Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Quick Facts

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

California

(760) 767-5311

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. Five-hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas and miles of hiking trails provide visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to experience the wonders of the California Desert. The park is named after Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish name borrego, or bighorn sheep. The park features washes, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti and sweeping vistas. Visitors may also have the chance to see roadrunner, golden eagles, kit foxes, mule deer and bighorn sheep as well as iguanas, chuckwallas and the red diamond rattlesnake. Listening devices for the hearing impaired are available in the visitor center.

Map of Anza-Borrego Desert (CA)

Latitude, Longitude: 33.155948, -116.251831

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Activities

  • Bicycling

    Bike trails are not available.

  • Camping

    Campsites are available. Contact the park for reservations and fees.

  • Climbing

    Climbing is not available.

  • Hiking

    Borrego Palm Canyon Trail

    To Falls is 3 miles round trip with 600-foot elevation gain; to South Fork is 6.5 miles round trip with 1,400-foot gain. Season: October-May

    Borrego Palm Canyon is the third-largest palm oasis in California, and was the first site sought for a desert state park back in the 1920s. It's a beautiful, well-watered oasis, tucked away in a rocky V-shaped gorge. The trail visits the first palm grove and a waterfall. A longer option takes you exploring farther up-canyon. In winter, the trail to the falls is one of the most popular in the park. In summer, you'll have the oasis all to yourself. Watch for bighorn sheep, which frequently visit the canyon.

    Directions to trailhead: The trail begins at Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, located one mile north of park headquarters. Trailhead parking is available at the west end of the campground near the campfire circle.

    The hike: Beginning at the pupfish pond, you walk up-canyon past many desert plants used by the Indians for food and shelter. Willow was used for home-building and bow-making; brittlebush and creosote were used for their healing qualities; honey, along with mesquite and beavertail cactus, was a food staple. You might also notice Indian grinding holes in the granite.

    The broad alluvial fan at the mouth of the canyon narrows and the sheer rock walls of the canyon soon enclose you as the trail continues along the healthy, but seasonal stream. Already surprised to learn how an apparently lifeless canyon could provide all the Indians' necessary survival ingredients, you're surprised once more when Borrego Palm Oasis comes into view. Just beyond the first group of palms is a damp grotto, where a waterfall cascades over huge boulders. The grotto is a popular picnic area and rest stop.

    From the falls, you may take an alternate trail back to the campground. This trail takes you along the south side of the creek, past some magnificent ocotillo, and gives you a different perspective on this unique desert environment. By following the optional route, you can continue hiking up the canyon. Hiking is more difficult up-canyon after the falls, with lots of dense undergrowth and boulders to navigate around.

    To South Fork: From the "tourist turnaround" continue up the canyon. The creek is a fairly dependable water supply and is usually running late in the fall. The canyon is wet, so watch your footing on the slippery, fallen palm fronds. The canyon narrows even further and the trail dwindles to nothing. Parallel the streambed and boulder-hop back and forth across the water. The canyon zigs and zags quite a bit, so you can never see much more than a few hundred yards ahead. The hike is well-worth the effort though, because most of the 800 or so palms in the canyon are found in its upper reaches. Sometimes you'll spot rock-climbers practicing their holds on the steep red-rock cliffs above.

    The canyon splits 1.75 miles from the falls. Straight ahead, to the southwest, is South Fork. The rocky gorge of South Fork, smothered with bamboo, is in possession of all the canyon's water. It's quite difficult to negotiate. South Fork ascends to the upper slopes of San Ysidro Mountain (6,417 feet). The Middle Fork (the way you came) of Borrego Palm Canyon is dry and more passable. It's possible to hike quite a distance first up Middle Fork, then North Fork of Borrego Palm Canyon, but check with park rangers first. It's extremely rugged terrain.

  • Historic Sites

    Seven New Cultural Preserves

    California State Parks is pursuing classifying seven areas of outstanding historic and cultural interest in Anza Borrego Desert State Park as Cultural Preserves. The proposed classifications were recommended in the approved 2005 A.B.D.S.P. General Plan.

    For more information, please visit the link below:

    Anza-Borrego Desert SP General Plan and Cultural Preserves Web page: http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=21314

  • Horseback Riding

    Horseback riding trails are available.

  • Picnicking

    Picnic areas are available throughout the park.

  • RVing

    RV dump stations and hookups are available.

Park Partners

Anza-Borrego Foundation

Anza-Borrego Foundation (ABF) is the nonprofit cooperating association for Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. The foundation acquires land for conservation in and around the park, educates the public on its resources and supports research relevant to the region. ABF operates Anza-Borrego Institute, a field school which provides high quality, in-depth educational courses to over 1,300 visitors each year. They believe conservation of the park is reached through educating visitors and others. To generate funds to support Park programs and projects, ABF sells an extensive selection of educational materials to visitors in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park's visitor center.

(760) 767-0446

Directions

Driving

The Park is located on the eastern side of San Diego County, with portions extending east into Imperial County and north into Riverside County. It is about a two-hour drive from San Diego, Riverside, and Palm Springs. Many visitors approach from the east or west via Highways S22 and 78. From the coast, these highways descend from the heights of the Peninsular range of mountains with spectacular views of the great bowl of the Colorado Desert. Highway S2 enters the park from the south off of Interstate 8.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(760) 767-5311

Links