Good times at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA

State Park folks have a sense of humor, enlarge the photo to read the sign

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has a special place in Steve’s heart.  This is where his parents used to boondock in their RV every winter for years, and he visited them several times during their stays.  Our last visit here was a decade ago when we flew down to spread his parent’s ashes in the desert that had been their beloved winter home.  Now we were excited to return with an RV of our own.

This state park is the largest in California. Located about 80 miles northeast of San Diego, it encompasses more than 600,000 acres of mostly desert wilderness and is framed by many rugged and beautiful mountain ranges.  It takes its name from 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, the Spanish word for bighorn sheep.

Anza Borrego Desert Park
The great bowl of the Anza-Borrego desert, viewed looking south with the badlands in the center
Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Mountain ranges enclosing Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Looking north toward the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains

This wondrous and wild place with its sweeping vistas offers lots of surprises that beg to be explored, and because it’s so huge our two week stay wasn’t enough to cover it all.

In search of Maidenhair Waterfall, which we never found while hiking the Hell Hole Canyon Trail
Hell Hole Canyon Trail
Along the Hell Hole Canyon trail we passed huge ocotillos, creosote bush, and other desert brush
Recent rain caused active stream flows on the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail
Borrego Palm Canyon Trail
A grand oasis of California fan palms at the end of the trail
California Fan Palms
California Fan Palms are native only to this desert
palm Canyon Trail
Returning on the Palm Canyon trail, we followed an alternate route up and over an alluvial fan to get a different view on the way back to the trailhead

The borregos did not disappoint, as they were there watching and waiting for us to pass so they could cross for their drink of the clear water:

We followed this narrow canyon, which seemed like a slot canyon at times
Blazing our own trail getting out of the slot
Anza Borrego Desert Park
Still smiling after our long climb up from the bottom
A deeply-cut dry waterfall at Hawk Canyon
Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Colorful cliffs of salmon and green sandstone at Hawk Canyon
The recent rains brought the usually brown Ocotillos to lush, green beautiful life
One particular Ocotillo already had bright crimson flowers – in January!

To get  off the beaten path and experienced the desert in its most primal state requires a high clearance vehicle.  So weren’t we lucky that our friends (and Jeep owners) Dave and Sue of Belugas Excellent Adventures were also in the area and offered to share with us what they had already seen and experienced.  Our first drive was to the Wind Caves through Split Mountain.  The drive itself was a journey through a geological wonder, and we made several stops to gaze and ponder how time, weather and geology have created so many interesting formations here.

I have a feeling Steve is convinced “we gotta get one of these”

Fish Creek Wash
Viewing the unusual semi-circular, twisted formation called an “anticline.”

At the Wind Caves, the wildly eroded pockets were such a lure to be explored that Steve and I instantly became kids and started scrambling in and out wherever we could.  After lunch we all spent a few more minutes listening to the stillness of the desert and just enjoying the peaceful scenery.

Elephant knees
Elephant Knees formation seen on the trail to the south

One of the best places to get a look at the Badlands’ surreal scenery was from Font’s Point, at the end of a 4-mile sandy primitive wash.  The point has a commanding view of the Borrego Valley and Borrego Badlands below.

“Rocky” our ride looked a little lonely in the parking lot – the whole place to ourselves!
Font's Point
The best time to come here is at sunrise or sunset, but the cloud cover made our visit no less spectacular, and we all spread out to enjoy the views
Fonts Point
This amazing area, with its arid rocky geography, sunken mesas and corrugated hills of dry mud is called the Badlands of Anza-Borrego
Fonts Point
Steve shows fellow pilot Dave the canyon he used to fly through to land here
Coachwhip Canyon
Wandering around Coachwhip Canyon

We should mention that Jeep owners Dave and Sue, John and Pam, Joe and Gay and Bob and Dee Dee are very kind to us CRV folks.  Not only have we enjoyed seeing places we otherwise wouldn’t, but we’ve loved hanging out with all of them as well.  A Jeep might be in our future, but what’s the hurry when we have such great folks to take us to these spectacular places?

Two weeks was just too short to thoroughly explore this amazing place.  We’ve seen quite a bit, but plenty remains for a return visit.  Who knows, we may have a Jeep of our own when we return 🙂

We appreciate our Jeep ride sponsors, Dave and Sue!

Finally,  while driving around we caught glimpses of prehistoric creatures casting a shadow on the desert.  Some, like the one pictured below, will be featured in my next post:

Not something you see every day!







  1. If all goes well, we will be staying in Borrego Springs for December 2017. Your post is beautiful (as always) and sure gets me excited about future plans! I’m sure I will have lots of questions as the time gets closer! I can see why Steve’s parents spent winters here!

  2. Love this place!! I’m sorry we had to miss this past fall. Next year it is in our plans again!! Yes, a Jeep is necessary in this park. Luckily, you timed your visit perfectly to get a free ride to the wilderness:)

  3. We always love our visits to Anza Borrego, and have enjoyed fabulous hiking and sightings of wild sheep and wildflowers. But lacking a jeep, we’ve not been out to some of the places you were so fortunate to explore. Thanks for the great tour—your photos of the badlands are gorgeous! So much fun to meet up with good friends for adventures. :-))

  4. Fabulous place and gorgeous photos! We will probably never get back there again.Thanks for bringing back tons of memories.

  5. Anza-Borrego is at the top of my list. I was disappointed we didn’t make it there earlier in March, but when one of our trailer tires blew in Escondido, I was glad we weren’t driving in the desert where services are not as available.

  6. What a special place for Steve. I had no idea the park was so large. It has always been on my list but in two trips west we still haven’t made it. You’ve certainly reinforced my desire. Sounds like we’ll need way more than our customary 2 weeks. Steve’s picture between the plants really shows how huge they are. How nice to find water in the desert. Great pictures of what looks like a tricky hike. Love your wildlife photos. The sign is too funny. This is a great post and your pictures of the jeep trip and surrounds are fantastic. Nice to have jeep friends.

  7. I absolutely love your photographs of Anza Borrego. As much time as we have spent here, we haven’t spent enough time off the beaten path, with the need for 4-wheel drive. It took us quite awhile to find Maidenhair Falls as well. Luckily we had another couple give us some great tips for locating it.

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