Amazing Anza Borrego
North of San Diego, East of Los Angeles
At first sight of Anza Borrego, you will be astonished at how much beauty can be present in such a barren desert. The unique natural features and peaceful isolation of this desert gives the feeling of being on a distant planet. Otherworldly, yet still in our backyard. This is a place you can literally spend months and not see everything. The Anza Borrego area spans over 600,000 acres, making it the largest California state park. It is also rich in archeological history with evidence of earliest inhabitants dating back to 6,000 years ago. Big Horn Sheep, Mountain Lions and Coyotes all call this place home. Spring brings amazing blooms of vibrant colorful desert flowers, which many people come to view and photograph from all over the country. With over 500 miles of road, paved and dirt, it’s an adventurers paradise. Camping is permitted anywhere in the park, which is something I really like about visiting Anza, you can literally camp anywhere and challenge yourself to find some unique and secluded camp locations.
Spring, Winter and Fall are the best times to visit, especially if you plan on camping. It gets HOT in the summer months and not the best summer destination for camping. Air is lava. In this write-up I will outline the various things I have seen and done here, but I will say there are many more areas I would like to venture. So if you go and end up finding some rad additions, please do share with me. To get started, it would be a good idea to first visit the visitor center located in Borrego Springs before you start exploring. They have some good maps and information it’s centrally located in the park, making it a convenient starting location. The visitor center is also located in the only part of the area which you will find services. I would recommend fueling up, grabbing extra water, supplies, firewood, adult beverages etc. (no glass please).
Campfires are allowed anywhere in Anza Borrego, but they must be in a metal contained object and packed out after your stay. There are some locations that have existing approved fire rings already, I will point those locations out a little later. So the first decision you will need to make before heading out to Anza is if you plan to make this a day trip or a weekend trip. Every time I have visited here I have always camped at least one night. If you are not the desert camping type, there are several motel options in Borrego Springs. But I would encourage you to get a little out of your comfort zone and camp, the stars will not dissapoint.
Now moving along to the activities and locations. From the visitor center, I would make a quick stop to check out the famous giant metal sculptures around the area. These are spread out all over the Borrego Springs area, the visitor center will be able to point you in the right direction if these are on your list of things to see. They are a popular attraction and make for some great photo opportunities. There are over 130 of them scattered around the desert. It’s like a metal sculpture scavenger hunt.
After checking out the sculptures, I would make my over to Font’s Point. Many will say that this is by far the best view point in Anza Borrego, I’d have to agree. It’s about 4 miles off the main road, the GPS to the trailhead are 33.30281, -116.23912. Once at the trailhead, you simply follow the 4 mile dirt road to the lookout point. The road is pretty easy, 2 wheel drive vehicles with decent tires should make it just fine. We saw many sedans and minivans making the trek with ease. Once you arrive at the parking area, get ready for a breathtaking view of the desert below, It is absolutely gorgeous. Definitely not a bad place to relax for a bit, take in the views and enjoy a snack or a cold one. A majority of this canyon and it’s features is a result of erosion, which means these edges can give way and crumble. Keep a safe and comfortable distance from the edges.
Another impressive sight to see in Anza Borrego is a place simply called “The Slot.” It’s a narrow siltstone canyon and the trek is only 0.8 miles out and back. It’s also a great place to escape the sun and heat, as the canyon is primarily shaded most of the day. Here are the GPS coordinates to “The Slot” trailhead 33.18213, -116.21417. The Slot location is also South of Font’s Point and on the way to the next destinations, so if you follow this order driving logistics will be in your favor. I will also mention, there are no dogs allowed on most of the trails in Anza Borrego. They are permitted on a leash and while camping, but not on the actual trails. This is because of the fragile native plant and animal ecosystem here. I know, my pup goes with me everywhere too, but not on these trails. They are allowed on dirt roads and wash areas I will mentioned next.
Now to the next location, Sandstone Canyon and one of my overall favorites in Anza Borrego. This is an amazing place to camp, explore and even spend a few days checking out. You will be reaching Sandstone Canyon via Fish Creek Wash. Any stock vehicle can make it’s way through and around most of this area, but having an off-road capable SUV, Jeep, truck, crossover etc. makes for a bit more exploration ability. I have seen many sedans and stock cars traveling all over Sandstone Canyon and Fish Creek Wash area without any issues. Although you are in a wash, the trail has been heavily trafficked and compacted, just do your best to follow the existing tire tracks. If you do decide to travel in a standard 2 wheel drive vehicle, be sure to air down your tires a bit and create more tire surface area to the ground, always a good practice when off-road. Also, this area is moderately trafficked, so help wouldn’t be far.
