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Fodor's Southern California 2014
Anza-Borrego State Park
Anza-Borrego State Park Review
Today more than 1,000 square mi of desert and mountain country are included in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, one of the few parks in the country where you can follow a trail and pitch a tent wherever you like. Five hundred miles of paved and dirt roads traverse the park, and you are required to stay on them so as not to disturb its ecological balance. There are also 110 mi of hiking and riding trails that allow you to explore canyons, capture scenic vistas, and tiptoe through fields of wildflowers in spring. The park is also home to rare Peninsula bighorn sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, black-tailed jackrabbit, and roadrunners. State Highway 78, which runs north and south through the park, has been designated the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, marking portions of the route of the Anza Colonizing Expedition of 1775–76 that went from northern Mexico to the San Francisco Bay area. In addition,
28,000 acres have been set aside in the eastern part of the desert near Ocotillo Wells for off-road enthusiasts. General George S. Patton conducted field training in the Ocotillo area to prepare for the World War II invasion of North Africa.
Many of the park's sites can be seen from paved roads, but some require driving on dirt roads, where it's easy to sink up to your wheel covers in dry sand. Rangers recommend using four-wheel-drive vehicles on the dirt roads. Carry the appropriate supplies: shovel and other tools, flares, blankets, and plenty of water. Canyons are susceptible to flash flooding; inquire about weather conditions before entering.
Wildflowers, which typically begin to bloom in January and are at their peak in mid-March, attract thousands of visitors each spring. A variety of factors including rainfall and winds determine how extensive the bloom will be in a particular year. However, good displays of low-growing sand verbena and white evening primrose can usually be found along Airport Road and DiGeorgio Road. Following wet winters, spectacular displays fill the dry washes in Coyote Canyon and along Henderson Canyon Road. The best light for photography is in early morning or late afternoon.
Erosion Road, a self-guided, 18-mi auto tour along Route S22. The Southern Emigrant Trail follows the route of the Butterfield Stage Overland Mail, the route used by half of the argonauts heading for the gold fields in Northern California.
At Borrego Palm Canyon, a few minutes west of the visitor information center, a 1½-mi trail leads to a small oasis with a waterfall and palms. The Borrego Palm Canyon campground is the only developed campground with flush toilets and showers in the park. (Day use is $8 and camping is $25 in high season, $35 with hookup.)
Geology students from all over the world visit the Fish Creek area of Anza-Borrego to explore a famous canyon known as Split Mountain (Split Mountain Rd. south from Rte. 78 at Ocotillo Wells), a narrow gorge with 600-foot perpendicular walls that was formed by an ancestral stream. Fossils in this area indicate that a sea covered the desert floor at one time.A 2-mi nature trail west of Split Mountain rewards hikers with a good view of shallow caves created by erosion.
Visitor Information Center. Rangers and displays at an excellent Visitor Information Center can point you in the right direction. Most of the desert plants can also be seen in the demonstration desert garden at the visitor center. 200 Palm Canyon Dr., 92004. 760/767–4205; 760/767–4684 wildflower hotline. www.parks.ca.gov. Oct.–Apr. daily 9–5; May–Sept. weekends 9–5.
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