Anza-Borrego Desert State Park


California > Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert is the largest state park in the Southwest, covering 600,000 acres of southeast California from the edge of the coastal mountains east to the Salton Sea and south almost to the US/Mexico border, and rivaling the more famous national parks further north for varied, unspoilt desert scenery. The elevation ranges from 6,200 feet to just 150 feet, and the land beyond the east edge descends to below sea level, hence the temperature can be appropriately extreme, with 120°F not uncommon - the average July maximum is 110°F - and a 30°F difference is possible between the often cloud covered western peaks and the parched deserts far below. Such is the heat in summer that the visitor center is open only at weekends, as far fewer people visit here than in the cooler seasons.


The dispersed town of Borrego Springs lies at the center of the park, which is characterised by one large flat basin bordered on three sides by the mountain ranges. The slopes hide many canyons with palms, cacti and yucca near the basin changing through bushes to pine trees near the summits. Three main roads lead into the park (see map); S22 across the north, CA 78 across the middle and S2 running southeast-northwest, mostly close to the western edge. There are many unpaved tracks leading into the backcountry but the majority require 4WD.

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Fan palm
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Desert agave
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Mojave yucca

Hiking, backpacking and exploring are the main activities, and entry to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is good value at $8 peak season or $6 off peak (2012 prices). Camping is allowed without further charge anywhere away from the main roads though there are several official sites with fees starting from $20 per night. In spring, many people visit just to see the profusion of many different types of wildflowers that cover the park, beginning in the deserts during February to March and progressing up the canyons in early summer.

The high country of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park offers plenty of trails, some of which extend into the adjacent Cleveland and San Bernadino National Forest lands to the west and north, and these areas are especially popular in summer when the heat in the lower areas can be too intense. Away from the hills, most of the park is desert - covered by densely growing cacti in some areas but with bare rock and eroded badlands in others, through which run numerous narrow, slot-like canyons and other interesting rocky features.

Anza Borrego Desert Trails


Thimble Trail
Thimble Trail
★★★★★
3.5 miles, 100 feet
Undulating route through the northern reaches of the Borrego Badlands - extensive views of the stark desert surroundings
Borrego Palm Canyon
Borrego Palm Canyon
★★★★
1.5 miles, 500 feet
Popular trail up a ravine at the west edge of Borrego Valley, to a flourishing grove of California fan palms - the third largest oasis in the state
Mountain Palm Springs
Mountain Palm Springs
★★★★
3.5 miles, 200 feet
Six groves of California fan palms, in four adjacent ravines at the edge of Carrizo Valley, surrounded by low elevation desert
Split Mountain Trail
Split Mountain Trail
★★★★★
3.1 miles, 150 feet
Fairly level route along a narrow canyon formed by Fish Creek, cutting through angled, metamorphic strata, and on to some eroded rock formations
Palm Wash
Palm Wash
★★★★★
1.3 miles, 100 feet
The middle and south forks of Palm Wash are two shallow slot canyons through grey-brown conglomerate rocks surrounded by desert badlands
The Slot
The Slot
★★★★★
0.5 miles, 50 feet
The Slot is a minor drainage in the Borrego Mountains, reached by a dirt track, and notable for about half a mile of quite pretty narrow passages through grey-brown conglomerate rocks

Highlights: Vast desert area with varied topography, from mountains over 6,000 feet to sand dunes near sea level. Many interesting sites including palm oases, slot canyons, badlands and eroded rock formations. Abundant cacti and spring wildflowers. Popular for primitive camping, 4WD vehicles and off-trail hiking
Nearest city with hotels: Brawley, 41 miles
Management: California State Parks
Location: 33.255, -116.375 (Borrego Springs)
Seasons: Winter, spring and fall - summer temperatures may reach 120°F
Weather:

Anza-Borrego Desert - Regions



The Northeast
Low desert, badlands and narrow canyons, close to the Salton Sea; two main features are the Santa Rosa Mountains and the Borrego Badlands
The Northwest
Mountains, valleys and palm oases, approached by roads S22 and Hwy 78
The South
Large and varied desert region, with mountains, valleys, badlands and extensive flats
Wildflowers - Anza Borrego species and habitats

Map - map of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert - Photography



  • Photographs - northeast, northwest, south, wildflowers
  • QTVR panoramas - Borrego Badlands, Borrego Mountain, Palm Bowl Grove, Mountain Palm Springs
  • photograph
    Palm Wash
    photograph
    Fishhook cactus
    Nearby places Similar places

    Palm Springs (66 miles) - upscale city surrounded by mountains and desert

    Salton Sea (15 miles) - large, shallow, salty lake at the north end of Imperial Valley
    Nearby places Similar places

    Joshua Tree National Park, California - scenic desert and unusual plants

    Jacumba Outstanding Natural Area, California - desert and mountains bordering Mexico

    Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona - little-visited desert area with mountains, cacti and palm trees
    Anza Borrego Desert SP is part of the California Deserts itinerary
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