Three Days in Borrego

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Borrego Springs is a great 1-day trip from San Diego and Palm Springs. If you have 2-3 days, you can do so much more. The town and park have something for everyone. Beautiful hotels and resorts, where you can treat yourself to a nurturing massage, relax by the pool, or play golf on one of the excellent courses. Or camp and experience the desert in the most intimate way. Rent a cabin or a vintage airstream. Your itinerary will depend on the time of the year (you are in the desert after all) but for each season there is an exciting place to visit and explore.

Borrego DAY ONE

Start at the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center
Before setting out to hike a portion of the 110 miles of trails within the park, or do anything else in this park, stop by the Visitor Center. Here you can get advice from rangers on which trails will suit your hiking style and pick up maps. Be sure to watch the informational video in the center to learn all about the land’s transformation over the millennia from ocean, to valleys filled with grazing animals, to the desert it is today.

Go on a hike and look for Bighorn Sheep
Borrego Springs is named for its resident bighorn sheep (Borrego means sheep or lamb in Spanish.) So, of course, you will want to try to spot some Borrego during your stay! Your ranger can inform you where the latest sightings are. A regular hangout for these amazing sheep is around the Palm Canyon Trail, an easy 3-mile round trip hike that leads to a grove of palm trees, called the Palm Oasis.

Head back to the town center for lunch
Borrego Springs has plenty of great places to eat that will fit any palate or budget. From savory fresh authentic Mexican to wood-fired gourmet style pizzas to good-old-fashioned Americana. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the town has a list of restaurants that will quench your thirst and still your hunger.

Walk in the Borrego Art Institute at Christmas Circle
This gallery provides an endless variety of high-quality paintings, photographs, and sculptures. Desert motifs naturally are popular, but other subjects are shown as well. Admission is free. The staff is friendly and happy to answer questions about any of the work on display and the artists.

Stop by Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association
Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association desert store, which is one block west of downtown’s Christmas Circle. (ABDNHA “ABNA”) sponsors approximately 150 hikes, lectures, tours, special events, and educational programs each year. A place to ask questions, browse through numerous books about the park and history of the area. Maps and gift items related to the desert can be found here as well.

Erosion Road Self-Guided Auto Tour
Enjoy these self-guided tour routes to visit the desert viewpoints. Erosion Road tour is an introduction to the geology of the Anza-Borrego Desert. It includes stops at the Coyote and Santa Rosa Mountains, Font’s Point, Clark Dry Lake, Font’s Point Wash and an overlook of the Borrego Badlands. Get your copy at: The State Park Visitors Center or at the Anza-Borrego Foundation or Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association.

Encounter dozens of art sculptures in Galleta Meadows
Take your car and encounter dozens of large, free-standing metal sculptures of prehistoric animals such as mammoths, giant birds and saber-toothed cats, as well as leaping horses and imaginary creatures. The heavy-duty sculptures created by sculptor Ricardo Breceda weigh between 800 and 1,000 pounds each and were commissioned by the late millionaire Dennis Avery. Avery’s vision for Galleta Meadows was an open desert art museum for all to enjoy, free of charge. Get a map for self-touring or pick up a visitor’s guide downtown.

Borrego DAY TWO
Spend your second day exploring Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Connect with nature and discover a world of pristine wilderness — a world of cacti and canyons, badlands and oases. With 500 miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas and 110 miles of hiking trails, the park provide visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to experience and the wonders of the Sonora Desert.

Squeeze your way through a narrow siltstone passageway, Slot Canyon!
Hiking “The Slot” offers a unique experience in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. It’s usually a few degrees cooler than most hikes in the area and it is a rare one with shade. This is a short hike but the beauty is undeniable. The trail is fairly well marked and there are good directions online to access the trail.

Explore the desert in a military truck for an off-road excursion
California Overland offers desert tours of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park year-round. All excursions vary in length, itinerary, type of vehicle and activity level. From public to private tours, from 2.5 hours to full-day excursions. An off-road meandering will show you the real Badlands and you can experience the intense desert together.

Watch the Sunset at Fonts Point overlooking the Badlands
This spectacular area, with its arid rocky geography, sunken mesas and corrugated hills of dry mud, is called the Badlands of Anza Borrego. Font’s Point may be the best place in North America to view sediments of the Pliocene and Pleistocene Epochs. The twisted sedimentary layers resemble a miniature Grand Canyon of washed-out, rainbow-colored hills. The best time of the day to see this is sunrise or sunset.

