Anza-Borrego is California’s largest state park, over 600,000 acres, located just Southeast of Los Angeles. It’s a hidden desert gem, often forgotten about by SoCal natives. The park is named after Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word borrego translates to bighorn sheep. Although the bighorn sheep inhabit the area, they are quite elusive and often go unseen by visitors. The park has 110 hiking trails as well as 12 designated wilderness sections. Here is a snapshot of some of my favorite parts of this beautiful and unique desert landscape.
Super Bloom: This year SoCal has been blessed with abundant amounts of rain that it so desperately needed. With rain comes the colorful display of flowers! I knew I had to head to Anza-Borrego to view the Super Bloom—and it did not disappoint! Although crowded, the best places to view the blooms were right in town in Henderson Canyon and off of Di Giorgio Road. Some of my favorite blooms included the Barrel Cactus blooms, Prickly Pear blossoms, Brittlebush, Ocotillo, purple sand Verbena, and yellow desert daisy.
Borrego Badlands: The Borrego Badlands is a wasteland of ridges and channels, shaped by the erosion of wind and water over millions of years. It’s hard to believe that what is now the desert of Anza-Borrego was once the bottom of the ocean floor! Fonts Point is one of the best spots to view the maze of ridges and arroyos, particularly at sunset. It’s a relatively short 1 mile hike in, or an even shorter drive up to the cliffside edge if you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle.
Slot Canyon: Anza-Borrego also offers a lot of great hiking trails. Some of the most popular are Palm Canyon, calcite mine, and wind caves, but one of my favorite hikes is the short trek through the slot canyon. Simply named ‘slot canyon’ it’s a super quick hike, less than a mile out and back. You will need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to navigate through the soft sand trail that leads up to the canyon. Once inside the cool canyon, the 30 ft walls offer much needed relief from the blazing sun. One of the highlights of the slot canyon is the rock slab that creates a natural bridge between the slot. You can even climb up the bridge if you’re feeling adventurous! There are a few technical spots that require a little climbing and rock scrambling, but the hike is great for families and beginners. Hiking tip: Wear shoes with grippy tread so it’s easier to over the rock formations.
Metal Sculptures: Anza-Borrego also has an incredible display of over 130 metal sculptures by artist, Ricardo Breceda. Some are completely fantastical, but most statues are inspired from prehistoric creatures believed to have once inhabited the area; dinosaurs, giant sloths, mammoths, a scorpion, and a grasshopper to name a few. The most impressive of all is a giant 350-foot long serpent with a head of a dragon and a tail of a rattlesnake. These sculptures litter the desert floor and are open to the public. All are within a few minutes of Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs.
The best time to visit Anza-Borrego is in the winter and spring months. It is a desert and gets unbearably hot in the summer and fall. If SoCal is blessed with another wet winter, I would suggest visiting in early spring so you can enjoy the abundant amount of blooming wild flowers. However, don’t feel disappointed if you miss out on the super bloom. There is still a lot to see in this desert town than just wildflowers!