7 Things to Do in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Where is Borrego Springs?
Borrego Springs is a tiny little town of a little over 3500 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. The inhabitants call their little slice of paradise California's secret desert and after spending 3 weeks there, I would have to say that I totally agree!
It was a total fluke that we found the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We were Googling “RV parks in San Diego” and The Springs at Borrego RV Resort, where we ended up staying, came up. Which led us to Anza-Borrego. Given that it is the largest park in the continuous 48 states (there must be something bigger in Alaska…) I find it odd that so many people (I checked) have never heard of it.
Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). Opinions are always my own and I’ll never promote something I don’t use or believe in. Also as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
During our 3 weeks' time there, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The park has a lot to offer and we were never bored! I am sharing the seven things that I thought were the most fun, but this list is definitely not exhaustive and you may find other things you like better.
Before diving into that list I have a couple of recommendations. To start your visit to the park, drive to the town of Borrego Springs. Then through it and head straight to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park visitor's center and buy their map for $2. It will be the best $2 you spend during your entire trip. The map is well done and will get you to most places.
If you are going to be going into the washes or doing any offroad activities, I highly recommend that you also buy the Tom Harrison's Recreation Map of the San Diego Backcountry which is really detailed topo map of the area, it is waterproof and plasticized for easy folding, this map was invaluable. If you don't buy it ahead of time you can buy it at the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association office located at 652 Palm Canyon Drive.
Hike Palm Canyon Trail
Not too far from the visitor's center in the park's official camping area is the trailhead for the Palm Canyon hiking trail. It is maintained (very well in fact) by the park so there is a day fee associated with hiking there. The trail is a moderate 3-mile hike and at the end of the trail, you are rewarded with a beautiful oasis of palm trees and cold water.
One word of caution, if you or a family member are allergic to bees, I would discourage you from this hike. There are lots of bees buzzing and pollinating the trees on the trail, they didn't bother us in the slightest, but depending on the degree of the allergy, you might be tempting fate!
This is also THE spot to see the bighorn sheep. We didn't see any, but most people we spoke with in the area and on the trail had seen them here.
This was the only activity during our stay that we had to pay a fee to do.
Watch a Sunset at Font's Point
We've done all the work for you on this one. We went to every possible spot to either scout or take sunset photos – all the washes, all the points, all the peaks, and Font's Point offers the best sunset. The good news that it is also the easiest to get to. There is a sign off the S-22 (Borrego Salton Sea Way) and the wash is pretty straight-forward in terms of the 4-mile drive, although you do need a 4×4 vehicle.
On the weekend there will be others, usually, a group or two enjoying a glass of wine as the sun goes down. During the week you are likely to have the point all to yourselves.
Visit the Pumpkin Patch
After being thwarted multiple times trying to access Bowling Ball Beach near Mendocino California in order to photograph the sandstone concretions there, Mr. Misadventures was super excited to learn that Anza-Borrego had their own version of rocks in an area known as Pumpkin Patch. It is on the Anza-Borrego/Ocotillo Wells border and is protected by a fence. Fortunately, you can access the area by foot once you get through the badlands.
It is not the easiest spot to find (you need that Tom Harrison map) but it is worth it if you are into that sort of thing. I think most of the motocross and ATV folks enjoying themselves in the awesome Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area (a park just for off-roading!) probably don't care all too much about it, but these rocks are pretty cool to see.
Explore the Badlands
The badlands are well, badass. Whether you are looking at them from above, like in this photo from Vista del Malpais, or driving through them to get to one point or another, you feel like an astronaut looking out on a strange planet. Many times while driving through the rutted washes of the badlands I felt like I was on an amusement park ride where I am about to drive into a massive rock and just before you hit it, you make a sharp right.
Certain parts of the badlands are not for the faint of heart, but they sure are super exciting! If you don't feel your 4×4 skills are up to the task, there are businesses in Borrego Springs that do tours and they will do all the driving for you.
See the Wildlife and the Wildflowers
We were disappointed in not being able to see bighorn sheep, but we did see coyotes, large hares, and bobcats. There are beautiful birds everywhere as well. In the spring the wildflower bloom is absolutely incredible.
We also heard the wildlife as well. An amazing owl lived or hung out in a tree near our RV and spoke to us every night. And the coyotes howled and played many nights, scaring the crap out of me. Their sound is definitely worse than their bite (unless you are a dog or cat and then well, you know…).
When it comes to the animals you come for the bighorn and we hope to be able to come back and see them in the future.
Hike in Little Blair Valley
There are three hikes in Little Blair Valley: Morteros Trail, Marsha South Home, and Pictograph Trail. We hiked the last one, a very moderate 3-mile trail. One mile in is pictograph rocks that give the trail its name. But make sure you go to the end of the trail for a magnificent view of the Sawtooth Mountains.
These trails are very popular and easy to get to. We had a 4×4 but saw “regular” cars (even a Prius) on the route to the trails, so it is definitely accessible. We went back the next day to do sunset photos.
