Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California (with Map & Photos)

Anza-Borrego Desert is the largest state park in California, with 500 miles of trails and many places to go. During spring, visitors flock there to see the wildflowers in bloom.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

But a place takes more than an annual flower show to become part of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts World Biosphere Reserve. At Anza Borrego, you can also see a rare and endangered bighorn sheep.

You'll also find palm trees forming lush oases around small springs, and you might see Swainson's Hawks soaring above one of the longest migrations of any American raptor, their 6,000-mile spring migration from Argentina to their breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska.

Things to do in Anza-Borrego park

One of the best ways to find out what to do in any state park is to stop by the visitor center and talk to the park rangers. I can give you some ideas, but Anza-Borrego has more to do than I had a chance to experience. You could search online, but then you depend on a group of random strangers who may or may have accurate information. To supplement what you learn before you go and find out what's going on right now, make the visitor center your first stop and talk to the experts.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

If you are just making a quick visit to Anza-Borrego, the garden in the desert outside the visitor center of the Anza-Borrego State Park is a concentrated version of the entire 600,000 acres of the park. In addition to the desert plants, it also includes a puppy pond. They may not look much alike, but puppies are fascinating creatures that can thrive in water from fresh water to water almost as salty as the ocean and survive temperatures from nearly zero to 108 ° F.

In the summer, you might catch a glimpse of the elusive Anza-Borrego peninsular Bighorn sheep on the canyon floor. They are also active from August to December during the mating season.

Four-wheelers and mountain bikers will enjoy Anza-Borrego's 500 miles (804 km) of dirt roads. The park also has many hiking trails, some of which are part of the Pacific Crest Trail. The Palm Canyon Trail is popular with day hikers.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

For a guided tour of the park, try California Overland, which offers group and private tours, as well as desert camping experiences.

Wild flowers in Anza-Borrego

Many visitors come to Anza-Borrego for the wildflowers and cacti, which bloom from January or February through March or April. The number of flowers and the timing of blooming vary each year, making planning difficult. To make matters worse, when it's clear when they'll be at their peak, every hotel room within 100 miles will light up their "no vacancies" signs

Your best option for catching the flowers in full swing is to visit their website or call the Wildflower Hotline at 760-767-4684.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

If you go during another time of year, you will be surprised how many flowers you can still find blooming. That's another reason to stop by the visitor center and talk to the rangers.

Where to stay in or around Anza-Borrego State Park

Borrego Springs is the closest town to Anza-Borrego where you can find a place to stay, eat, or stock up on groceries. It is also possible to visit Anza-Borrego on a long day trip from Palm Springs (1.5 hour drive each way) or San Diego (2 hour drive each way).

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Within the Anza-Borrego Park, you will find three developed campsites with accessible sites, hookups, toilets and showers. There is also an equestrian camp (10 sites) and nine primitive camps. If you want to experience the part from sunrise to sunset and don't mind getting a little rough, camping is your best option. Like all California state parks, it's worth planning if you want to camp in Anza-Borrego. Learn how to make reservations in state parks.

What you need to know about the Anza-Borrego desert

The visitor center is open seven days a week from October to May and on weekends from July to September. They charge an entrance fee to the state park.

Summers can be extremely hot in Anza-Borrego.

The dark skies in Anza-Borrego make any meteor shower a perfect time to be there, especially if it happens when the moon is dark or just a splinter.

Anza-Borrego is northeast of San Diego and south of Palm Springs, in the area bounded by CA Hwys 78, 86, 79, and 371. Plus, there are too many ways to get there to list them all here. Check a map or your GPS for directions from your starting point to Anza-Borrego.

The drive from San Diego to Anza-Borrego is especially scenic, crossing the mountains and descending to the desert floor. Enjoy all that Southern California has to offer until you reach Anza-Borrego, where you will find even more opportunities to enjoy the desert.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Map