate trails in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park ranging from 0.9 to 32.8 miles and from 226 to 6,171 feet above sea level.
This beautiful state park offers hundreds of miles of dirt roads, and many hiking trails, offering incredible views of the California desert.
The oases are prolific with many types of fauna, especially for bird-watching. Throughout the park, visitors may see bighorn sheep, mountain lions, kit foxes, mule deer, coyotes, greater roadrunners, golden eagles, black-tailed jackrabbits, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, quail, and prairie falcons. In the reptile class, desert iguanas, chuckwallas, and the red diamond rattlesnakes can be seen.
State Park Tours
Subject to COVID restrictions being eased The Colorado Desert District will be offering a limited number of Behind-the-Scenes Tours of their outstanding archaeology and palaeontology labs. to show lucky participants the rich discoveries being made at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
California Overland offer desert tours of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park year-round. The excursions vary in length, itinerary, type of vehicle and activity level. To help you home in on what you’re looking for, first consider whether you want a public or private tour. The company will help you to make the most out of your time in Borrego Springs. Spend a great afternoon with Joe touring the desert. He is very good at conveying his knowledge to visitors in a fascinating way regarding the area, history, plant vegetation, etc. If not familiar yourselves with desert life, this tour can be a real eye-opener.
The Anza-Borrego Foundation (ABF), founded in 1967, is a non-profit educational organization and is the sole cooperating association of ABDSP. It manages all sales at the State Park Visitor Center and State Park Store.
The Anza-Borrego Institute, the education arm of ABF, provides in-depth educational courses to more than 100,000 visitors each year. The institute offers in-depth field programs, a fifth-grade environmental camp, citizen science research, and Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students. ABF’s mission is to protect and preserve the natural landscapes, wildlife habitat, and cultural heritage of ABDSP for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.
Hiking in the Desert State Park
The trails below are listed from north to south and west to east. The hikes may also be sorted alphabetically or by distance to help plan a trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Each trail links to its own report complete with photos, maps, directions, and everything needed to explore the park. You can also view hikes around Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on the Hike Finder Map.
Some areas are habitats for the Peninsular bighorn sheep, often called desert bighorn sheep. Few park visitors see them, and the sheep avoid human contact. Observers count this endangered species to study the population and monitor its current decline from human encroachment.
Desert State Park Free Camping
The only park in the whole state that allows open camping throughout the park.
There are 9 designated primitive camp areas plus 1 horse camp. No tables, toilets or parking stalls. Plenty of dirt roads to explore. Most regular passenger cas can get to these sites. But many roads will require an SUV or even 4X4. Check our backcountry roads section. A backcountry road map is highly advisable. No ground fires are allowed. Bring a metal container.
Anza-borrego desert state park‘s main town is Borrego springs
Borrego Springs is the nearest town to Anza-Borrego, where you can find a place to stay, eat, or stock up on groceries. It’s also possible to visit Anza-Borrego on a long day trip from Palm Springs.
It is a tiny little town of a little over 3,500 desert-dwelling people in the middle of the Anza-Borrego desert state park. It’s 2 hours from San Diego and 90 minutes from Palm Springs.
What to see – scattered in the area around Borrego Springs are life-size metal sculptures of prehistoric animals that once roamed the Borrego Valley as well as mythical creatures and scenes of human life in the valley.
Where to stay – there are numerous hotels, motels and resorts in the town of Borrego Springs, just 5 miles south of the visitor’s center.
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