Fodor's Expert Review Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Park (National/State/Provincial)

Today more than 1,000 square miles 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. There are 110 miles of hiking and riding trails that allow you to explore canyons, capture scenic vistas, tiptoe through fields of wildflowers in spring, and possibly see wildlife—the park is home to rare Peninsula bighorn sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, black-tailed jackrabbit, and roadrunners. Parts of state Highway 78, which runs east and west through the park, intersect with 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, 85,000 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 Anza-Borrego to prepare... READ MORE

Today more than 1,000 square miles 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. There are 110 miles of hiking and riding trails that allow you to explore canyons, capture scenic vistas, tiptoe through fields of wildflowers in spring, and possibly see wildlife—the park is home to rare Peninsula bighorn sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, black-tailed jackrabbit, and roadrunners. Parts of state Highway 78, which runs east and west through the park, intersect with 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, 85,000 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 Anza-Borrego to prepare for the World War II invasion of North Africa.

Many of the park's sites can be seen from your vehicle, as 500 miles of paved and dirt roads traverse the park—note that you are required to stay on them so as not to disturb the park's ecological balance. On dirt roads it's easy to sink up to your wheel covers in dry sand, so rangers recommend using four-wheel-drive vehicles on the dirt roads. Also, 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 late February 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. Following wet winters, spectacular displays often 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 is a self-guided, 18-mile auto tour along Route S22 on the way to the Salton Sea. 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 north of the visitor information center, is a 1½-mile trail that leads to a small oasis. Borrego Palm Canyon and Tamarisk Grove—12 miles southeast of Borrego Palm Canyon—are the only campgrounds with flush toilets and showers in the park. (Day use is $10 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. Wind Caves Trail, a 2-mile nature trail west of Split Mountain, rewards hikers with a good view of shallow caves created by erosion. Dogs are not permitted on any of the hiking trails in the park.

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200 Palm Canyon Dr.
Borrego Springs, California  92004, USA

760-765–5311

www.parks.ca.gov

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