To get to the start of Fish Creek Wash, plug in these GPS coordinates 33.03975, -116.09663. Below are several other GPS locations throughout Sandstone Canyon. GPS 33.02289, -116.10986 is a primitive designated campsite with bathrooms and fire rings. There are about 20 campsites here, good spot to set up camp if you have a 2 wheel drive vehicle and don’t want to venture to the deeper camp areas in the canyon. Also, keep in mind, you can camp anywhere along Fish Creek Wash and there are many great spots to call home for the night. We saw several small trailers and campers along the first few miles of the Fish Creek Wash Trail. There is not much shade, so I would recommend brining something to keep you out of the sun during the heat of the day and obviously plenty of water. Wherever you end up, the sunsets are epic and the stars are magical.
GPS 32.99310, -116.11850 is the trailhead to the Wind Caves, really cool hike and place to visit. It’s 1.5 miles up and back to explore the caves, the views of the canyon below are gorgeous, especially at sunset. The journey from the Wind Caves to the actual entrance of Sandstone Canyon is roughly 7-9 miles. Eh, who’s counting anyways, enjoy the ride. I really enjoyed this part of the drive, not as many people the further you get along Fish Creek. Crank the tunes and enjoy the ride! I still truly believe that almost ANY vehicle will do just fine further down the wash, but ultimately follow your instincts and comfortability level. If you do intend to make this trek with an off-road vehicle, you will definitely enjoy the amazing and stunning views in Sandstone Canyon.
GPS 32.97923, -116.21464 is the entrance to the canyon, you will turn left into the canyon entrance and will also see a sign marking the canyon opening. From here, it’s a narrow wash canyon with tall sandstone cliffs along the way. You will get about 2 miles in and notice there was a landslide that seems to block the wash. Depending on your vehicle, the left side can be crawled and the trail does continue. A few other groups said it was a dead end, but we said it was just the “Gatekeeper.” Here are a few pictures of inside Sandstone Canyon. Explore based on your comfortability.
We spent hours driving around trying to find the perfect camp spot on our last night. After finding many decent, very accommodating spots, we still felt obligated to keep searching. Then we came across the perfect location, I can’t believe I’m sharing my super secret spot with you, if you’re there when I’m out here next, just make some room for us! 32.97520, -116.20931. People have different views about sharing special spots. Here’s my stance. I know how much I’ve enjoyed these places and the joy and memories they’ve provided me. I don’t own them and no one is entitled or more privileged to enjoy them than anyone else. What I care more about than anything is sharing a common love and respect for nature, keeping these places nice and making them better than before. It’s a simple ask and everyone wins, including the environment.
This camp was perfect for several reasons. Up against a tall sandstone wall, it provided a good amount of shade during the day as the sun was always below the ridge top. It also offered a nice cool bed of soft sand spread nicely over the entire site, which was perfect for the pups. Lastly, It sat nicely elevated above the wash which made for some spectacular views and a little isolation.We cooked up some food, hiked around and enjoyed a beautiful bright star filled evening. This really was a great spot, I sure hope you enjoy it just as much as we do! As a side note, if you are looking to do all of this in one weekend, I would recommend starting out on a Friday morning. In this order, stop by the visitor center, visit Font’s point and then “the Slot”. That should take you to Friday afternoon or evening. Find a campsite in the canyon, somewhat close to Fish Creek Camp and enjoy the evening. Saturday check out the Wind Cave, explore the Fish Creek Wash, check out Sandstone Canyon and lock in the campsite mentioned above (there’s also several other spots around this area that looked really promising). You could really even spend an entire weekend in Sandstone Canyon alone, but if you want to see as much as possible, try to follow the above agenda to maximize time and driving. Anza Borrego will definitely not disappoint, so many neat things to see and places to explore. Enjoy your time in Anza Borrego! As I’ll say at the end of every post, please do everything you can to keep these places pristine and help make them better. Pack it in, pack it out. Be respectful, hold others accountable and always leave no trace.