Auto Route from San Diego


Planning a Trip in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Getting There -- The drive to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is spectacular; the scenery ranges from rolling, pastoral landscapes to endless bird's-eye vistas from precarious dead-man's curves. It's about a 2-hour drive from San Diego; the fastest route is I-15 N. to the Poway (S4) exit to its end, left on 67 north to Ramona, which turns into 78 E., to Santa Ysabel. From here, go left on 79, right on S2, and left on S22. Alternatively, follow I-8 E. past Alpine to Hwy. 79. Follow 79 N. for 23 miles to Julian; take a right on 78, and then a left on S3 to Borrego Springs. Another (longer) option is to take I-8 to Ocotillo, and then San Diego's loneliest highway, Hwy. S2, north. Along this 40-mile stretch you'll follow the Southern Overland Stage Route of 1849 (be sure to stop and notice the view at the Carrizo Badlands Overlook) to 78 E. into Borrego Springs. The closest airport with scheduled service is Palm Springs, 75 minutes away by car.

Getting Around -- You don't need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to tour the desert, but you'll probably want to get off the main highways and onto the jeep trails. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center staff can tell you which jeep trails are in condition for two-wheel-drive vehicles. The Ocotillo Wells area of the park has been set aside for off-road vehicles such as dune buggies and dirt bikes. To use the jeep trails, a vehicle has to be licensed for highway use.

Orientation & Visitor Information -- In Borrego Springs, a town completely surrounded by the state park, Palm Canyon Drive is the main drag. Christmas Circle surrounds a grassy park at the entry to town; the "mall" is just west and contains many of the town's businesses. The architecturally striking Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center (tel. 760/767-4205 or 760/767-5311; lies 2 miles west of Borrego Springs; it's cut into the side of a hill and is totally invisible from the road. In addition to a small museum with interactive exhibits, it supplies information, maps, and two 15-minute audiovisual presentations, one on the bighorn sheep and the other on wildflowers; an interpreted loop trail is also on-site. The visitors center is open October through May daily from 9am to 5pm, June through September weekends and holidays from 9am to 5pm. You should also stop by the Desert Natural History Association, 652 Palm Canyon Dr. (tel. 760/767-3098;, whose Borrego Desert Nature Center and Bookstore is open daily, 9am to 5pm. It features an impressive selection of guidebooks, educational materials for kids, native plants, regional crafts, and a minimuseum display that includes a pair of frighteningly real taxidermied bobcats. This is also your best source for information on the nearby Salton Sea.

Thank you Frommer's for this information.