The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California’s largest state park. With 600,000 acres of land, 110 miles of hiking trails, 500 miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas and an active visitor’s center, the nature enthusiast is sure to never be bored. Begin your tour of the park at the vistior’s center in Borrego Springs. The visitor center is open 7 days a week 9:00am to 5:00pm October through May and on weekends from June through September. The center showcases an amazing display of desert life including an outdoor pond of nearly extinct pupfish and a simple description of each plant and tree around the center. Continuing inside you will be treated to a show depicting the desert in every season. The Center is aimed at showing you what to look for once you begin your tour of the park.
Once you finish your tour of the visitor’s center, you are now ready to begin exploring the park. Whether you choose to hike or drive the opportunity is there to see many of the plants as well as the wildlife. Roadrunner, golden eagles, kit foxes, mule deer as well as iguanas, chuckwallas and the red diamond rattlesnake call the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park home. The park also hosts a flock of bighorn sheep. The sheep are very timid and only the patient observer ever sights them. The Borrego Palm Canyon Trail is the best place for sighting the elusive bighorn. This trail 3 miles round trip to the Falls and 6.5 miles round trip to the South Fork. It is open October-May. Hikers will enter a rocky V-shaped gorge with a well-watered oasis and continue on to the waterfall. The Canyon Trail is the most popular trail during the winter months.
Three main roads run through the Park. S22 across the north and CA 78 across the middle offer an impressive view of the desert bowl. S2 running southeast-northwest, mostly close to the western edge. The remainder of the park’s roadways are unpaved dirt roads leading into the backcountry. Be sure to have a four-wheel drive vehicle as these roads can be difficult to navigate.
Another great way to travel through the park is by horseback. Any of the trails that are open to jeeps are also open for horses. Vern Whittaker Horse Camp is a popular staging area for horseback riding. This campground is only open to campers with horses. Several other trails open for horses as well as hikers are California Riding & Hiking Trail, Coyote Canyon Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Jasper Trial.
Several other points of interest are scattered though out the park. Truckhaven Rocks feature orange-colored rocks arranged in a unique formation. Pegleg’s Monument details an interesting legend of an old gold prospector. Visit the Pumpkin Patch to see what happens when sand cements to small objects. The Elephant Tree Trail takes you to see a living elephant tree. Split Mountain Wind Caves offers a bit of spelunking to the interested hiker. Be sure to check out all the information at the visitor’s center for many more exciting points of interest.
If a single day visit is not enough Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has several lodging options. Borrego Palm Canyon offers individual campsites as well as group campsites and also campsites with full RV hookups. Campers and trailers up to 35 feet are allowed. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 800-444-7275 or by visiting the parks website at www.parks.ca.gov. There are 10 other camping sites spread though out the park. For the more adventurous camper, Anza-Borrego allows open camping though out the park.
The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor’s Center is located at 200 Palm Canyon Drive Borrego Springs, CA 92004 on the eastern side of San Diego County. The Visitor Center Hours are Thursday thru Monday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Park is open to visitors from Dawn to Dusk. The fee for day use is $5 during non-peak season and $8 during peak season. Because this is such a large park with many varied activities, it is best to contact the Visitor’s Center at 760-767-5311 or visit the state park website at www.parks.ca.gov to see all the park’s happenings.