LocationSan Diego, Imperial, and Riverside Counties, California, USA
Nearest CityBorrego Springs and Julian
Coordinates33°15′33″N 116°23′57″
Area585,930 acres
Governing BodyCA Department of Parks and Recreation
U.S. NationalNational Landmark
Park HoursDawn until dusk in the day use areas of the developed campgrounds

Location and site information: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is located on the eastern side of San Diego County, with portions extending east into Imperial County and north into Riverside County. It is about a two-hour drive from San Diego, Riverside, and Palm Springs. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California encompassing over 600,000 acres. It contains 12 wilderness areas with many miles of hiking trails and some great high-clearance roads for the 4×4 enthusiast. The park is named for the Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word borrego, or sheep for the bighorn sheep that inhabit the park. This beautiful state park features washes, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti and sweeping vistas. You may also catch a glimpse of roadrunners, golden eagles, kit foxes, jack rabbits, mule deer and bighorn sheep as well as iguanas, chuckwallas and the red diamond rattlesnake.

Anza Borrego-Thunder cloud
 Anza-Borrego Desert State Park-Thunder cloud
Anza Borrego -Jack Rabbit
 Anza-Borrego -Jack Rabbit

Some other sites in this area include over 130 world famous, full size metal  sculptures of a vast array of creatures, pictographs; rock paintings drawn by the Kumeyaay Native Americans who lived in the Anza-Borrego Desert thousands of years ago, wind caves; formations created out of sandstone, a Kumeyaay Native American “village” of boulders (the Morteros Trail) with grinding bowls or morteros, slot canyons, an abandoned homestead on Ghost Mountain, a palm tree oasis (Borrego Palm Canyon Trail), a 20 foot waterfall (Maidenhair Falls in Hellhole Canyon), the site of an old calcite mine, and more. This is truly a family friendly destination. NOTE: Fire arms and fireworks are not allowed in the park.

Anza Borrego Sculptures
 Anza-Borrego Sculptures

Average temperatures: Average January temperatures are a maximum of 69.2 °F (20.7 °C) and a minimum of 44.0 °F (6.7 °C). Average July temperatures are a maximum of 107.3 °F (41.8 °C) and a minimum of 75.7 °F (24.3 °C).

The Visitor Center: The Visitor Center is located two miles west of downtown Borrego Springs (which is surrounded by the park) at the east end of Palm Canyon Road, just off County Road S-22. It has some very informative exhibits, plus the award-winning 15-minute film, A Year in the Desert. Hours of operation: October through May daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the summer the Visitor’s Center is only open on weekends and holidays.

Ranger Nature Tours: Ranger-guided tours, lectures and campfire events are scheduled on a daily basis throughout the winter and spring. Check at the Visitor Center for schedules and don’t miss the flowers spectacular spring bloom!

Anza Borrego-cactus Blossom
 Anza Borrego-cactus blossom

 Most of the park’s facilities are wheel-chair accessible, including the main Palm Canyon campground.

Camping: There are four developed campgrounds with 175 total sites, and eight primitive campgrounds with even more places to camp. Primitive campgrounds are free, and sites at developed campgrounds range from fifteen to thirty-five dollars per night (and $80 for a group site at Borrego Palm Canyon Campground). There are vault toilets at the primitive campgrounds (except at Yaqui Pass), but not picnic tables or other amenities. Fish Creek Campground is the most developed of the primitive campgrounds. Its six sites all have their own fire rings, which are not included at other primitive campgrounds. Blair Valley Campground is a large undeveloped area situated at 2,500 feet above sea level, providing more moderate temperatures than the desert below. Culp Valley is the highest primitive campground at 3,350 feet and Fish Creek is the lowest at 280 feet.

Campsites: Developed and Primitive

Developed CampgroundsSeasonElevationFeeSitesWaterFireringsToiletsReservations
Borrego Palm CanyonYear round775 ft$25-$80122yesyesFlush/showeryes
Tamarisk Grove CampgroundYear round1,400 ft$2527Yes. Non-potableyesFlush/showeryes
Vern Whitaker Horse CampYear round960 ft$3010Yes. Non-potableyesFlush/showeryes
Bow Willow CampgroundYear round950 ft$1516yesyesflushno
Primitive Campgrounds        
Blair ValleyYear round2,500 ft$0 nonoVault in one areano
Sheep CanyonYear round1,500 ft$0 nonovaultno
Culp ValleyYear round3,350 ft$0 nonovaultno
Aroyo SaladoYear round880 ft$0 nonovaultno
Yaqui PassYear round1,730 ft$0 nonovaultno
Yaqui WellYear round1,400 ft$0 nonovaultno
Fish CreekYear round280 ft$06noyesvaultno
Mountain PalmYear round760 ft$0 noyesvaultno

Reservations and fees (prices are subject to change so call to verify), call 800-444-7275.

Day Use: the fee for day-use is now collected ONLY at Borrego Palm Canyon, Tamarisk Grove and the Vern Whitaker Horse Camp.

Groups require 6-month advance reservations; 7-day limit.

Roadside Camping is allowed. The rules are: 

  1. Do not camp further than one car length from any dirt or paved road
  2. Do not camp within 100 feet of any water source
  3. There is no garbage collection outside developed campgrounds so pack-in pack-out.
  4. *Ground fires are not permitted, and metal containers must be used for all campfires

*This last rule is the trickiest. Bring a metal container to keep your fire off the ground. Pack out all coals, and dispose of them as trash. Coals should not be buried or spread out on the soil.

Pets: Dogs are welcome on leashes within campgrounds, but dogs are not allowed on trails or in wilderness areas. Overall, the desert is not a good place for dogs. Burned paw pads, cactus quills, and snakebites pose a danger to dogs, and canines threaten desert biomes as well. A dog’s scent can scare other animals away from trail areas, shrinking the habitat they rely on to survive.

Ocotillo in Anza Borrego State Park
Ocotillo in Anza Borrego State Park
View from Wind Caves in Anza Borrego State Park
 View from Wind Caves in Anza Borrego State Park
Anza Borrego-stark beauty
Anza Borrego-stark beauty
Another view from the Wind Caves in Anza Borrego
 Another view from the Wind Caves in Anza Borrego
Previous articleDeath Valley National Park
Next articleMaggiolina Extreme Roof Top Tent
Raised in beautiful but rainy England, Andy moved to the sunny climes of Southern California in 1995 and hasn’t looked back since. Two and half decades working in the outdoor, bike and surf industries has given him a thirst for adventure and living life without a ceiling. When not working on the website, he can be found surfing Californian beaches, or in remote mountain or desert areas, either primitive camping, mountain biking or embarking upon vehicle assisted adventure in the backcountry with one of The Adventure Portal rigs.