Back in October of 2015, I got the chance to explore some amazing places in California. All the hipsterlicious west coast beaches were pretty fabulous, but our road trip through the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park was probably the number one highlight. After spending a few days in the San Diego area, we grabbed our stuff and headed off to the Coachella Valley. We drove from Escondido to Palm Springs, passing through the Anza-Borrego desert. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the park, but seeing just a glimpse was more than satisfying enough.
Unforgettable Road trip through the Anza Borrego Desert
What You Should Know about Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park lies within the Colorado Desert in southern California. The name of the park originates from the 18th century explorer Juan Bautista de Anza, as well as the borrego (bighorn) sheep that live in the area. The park is the largest state park in California. It is also the second largest in all of the United States. Anza-Borrego is primarily known for its incredibly diverse desert landscape, but also for some of the hottest places in the USA. The Borrego Valley and Borrego Badlands have average summer temperatures around 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees F.). Maximums reach up to 52 degrees Celsius (125 degrees F.). Nice and toasty!
Despite the scorching temperatures, Anza-Borrego has a history of human activity that dates back to 6000 years ago. These early people stored their food supplies underground and hunted with spears. The first Spanish explorers reached the Anza-Borrego Desert over 2 centuries ago, when the area was still home to the native Kumeyaay and Cahuilla peoples.
Check out the View at the Slot Canyon
One famous feature of the Anza-Borrego Desert is the Slot Canyon. The slot is a narrow siltstone canyon that curves through the desert landscape. The canyon can be reached by following a dirt road off the highway (route 78). It might be a bit of a struggle to actually find it. One of the rangers at the visitor center showed us on a map, but we still accidentally drove past it. When we eventually got there, I walked towards the canyon and all I could hear was myself breathing. It was so insanely quiet. I’ve never experienced anything like it anywhere else. We admired the canyon from above, but (apparently) it is also possible to climb down into the narrow canyon and go on a short (1 km) trek.
How to Get to the Anza Borrego Desert
The best way to travel through the park is by car, preferably a 4-wheeled drive vehicle. There are many dirt roads that aren’t always easily accessible by 2-wheeled drive vehicles. From October 16 through May 14, the visitor center in Borrego Springs is open every day of the week from 9 am to 5 pm. From May 15 through October 15, the visitor center is only open on weekends. The visitor center has some great informational displays about the desert’s history, animals, and geography. There is also a small desert garden with typical desert vegetation next to the visitor center.
You don’t need to worry about buying a tickets or permits, since there are no fees to enter the park.
I was a little bit sad I didn’t get to see any of the famous bighorn borrego sheep, but I suppose I really can’t complain with those unbelievable canyon views! It’ll be a memory for a lifetime.