Anza-Borrego State Park is located in the Colorado Desert of California.
Spanning over 580,000-plus acres, it makes up a fifth of San Diego County’s territory where it is situated.
The name Anza-Borrego comes from Spanish roots, particularly from Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza.
Because of its massive size, Anza-Borrego State Park has two communities that are the heart of its tourism—Borrego Springs and Shelter Valley.
While you may think it’s mostly wastelands, there are a ton of varied attractions that each offer a unique charm.
There are loads of interesting desert activities to do in this state park, so gear up, as you’ll be in for a ton of fun.
To get you started, here’s a list of the best things to do in Anza-Borrego State Park, California.
Find all of the Sculptures at Galleta Meadows
One of the first things you can do right off the bat in Anza Borrego is to hunt down the iconic metal sculptures at Galleta Meadows.
Galleta Meadows is a private desert estate in Borrego Springs opened to tourists, featuring large art sculptures scattered throughout.
These art installations found throughout are made by the artist Ricardo Breceda.
Ranging from dinosaurs, and elephants, to scorpions, Galleta Meadows offers a staggering 100-plus collection of metal sculptures that are intricately designed by the artist.
Perhaps one of the most iconic installations you should search for is the Serpentine Dragon Sculpture, one of the biggest installations in Galleta Meadows.
Hike to Palm Canyon Oasis
While Anza Borrego is mostly desert wastelands, you’ll be surprised to see so many interesting variations in the terrain here—one of them being Palm Canyon Oasis.
Palm Canyon Oasis is a nearby attraction from the community of Borrego Springs.
Here, you can see an actual oasis that shows the flourishing palm trees which the oasis takes its name from.
There’s also a waterfall in the area, making this a serene site you should not miss.
Only a short hike with lots of information signs and guides, Palm Canyon Oasis is one of the best family hikes in Anza Borrego that both children and the elderly can partake in.
Check the Flora at Desert Gardens
Desert Gardens is just a couple of miles north of Borrego Springs, making this another easy trek if you want to see the biodiversity of Anza Borrego.
You’ll see tons of wildflowers in this area where it got its name from.
It’s particularly great to see after a couple of days of rain as the plant life in Desert Gardens flourishes right after a good drizzle.
It’s also a scenic, but easy hike, so the elderly and children can join you on this site.
If you want to combine convenience and scenery, Desert Gardens is a can’t-miss in your Anza Borrego exploration.
Reach Font’s Point
Font’s Point is easily the best and most scenic peak in Anza Borrego, known for its sweeping views of the state park.
Stargazing is another activity you can do at Font’s Point, where you’ll have unobstructed views of Anza Borrego’s sky that feature no light pollution.
If you don’t intend to stargaze, simply marveling at the mountain ridges, badlands, and canyons of the desert from Font’s Point is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The sunset here is also an amazing view, which makes this a great afternoon hike to end the day.
Font’s Point is quite a distance from Borrego Springs, so be sure to bring a four-wheel drive to reach it.
Go Off-Roading at Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area
Speaking of four-wheel drive, Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area is a dedicated area in Anza Borrego for all of your off-roading adventures.
Beautifully maintained by the rangers of Anza Borrego, this place is easily one of the best areas to experience the rough terrains of the desert.
Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area is also an ideal place to camp, making this a great overnight activity if you want to spend hours off-roading.
You can bring your off-roading vehicle here or other smaller ones like an ATV or a dirtbike.
Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area has their own ranger station nearby, making this a safe and fun trip for the family.
Center Market is located at the heart of Borrego Springs, making it an ideal place before or after your trip.
Whether you’re looking to stock up on essentials or looking for the perfect souvenir, Center Market has you covered.
Doubling as the main gift shop of Anza Borrego, Center Market offers a wide range of products ranging from t-shirt souvenirs and other small memorabilia.
Once you’re done shopping for your essentials and souvenirs, the area of Center Market has more in store, such as eateries, a botanical garden, and a farmers’ market.
Center Market is a great way to immerse yourself in the township of Borrego Springs, so make sure you drop by during your visit.
Explore the Wind Caves
A must-see in Anza Borrego are the wind caves present throughout the desert.
These wind caves are interesting rock formations that have developed large openings where the wind passes by.
Because of this, strong winds generate unique sounds as it passes through a wind cave.
While experiencing these sounds are not guaranteed as it’s dependent on the wind speeds of your visit, simply seeing the wind caves is an experience in itself.
It has a prehistoric charm, given how unique these rock formations are.
You can find many wind caves several miles southeast of Borrego Springs, so bring a trusty off-roading vehicle here.
Visit the Santa Catarina Historic Monument
Within Coyote Canyon lies the Santa Catarina Historic Monument.
If you want to reach a historic landmark during your trek, this makes for an ideal stopover, as you can take a photo with a historical marker in the state park.
This area is where the founder of the desert, Juan Bautista de Anza, camped with his men.
There’s not much to see here but a plaque of Santa Catarina that serves as its symbol of being included among California’s registered historical landmarks.
You’ll also learn a quick bit of history through the plaque, so Santa Catarina Historic Monument makes for a great stopover in Coyote Canyon.
Go Spelunking at Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves
If wind caves are not enough to entertain you, fret not because there are also mud caves in Anza Borrego—the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves.