Be sure to look up at night
After a day of wandering and exploring, be sure to look up to the sky. One of only two International Dark Sky Communities in the world and the first in California, Borrego Springs was rated by “USA Today” as one of the top ten stargazing locations in the nation. The quiet of the area combined with the dark, star-filled sky, surrounded by vast parkland, the town is uniquely protected from urban lights. The community, known for lacking even stoplights to pollute the brilliance of its dark, dark nights, has long been a haven for stargazers.

The very top of the park’s Visitor Center—the roof—is the perfect venue for evening stargazing, and the park offers special stargazing evenings throughout the fall and winter. Don’t forget binoculars for an unforgettable “excursion” through the Milky Way and several constellations. Park rangers and docents will impart stories along the way. There is no charge, and reservations are not necessary. Just check the schedule online.

For a unique tour of the stars, schedule one of astronomer Dennis Mammana’s “Borrego Night Sky Tours.” Sights that will keep you longing for ink-colored skies are visible every night in the Anza-Borrego Desert. This personalized tour of the cosmos reveals colorful stars, stellar clusters, planets, nebulas, distant galaxies and more.

Start your day with a bike ride and end up looking at possibly 2,000-year-old rock art. Be sure to pack a lunch when driving to the southern part of the park. Have a picknick surrounded by rock art and ancient trails. Listen to the quiet desert and watch the birds. End your trip climbing into the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves, located deep in the southern section of the Park.

Rent an off-road bike
Whether your idea of biking is to ride a five-mile loop around town or a 100-mile route through the badlands, Borrego Springs has some of the finest winter road biking in the United States. Roads are generally wide, traffic is low, and the scenery is amazing. The terrain is whatever you want; there are lots of gently rolling routes in the Borrego Valley and many quiet and easy routes to visit the sculptures or though the agricultural lands north of town. For the expert crowd, there is the world-class Montezuma Grade, 3,368 feet of vertical in just ten miles.

Or take an E-Bike Guided Tour
All of their tours are fully guided and include a Rad Rover electric assist fat tire bike. Electric bikes give the rider a helping hand—or push—creating an easy reach for riders with varying levels of fitness and experience. It’s a fun, eco-friendly, and memorable experience. The group sizes are kept small for an intimate experience between you and the surrounding desert.

Discover the markings of long-gone native artists
The Native American tribes that once lived in the Anza-Borrego Desert left a legacy of petroglyphs and pictographs on boulders and cliffs throughout the park. These early artists drew human and animal figures, sun circles, stars, and other more abstract designs. Many of the drawings mark sacred locations where they celebrated rites of passage and held ceremonies. The easiest place to see some rock art is on the Pictograph Trail in Little Blair Valley. Passenger cars can manage the dirt road to the trailhead, and the easy hike leads to views of a boulder embellished with red and yellow zigzag lines and diamond shapes, were painted by nomadic Kumeyaay Indians, possibly as much as 2,000 years ago.

Kumeyaay village site on the ‘Ehmuu-morteros Trail
The ‘Ehmuu-Morteros trail is a short but fascinating path through the site of a former Kumeyaay Native American seasonal village. The nomadic Kumeyaay would spend winters in the Anza-Borrego region, and from this location, they would collect and process pinyon nuts, mesquite beans, and desert agave. This is one of three short, easy trails along the southern portion of Blair Valley. To make the most of your trip to this area, hit Ghost Mountain and Pictograph trails, mentioned above, while you’re out there.

Visit the geographical wonder of the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves
Located deep in the southern section of the Park, the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves are one of the most popular attractions. A geographical wonder of the Anza-Borrego desert, deep caves created by flowing silt from an ancient lake bed, eroded by wind and rain. They’re big enough to walk into and climb through. Some have room-sized caverns. You can also crawl to the top of the prehistoric geological formation and from the elevated summit, scan the desert horizon for miles around.

Click on “Things to Do” for hikes recommended by locals. For a comprehensive online guide to the hiking trails in the Park see the All Trails website. The State Park Visitors Center and in downtown Borrego Springs the Anza-Borrego Foundation and Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association stores all have excellent inventories of trail guides, books, maps and plenty of “insiders” advice on great places to hike.