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A Day Trip Diary: Anza Borrego Desert State Park

A Day Trip Diary: Anza Borrego Desert State Park

So, originally, this trip idea was to be an overnight stay somewhere secluded.  My husband was just coming off a month out to sea, and he requested a ‘quiet’ getaway with hiking.  I looked into Palm Springs and Joshua Tree as well.  The spring season is the very best time to visit the desert before it gets too hot, so hotels with suites were booked up, and affordable Air Bnb’s were not available either.  So, a long day trip it had to be (which is decidedly more exhausting than relaxing, but, still fun – sorry husband)!

On the Road…

I decided on the Anza-Borrego Desert because it is only a two hour drive from our home, and since San Diego has had a bit more rain than usual due to El Nino, the desert was rumored to be particularly pretty this Spring.

Desert Blooms
Desert Blooms

The desert is only about 60 miles from San Diego, but a big portion of the drive is winding, so be alert.  The descent into the desert from the mountains allows for stunning views as you make your way into town.

The town of Borrego Springs is surrounded by the Park.  You can find a grocery store, hotels, a handful of restaurants, and the Nature Center on the main drag.  There was a farmer’s market in the grassy square that day, so we bought a tamale and let Estelle crawl around while we enjoyed the beautiful views.

Next, we stopped at the local grocer for milk and sandwiches to take along, and then headed into the Nature Center.

I wanted to shop for merchandise in the Nature Center, but as it turns out, they set us up with an itinerary for our day in the National Park, as well.  From my pre-trip research, I knew I wanted to hike The Slot, the Palm Oasis, and see the crazy desert art.  They ladies at the Nature center set us up with a marked map, and we were off.

                                                              First Stop:  The Slot

The Slot

Easy hike, but a bit difficult to get the baby through some tight squeezes.  We ended up carrying her in arms through most of it since she couldn’t fit through in the baby carrier.  We had to ‘pass the baby’ through in some spots!  BUT, man, it was worth it.  A walking toddler could do this hike with a little help.  It took us about 30 minutes to do the whole thing.  This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.  Read more about The Slot here.

Second Stop:  The Sculptures

The Serpent

It was nap- time, so we put the baby into the car, and drove around to get a look at the life-sized metal animal sculptures scattered around Borrego Springs.  They are beautiful, haunting, and spectacular to look at.  The nature center gave us a map marked with the locations of the sculptures, and I think we saw them all.  Be sure not to miss the serpent – you and the kids will be amazed!  There are places to stop and pull-in right next to all of the structures, so  touring in the car is a breeze.  Learn more about the Skyart sculptures by Ricardo Breceda here.

The Palm Oasis

Final Stop: The Palm Desert Oasis Hike

This hike was a bit longer – about 4 miles total.  It begins very near the Visitor’s Center (which I’m sorry to say we did not have time to visit, but I hear is fantastic).  The hike winds through the desert, and ends at a Palm Tree Oasis – complete with a beautiful little waterfall.  Kids could have fun playing in the water. It is an out and back hike, with the option of a loop.

There are big warning signs at the beginning of the hike that urge you to bring A GALLON of water with you, as people have died on this hike during the summer.  Sunscreen was essential, but the desert temps in March were in the 70’s, so no need for gallons of water.  In the summer, this trail can reach 120 degrees, so yeah, why would you be out there?

Anyway, this was a great hike.  Very easy, and it is always nice to hike to something semi-exciting at the end! This took us 2 hours to complete.

Then, we headed home.  We went through Julian on the way back, but decided not to stop as it was raining.  Another trip in the making!

There are a TON of hikes to do in Borrego – go to the Visitor’s Center for a complete map.  

Also, I had absolutely no cell service for most of the trip.  Yes, I was sad that I couldn’t Facebook or Reddit browse while the baby slept and we were driving home!  

The desert it still pretty comfortable right now, so why not pack up the car and take a trip?



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  1. Amy

    This is a definite keeper for me for next time we hit the desert. Well done!!!

    1. abbyh1384

      Yay! Thanks Amy!

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