Bonus #1: Check out all of the Galleta Meadow Statues
A really unique aspect of Borrego Springs is the 130 full-sized metal sculptures throughout the area. They are everywhere and the town is so proud of them. The large majority of them are spread out in several meadows surrounding Borrego-Springs. All the meadows are called Galleta Meadows which can be confusing. You can get a map of them at the Chamber of Commerce office.
It is really fun to find yourself amidst creatures that roamed the desert millions of years ago – real and imagined. There are prehistoric mammals, fanciful dinosaurs, and a 350-foot-long serpent/dragon which I am standing under in this photo.
Bonus #2: See the stars
Little Blair Valley, along with most of the park, in general, is a phenomenal place to watch the stars. I have a really cool app that Mr. Misadventures' photography friends all use when doing evening shoots, but I love to use it so that I can understand what I am looking at. And when it comes to Anza-Borrego, what you can see is astonishing! The app is called the Night Sky and you'll want it while staying in Borrego.
And much, much more
As you can see, there are lots of really great things to do in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park! I still can't believe that it was completely off my radar until now. I am so glad that it was our first stop Project Escape because it really did feel like one.
How about you? Were any of my seven things to do of interest to you? Have you been to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and done these or other activities? Do you think you want to visit in the future?
For a visual summary of this post, check out my Anza-Borrego web story!
Like it? PIN it!
How have I spent so much time in the Southwest and never been to Font’s Point? It looks so cool!
@Kristin, It’s kind of crazy that most people I talk to haven’t heard of this place either!
I can’t believe we’ve never been there, especially since we don’t live that far away. Your pictures are gorgeous and I’m going to have to follow your whole itinerary now!
@Lois, you are so close! You should definitely check it out.
So cool. It looks otherworldly, as you mentioned about the Badlands.
My fiancé and I are trying to find a good honeymoon spot and it occurred to me to do a road trip down to California. There are so many places like this that you miss out on when you opt for the convenience of air travel.
@Murissa, a road trip would be a great idea, especially since you like California so much!
Had to get up at 5:00 a.m. to do it, but I’m finally catching up on some blog reading. These are gorgeous shots!!
@Katie, you know I totally appreciate the dedication and support!
We are heading to Anza Borega SP next week and really appreciated reading your recommendations. As an amateur photographer, I especially loved seeing your shots. We won’t have access to a 4×4 while there, so a few of the destinations may not be accessible to us, but I’m counting on the cactus blooms making up for that. Thanks for sharing!
@Joanne, you’ll have a great time! You can still see and so a lot without a 4×4. If you are a strong hiker, you can hike to Font’s Point. There are also 4×4 tour guides you can hire out to get you there as well. I am not sure how long you are there for, but I did do another post on things in the area as well: https://misadventureswithandi.com/five-things-to-do-while-staying-in-borrego-springs.html
Also, pack food in, the choices are limited. There are 2 grocery stores but the selection isn’t very large and the prices are high. There is a decent farmer’s market on Saturdays. Fill up on gas outside of Borrego, the gas prices are outrageous there – most expensive I saw all year!
Great timing that I saw this, plan on visiting end of the month and hopefully there still might be some wildflower blooms. I want to the sunset vista so that looks amazing!
I live here in salton sea.. there is so much more to see. There is a water fall that is running tgis time of year in Borrego. It’s a little hike but really nice. Like that pumpkin patch there are other places to see llii e the mud volcanos. Lots of off roading. Such a wonderful place to see and visit.
I believe the property name is “Marshall South”. 🙂
Wow! This is a location I will have to add to my list. It is interesting when we visit a place with an expectation that is not realized. I am glad to read that you still enjoyed it.
I’ve had Anza Borrego State Park on my radar. Saved your suggestions on my Google Maps. Thanks!
Neat place! I just saved to Pinterest where I plan my own vacations! I love all your photos. Gorgeous.
Wow, this is absolutely going on my bucket list!
This is cool! We spend time in San Diego almost every year. Might need to make some time to check this out!
I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this place, so excited to visit one day!
Your photos are stunning Andi (as always!!)
I really love the pumpkin patch! Do you know what causes them?
So cool! I have never heard if this place and will have to see it for myself the next time I ever get to California!
Wow!! I have never heard of this desert. Looks surreal…. truly like another planet! Would be incredible to hike there and watch the sunsets. loved Font’s point and the pumpkin patch. Thanks for enlightening me.
I’ve always wanted to explore the Badlands! I think it’s time to plan a trip there 🙂
Wow this place looks incredible! Those were some amazing photos of the landscape. It looks so unique and starkly beautiful!
Love this post! I think my favorite part of any trip is star-gazing! Thanks for sharing!
I have been wanting to visit here so bad as I do not live too far away. It looks like such an interesting park. I love the desertscapes and the Palm Canyon trail looks awesome.
I’m glad to have found you. I’m enjoying your informative blog/post. Keep up the good work!
@Jeffrey, thanks so much!