Anza-Borrego State Park : Planning your trip.

If you are planning a trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and you have never been here before, one of the first things to realize is that Anza-Borrego is not just one place, it is very many different places, vast, an immense area of badlands, eroded canyons, twisting washes, alluvial fans, and mountain peaks that stretch across 600,000 acres, from the mountains south of Palm Springs to the Mexican border.  Anza-Borrego State Park is a wonderful mixture of climatology, botany, zoology, geology, paleontology, astronomy, and history, all waiting to be explored.  The desert is full of life and color.

The first step in planning your visit will be to decide which part of the park you want to explore or what kinds of activities interest you most.  There are 500 miles of dirt roads in Anza-Borrego.  Many of them will require four-wheel drive, but there are plenty of explorations off of paved highways that you can take with a two wheel drive vehicle.  For hikers, there are more than one hundred miles of hiking trails and countless more miles to explore on foot in the washes, the canyons, and on the slopes of the mountains.   

Base Camp Borrego Springs

Borrego Springs is the logical place to base your trip.  There are many things to do within a one hour drive of Borrego Springs and all of Anza-Borrego is within a reasonable day trip. 

Accommodations and Camping

The Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce website is a good place to search for accommodations and RV parks.  If you are camping, you should know that you can camp along any of the park's dirt roads, as long as you park within one car length of the roadway itself, and follow park regulations.  It is important to note that you may not build fires on the ground or collect any wood or plant materials.

Finding Your Way Around

There is an excellent map of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that you can download directly from the state park's website that will help visualize where things are located.   If you plan to venture off on your own when you get here you will probably want to pick up a larger and more detailed map but this one will work very well in organizing your trip. 

anza borrego desert life

When To Visit

The busy season in Anza-Borrego stretches from October - early May, this is when temperatures are most pleasant in the lower elevations.  In the summertime the higher elevations can be very pleasant but the desert lowlands are very hot.  On the flipside, the higher elevations can be cold and snowy in winter.  To see average temperatures and precipitation in Borrego Springs ( elevation 597) and Ranchita ( elevation 4056) , as well as the record highs and lows, just click here.

What to See

There are several ways to plan your trip.  You can take a look at what is available in each part of the park (North - Central - South) for a driving-hiking experience or you can zero in on your areas of special interest.  These would include:

For Detailed Information

Books abound that will enhance your desert exploration experiences. Listed below are just a few of many titles available at our Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association Borrego Desert Nature Center at 652 Borrego Palm Canyon Drive in Borrego Springs.  Books that are available in our online store are linked below.

As a benefit of membership, the Association mails to its members a copy of The Sand Paper, a five times a year newsletter. The Sand Paper includes articles on myriad Anza-Borrego subjects including trails, history, Native Americans, plants, birds, animals, and more.

General Desert Exploration:

For general desert exploring, The Anza-Borrego Desert Region: A Guide to the State Park and Adjacent Areas of the Western Colorado Desert, by Lowell and Diana Lindsay, is a must. Those who are new to desert exploration, should carefully read the first three chapters.


Hiking in Anza-Borrego: Over 100 Half-Day Hikes, by Robin Halford. The title says it all. The walks are easy and not-so-easy, but meant to be brief, and Halford includes a few trails the others do not. 

Weekender's Guide: Points of Interest and Walks Along the Paved Roads of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, by Paul Johnson. Details.


Colorado Desert Wildflowers: A Guide to Flowering Plants of the Low Desert, Including the Coachella Valley, Anza-Borrego Desert, and Portions of Joshua Tree National Monument, by Jon Mark Stewart. A basic plant identification book. Arranged by flower colors.

Introduction to California Desert Wildflowers, by Philip A. Munz, revised edition, edited by Diane L. Renshaw and Phyllis M. Faber. A basic plant identification book, more comprehensive than Stewart. Arranged by flower colors. Details.

San Diego County Native Plants. By James Lightner. Second edition January 2006. A plant identification book arranged by plant families, with comprehensive photographs. Details.

California Desert Flowers: An Introduction to Families, Genera, and Species, by Sia Morhardt and Emil Morhardt. A plant identification book covering 24 of the most spectacular plant families. Comprehensive text and photographs.

The Jepson Desert Manual: Vascular Plants of Southeastern California. Bruce G. Baldwin et al., editors. A bible for botanists and serious amateurs. Not for neophytes.

Desert Wild Flowers, Revised Edition (1941), by Edmund C. Jaeger. A classic, long a favorite. Plant names may be out of date, but the anecdotal information is always interesting. Arranged by families. Black and white drawings. Details.

Geology and Paleontology

Geology of Anza-Borrego: Edge of Creation, by Paul Remeika and Lowell Lindsay. Geology and paleontology-oriented tours of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert: The Last Seven Million Years. Edited by George T. Jefferson and Lowell Lindsay.

The Rise and Fall of San Diego: 150 Million Years of History Recorded in Sedimentary Rocks, by Patrick Abbott.

Geology and Geothermal Resources of the Imperial and Mexicali Valleys, edited by Lowell Lindsay and William G. Hample. Tour roadlogs for the Imperial Valley and Mexicali Valley in Mexico.


Guide to Birds of the Anza-Borrego Desert, by Barbara W. Massey. Details.

San Diego County Bird Atlas, by Philip Unitt. Details.

DVD Better Bird Watching - videos, audio clips, and other information about birds of the southwest.

Native American Rock Art

The Forgotten Artist: Indians of Anza-Borrego and Their Rock Art, by Manfred Knaak. Excellent book - but out of print

Desert History

Old Time Cattlemen and Other Pioneers of the Anza-Borrego Area, by Lester Reed. Details.

Borrego Beginnings: Early Days in the Borrego Valley 1910-1960, by Phil Brigandi. Details.

Anza-Borrego A to Z: People, Places, and Things, by Diana Lindsay. The companion to The Anza-Borrego Desert Region. Available in our Borrego Springs Nature Center.