I grew up in the desert. And then I moved to Florida. There is an age-old question of what is worse- hot and humid, or hot and dry? I love to hear people say “ya, but its a dry heat.” I heard it a lot from Floridians who had never experienced that dry heat. I thought for sure that when I moved west, I would find more people who understood that 125 degree hot winds blowing dust around and cracking the skin under your toes was no better than muggy wet air, but I was wrong.
Most people, on both coasts, seem to believe that humidity is more intolerable. Personally, I’d like to move to the northwest, or Alaska, where its cold and rainy all the time- at least for a little while. But there is something special and interesting and different about the desert. Especially as the weather heats up to those record levels.
Anza-Borrego State Park is one of my favorite representations of “the desert.” It reminds me of a cartoon, where coyotes chase road runners, sunsets are glorious and colorful, and iconic plants like ocotillo and barrel cacti are everywhere.
I know this isn’t the time of year that many want to be in the desert. Most of us are thinking about high altitudes and alpine lakes. But if you’ve never experienced it, this is the time to do it. Sleep during the day and hike at sunrise and sunset, listening to howling in the distance and watching for eye shines. Its an awesome experience to leave the rain fly of your tent behind (or your tent altogether), and stay up late looking into the depths of the starry night sky. The best part of Anza-Borrego is that you can camp just about anywhere inside the park. As long as your fire is in a container, you can have one. You can get out and away from all the other people enjoying the park, and experience the desert by yourself.
Anza-Borrego State Park
LocationBorrego Springs, CA
Activity GuideCar Camping, Backcountry Camping, Hiking, Wildflower and Wildlife Viewing
Anza-Borrego State Park is the largest state park in California, with 600,000 acres of land. It surrounds the town of Borrego Springs, CA, but has relaxed rules about your camping location. Its a nice mix of close amenities and desert solitude.
- Open Camping
- 4WD Vehicle Trails
- Borrego Springs offers restaurants, general stores, hotels, and a beautiful green circle, if needed
- Established Campgrounds with RV hookups, water, bathrooms, and fire pits
- ABSP is excellent for wildflower viewing earlier than most other locations. Peak season is late February to early March.
- The California Fan Palm is the only palm indigenous to the state, and can be seen in several oases in the park. You may get lucky and see a Bighorn Sheep in one of these areas as well.
- Butte’s Pass is a lovely area to camp if you have a 4WD or high clearance vehicle (deep sand is your biggest issue). There is a beautiful slot canyon in this area to explore.
- Rattlesnakes are residents of this desert park, so stay aware, especially in the hot times of year. Stay aware of where you step, and stay on established trails to avoid encounters. If you see one, back away.
- Always practice Leave No Trace ethics, even though there are less rules and regulations in this area. Please dispose of all waste properly.
- Julian is a cute small town in the mountains right outside the park. It is known for its apple pie, and is very cute to explore on the way to or from your desert experience. Often, the weather is much cooler because of the elevation change, and it is interesting to see the difference between the two adjacent areas.