December 21, 2022 – January 3, 2023

Continuing our travels south, we spent two weeks over Christmas and New Years exploring California’s largest state park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and the charming desert town of Borrego Springs. Sadly, Santa brought me a lump of coal and I was sicker than a dog with Norovirus (a particularly infectious stomach virus) for four days over Christmas. That reduced our sightseeing time, but we still managed to have a great time exploring this gorgeous area.

Fun Christmas Eve bike ride into the Borrego Badlands of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. Five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas and many miles of hiking trails provide visitors with an unparalleled opportunity to experience the wonders of the California Desert. The park is named for Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word borrego, or bighorn sheep. The park features washes, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti and sweeping vistas. Visitors may also have the chance to see roadrunners, golden eagles, kit foxes, mule deer and bighorn sheep as well as iguanas, chuckwallas and the red diamond rattlesnake.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park website
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park protects 600,000 acres of Colorado Desert in Southern California

Most people visit Anza-Borrego to camp, hike, drive 4×4 roads, bike, stargaze, and view the desert flora and fauna. The park is especially popular for its miles of wildflowers during super blooms. Most of the park’s 600,000+ acres are free to visit; however, a $10 per vehicle per day use fee is collected at the following locations: the park’s visitor center, developed campgrounds, The Slot, Hellhole Canyon, Mountain Palm Springs, Bow Willow, and Horse Camp. Click here for a map of the park and here for the park’s website. There are several campgrounds scattered throughout the park and the small town of Borrego Springs has numerous lodging, shopping and dining options as well as several nice looking golf courses.

Anza-Borrego is massive. This screenshot of the park’s map only covers about 1/3 of the park and the area where we spent all of our time.

We spent four nights boondocking at Yaqui Pass in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park before moving to an RV resort in Borrego Springs for the holidays. We enjoyed beautiful weather for most of our visit and spent our time hiking and biking in the park as well as exploring the charming desert resort town.

End of day at our Yaqui Pass boondocking site

Tamarisk Grove Campground Trails

Located just a few miles down the road from our camp at Yaqui Pass, the Tamarisk Grove Campground had a couple short, but nice trails immediately across the highway. The Cactus Loop Trail is a 1.0 mile loop up a hillside passing a variety of, you guessed it, cactus. The Yaqui Well Trail is a short (but somewhat rocky) 1.6 mile out and back hike through a desert nature trail to a historic watering hole. We were able to park for free in a large pull-out just outside the Tamarisk Grove Campground. These are both lovely little trails if you are passing through the area. Of the two, we felt the Cactus Loop was the more interesting hike.

Blair Valley Trails

Blair Valley is a quiet area on the western side of Anza-Borrego. It is located just a few miles SE of the small town of Shelter Valley off Hwy S-2. A dirt road makes an 8-mile loop through Blair Valley and Little Blair Valley. I don’t recommend the family sedan for this road, but most vehicles with reasonable clearance will be fine. The area offers hiking trails, primitive camping, and cultural and natural history resources. There are a handful of short trails off the loop. We hiked the Marshal South Trail and the Morteros Trail.

The trailhead for the Marshal South Home is located on the east side of the valley where Blair Valley Road begins to turn north around a ridge. The 1.3-mile roundtrip trail climbs 450 feet to a homestead built in the 1930s by author Marshal South. South lived on this waterless mountain for 17 years with his wife and children. We ended up enjoying this hike more for its views and desert flora than for the ruins.

Jason exploring the ruins of Yaquitepec, the Marshal South homestead

About a mile north of the Marshal South trailhead was the Morteros trail. Just over a half-mile long, this trail visits an area once inhabited by Kumeyaay Indians. With a little searching you’ll find numerous rocks where the Kumeyaay used stones to grind seeds.

Biking Into the Borrego Badlands

With 500 miles of dirt roads, Anza-Borrego offered almost countless destinations for us with our ebikes. I tried to avoid the busiest 4×4 roads and anything that looked too rocky. On Christmas Eve, we enjoyed a 14.5 mile ride into the Borrego Badlands through San Felipe Wash and Rainbow Wash. The route took took us to just below Fonts Point, a popular overlook in the park. The 4×4 roads were quite sandy and at times it was a real challenge to keep from face planting in deep sand (even with our 4″ fat tires). This ride was definitely at the limits of my strength and ability due to the sand, but we had a blast. The Badlands were gorgeous, we only saw one other person, and we got to see some wildflowers in bloom and a tarantula making his way across the road!

In Rainbow Wash below Fonts Point
Our bike route into the Borrego Badlands is shown above in green

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The Adventure Continues

Join us for our next post as we explore Borrego Springs’ iconic Sky Art statues at Galleta Meadows. And don’t forget to check out our Amazon RV and Adventure Gear recommendations. We only post products that we use and that meet the Evans Outdoor Adventures seal of approval. By accessing Amazon through our links and making any purchase (even things as simple as toothpaste!), you get Amazon’s every day low pricing and they share a little with us. This helps us maintain this website and is much appreciated!

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