The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California’s largest state park, so there is a ton to explore. Time is limited if you are a weekend adventurer like me, so we need to plan our adventures carefully to make sure we have a chance to see everything we want. Even though this park is huge, it is still totally possible to spend a weekend in Borrego Springs and see a few of the highlights in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park!
During my weekend road trip to Anza-Borrego, I stayed in the small town of Borrego Springs. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park literally surrounds the town, so it is the perfect place to stay. It’s really the only place to stay unless you plan on camping inside the park. By the way, camping on the side of the road is allowed in Anza-Borrego! If you feel like roughing it in your van, jeep, or tent, feel free!
In this post, I will bring you through the perfect itinerary for a weekend in Borrego Springs and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
How to Spend a Weekend in Borrego Springs and
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
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Night One: Arrive in Borrego Springs
It only takes about 2 ½ hours to get to Borrego Springs from Orange County (and over 3-4 hours from Los Angeles). Half of the trip is interstate driving, and the other half is mountain driving. Expect to drive through some curvy mountain roads and take a Dramamine if you get car sick!
If you are arriving at night, just plan on getting settled in at the hotel and relaxing for the night. There’s a big day ahead in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Where to Stay
I booked the Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort simply because it was one of the few hotels in my budget and the fact that it is a pet-friendly hotel that had a low pet fee. A pet fee of only $25 for the entire stay is just unheard of. Even though Anza-Borrego Desert State Park does not allow pets on the trail, I still wanted to bring my pup for a nice little family getaway.
The Palm Canyon Hotel also has an RV Resort and they rent these super cool retro trailers! You can check them out here.
Because of my last minute booking, I didn’t have much time to research this hotel so I had low expectations. While checking in I was very surprised. This wasn’t a little rinky-dink place with no amenities and crappy service. No, this was a cute little resort with real amenities! I am a sucker for little details and the fact that they gave me a bottle of water and a cookie while checking in just made my day.
The hotel is absolutely adorable. From the outside, each room is basically something you would find in an old western town. The song “Wild Wild West” kept going through my mind every time I was there.
Day One: Explore the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Downtown Borrego Springs: Breakfast
The tiny “downtown” area of Borrego Springs is just 2 minutes down the street from the Palm Canyon Hotel. There are a few breakfast spots to choose from, and I recommend trying Red Ocotillo. I actually didn’t know until now that this is the number one restaurant in Borrego Springs on Trip Advisor. The food is great and the prices are average. They also serve lunch and dinner.
Anza-Borrego State Park Visitor Center
Next stop is the Anza-Borrego State Park Visitor Center. You will need to pay a $10 entrance fee before parking. The reason I like stopping at the visitor center is to talk to the Park Rangers to get an idea of what the park highlights are and check if any areas are closed.
Just so you are aware, most of the roads in Anza-Borrego require a 4×4 vehicle. I do not drive a 4×4, so I did plan this weekend trip accordingly.
Borrego Palm Canyon Trail
Start off your day in Anza-Borrego by hiking the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail. It is down the street from the Visitor Center and accessed through the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground. You will need to show the ranger your parking ticket. If you skipped the Visitor Center, pay the $10 fee.
The Borrego Palm Canyon Trail is a short 3-mile hike that is one of the most popular hikes in Anza-Borrego. There are no difficult areas in this hike since it is mostly flat. You will find a few rocky sections and a small creek to walk through, but nothing drastic. Even kids were doing this hike.
The trail is clearly marked from the parking lot, so you will not have any issues finding it. Once you are on the trail there are a few sections where you could easily lose the trail (like I always do), but it’s easy to get back on it again if you do. Watch for fallen trees, logs, and rocks that have been strategically placed to guide you along the way.
There is a chance you could see Bighorn Sheep here, but unfortunately, I did not see any. I did see some hummingbirds, but that was about it for wildlife.
The end of the hike is the best part…the palm tree oasis.
At the palm tree oasis, you will find the only palm trees native to California: the California fan palms. They are actually the largest palms native to North America. They are giants! I love how shaggy they are!
After the hike, you will head back the same way you came in. There is an alternate route shortly after leaving the oasis if you want to try it. I did not take this route, but it appears that it goes on the other side of the creek and ends up at the same trailhead.
Downtown Borrego Springs: Lunch
Just a 5-minute drive back to town there is a Mexican restaurant called Los Jilberto’s. I ordered the two steak tacos platter which hit the spot! It was surprising to find decent Mexican food in such a little town!
The Slot Canyon
The next and last stop for the day is The Slot. This might just be your favorite part of the day. It definitely was mine. I have never experienced anything like this before…a narrow siltstone canyon that snakes its way through the California desert.
Hiking The Slot is not difficult at all, but there are some narrow sections in the canyon where you may need to slide your way through. Nothing dangerous though!
After you park, look to the canyons at the edge of the parking lot where you see large craters in the ground below you. From here, walk to the right and you will find a small dirt trail. Once you are on the trail you can take a left down into the canyon.
It’s only a mile hike out and back, or up to two miles depending on which route you want to take. You can hike a ½ mile through the canyons until it opens up to a road and hike the same way back. Or you could continue through to the Jeep road, make your way up the hill, and hike back along the top of the canyon.
I liked the canyons so much that I decided to hike the same way back so I could experience it all over again. The view from the top would probably be pretty awesome, so I will definitely take that route the next time I hike The Slot.
Night Two: Hang out at the hotel
After exploring enough of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for the day, settle in at the hotel and take a break. Another awesome little detail about the Palm Canyon Hotel is that they provide two free drink tickets, and sometimes they have live music playing!
Order some dinner at the hotel, get a few drinks, and enjoy the live entertainment.
Day Two: The Galleta Meadows Metal Sculptures
Downtown Borrego Springs: Breakfast
Back in town, you can try Carmelita’s Mexican Grill for breakfast. I recommend trying the chilaquiles or the huevos rancheros. Be aware…the plates come with a lot of food!
The Galleta Meadows Metal Sculptures
A weekend in Borrego Springs is not complete without a stop at the metal sculptures in Galleta Meadows. Check out this map or ask for one at your hotel so you can pick out a few sculptures that you want to see. The one sculpture I had my eye on was the Serpent.
You will find the Galleta Meadows Metal Sculptures while driving on Borrego Springs Road. They are not difficult to find at all. Drive north on Borrego Springs Road when you are coming from town you will be able to spot them from the road.
You can either pull off to the side of the road when you spot one that you like, or you can drive through the dirt road to get closer to the sculpture. All of the sculptures that I looked at had dirt roads leading up to them. I have read about a few people getting their car stuck in these dirt roads, but I did not have any issues with this. It could depend on the season, but if you are not comfortable just park on the side of the road.
There are so many sculptures that you may not have a chance to see every single one. I know I am definitely adding this to my SoCal bucket list.
The Fruit Stands
Make one last quick stop before heading home at one of the local fruit stands. It is normal to see the fruit stands unattended, so bring exact change so you can leave the money in a jar. I bought a whole bag of around 10 grapefruits for only $3. The stand that I stopped at is SeaView on the corner of Henderson Canyon Rd and DiGiorgio Rd, but you can find several in the area.
That sums up this awesome weekend in Borrego Springs and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park! Multiple trips are definitely needed in order to really see everything in this park, it is massive!
Is the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park on your bucket list?