Unlike wind caves, these mud caves are less of a viewing experience and more of an activity you’ll need to immerse yourself in to appreciate.
Spelunking is a must if you want to see its raw beauty, as you’ll need to explore the depths of these mud caves.
This means that if you’re planning to go, bringing a headlamp and flashlight with you is a must, as the caves are extremely dark.
One of the more exhilarating spots in Anza Borrego, the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves is a must-try for the adventurous soul.
See the Quirky Rock Formations of Pumpkin Patch Rocks
There are many strange things around Anza Borrego, be it quirky art installations or a field of pumpkin-like rocks scattered about.
Pumpkin Patch Rocks, as the name suggests, looks like a field of pumpkins in the middle of the desert, when in fact, they are large rock formations.
Known for its weird yet alluring charm, this makes Pumpkin Patch Rocks one of the most visited places in Anza Borrego.
The place is also easy to reach and is well-maintained, complete with information signs that let you learn about the place.
Right in the middle of nowhere, it’s best to reach Pumpkin Patch Rocks when you go off-roading from the Ocotillo area.
Go through the Calcite Mine Trail
Calcite Mine Trail is perhaps one of the most exciting hiking destinations in Anza Borrego.
Similar to the mud caves, Calcite Mine Trail offers narrow hiking paths that give you a sense of wonder as you traverse these prehistoric rock formations up close.
The good news is that you won’t need to do spelunking here, as the canyon trail doesn’t have any caves.
The trail is also relatively easy to complete, as it only spans around 7.5 miles.
One of the best places to take selfies and photographs of the canyons local to Anza Borrego, Calcite Mine Trail is a must-try for all kinds of travelers.
You can find its trailhead along Calcite Road and Borrego Salton SeaWay, as it’s relatively close to Salton City.
Trek Coyote Canyon
What makes Desert Gardens a great attraction is you can easily reach the neighboring Coyote Canyon that lies west of it.
While not exactly an oasis, Coyote Canyon is one of the best places to explore the Anza Borrego on foot.
It spans around 20 miles, so you’d still need a vehicle to traverse it, but it has one of the best hiking trails that even doubles down as a bike or horseback trail.
There’s a good amount of diversity if you hike here, as it has various terrains and also plant life along the way.
If you’re looking for one of the best spots to trek, Coyote Canyon makes for a great option.
Reach the Peg Leg Smith Historical Site
Another historical landmark in Anza Borrego is the Peg Leg Smith Historical Site.
Located just a few miles northeast of Borrego Springs, Peg Leg Smith Historical Site is a prime destination for lots of families for its easy access.
You’ll learn a bit of quirky history here, as the plaque here talks about a mountain man named Thomas L. Smith, more fondly called Peg Leg Smith.
There’s a pile of rocks here also that serves as a sort of tradition where visitors get to throw rocks during their visit to add to the pile.
Fun for kids, this historical site is a great visit that won’t take much effort.
See the Bubbling Gas Domes
Another place in the middle of nowhere that requires an off-roading adventure is the Gas Domes of Anza Borrego.
It’s the one area in this desert that makes you feel closest to the geothermal aspect of the desert.
A sizable patch of geothermal water that’s bubbling away, this is a great sight for geography enthusiasts.
While there’s not much to do here but appreciate this unique patch of land, it’s another great marker if you decide to traverse Anza Borrego on a dirtbike or ATV.
The Gas Domes can be found far west already, approaching the Salton Sea.
Explore Clark Dry Lake
A couple of miles northeast of Peg Leg Smith Historical Site lies Clark Dry Lake.
As the name suggests, this is another geographical wonder in Anza Borrego that features a dry lake used for various purposes throughout its natural history.
During the 20th Century, Clark Dry Lake was used heavily as a homestead for cattle ranchers.
Now, it serves as a protected nature site where you can camp and just immerse yourself in the features of this dry lake.
You won’t get to see the very bedrock of a lake often, so Clark Dry Lake is a must-visit for the natural history and geography buffs.
Get Scenic Views at Montezuma Valley Road Lookout
If Font’s Point is a little bit of a challenge for you, Montezuma Valley Road Lookout makes for a great alternative.
It’s not as high and majestic as the rock formations found in Font’s Point, but you’ll get sweeping views of the surrounding valleys and hills in the desert through this lookout.
It’s often visited by a lot of families doing day trips to this desert, as it requires not much effort to reach.
You’ll also get to see some plant life flourishing along the way, making this great for flora photography.
Its trailhead is found right along Montezuma Valley Road, and there’s parking available, making this one of the most convenient things to do in Anza Borrego.
Despite seeming like a large but empty desert, Anza-Borrego State Park has evolved throughout the years to be one of Southern California’s prime destinations.
There are a good amount of diverse terrains and geological features that warrant several days to explore Anza-Borrego State Park.
If you’re planning on just a day trip, it’s recommended that you try off-roading in its recreational vehicle areas that give you access to all sorts of interesting landmarks.
Still, the best way to appreciate the raw beauty of this desert is to immerse yourself by hiking its many trails.
The best things to do in Anza-Borrego State Park, California, await you.
Pack your bags and begin your adventure!
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