For those desert wanderers really looking to get away from the crowds, the Anza-Borrego region should be on your bucket list.
Located 150 miles southeast of Los Angeles (and only 80 miles northeast of San Diego), come for the quirky town of Borrego Springs and make it your launching point to further explore the natural offerings of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Easily access over 100 miles of hiking trails, or explore the terrain by 4×4, to explore over 660,000 hectares of protected desert including badlands, slot canyons, palm groves, and plenty of cactus dotted vistas in California’s largest state park.
Borrego Springs offers varied options to cater to most travelers’ tastes. What you won’t find here are traffic lights and big box stores – both opposed by the community and which add to the charm and low-key nature of the town. But don’t let that make you think you won’t find luxury resorts, spas, golf courses, dining options, and a burgeoning arts scene – the town offers them all.
Where to Stay in Borrego Springs: the Best Boutique Hotels & Airbnbs Near Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
A variety of vintage RVs are available at Palm Canyon Hotel & Resort. The family-friendly resort also offers hotel rooms, multiple pools and hot tubs.
For family-friendly Old West vibes, complete with an on-site saloon and general store, Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort is a comfortable spot to dust off your boots after a day of desert exploration. Soak up some sun in one of the property’s palm tree lined pools, or admire the night sky from one of the many hot tubs. The hotel rooms are airy and updated, or opt for a vintage trailer or airstream with a BBQ and your very own fire pit.
For a mid-century throwback – complete with Rat Pack history – The Palms at Indian Head will transport you back to the 1950s. This total time-capsule of a boutique hotel has an Olympic-sized pool and hot tub for catching the rays or night skies, plus an on-site steakhouse for dining in style. Vintage vibes galore its beautiful location make this our favorite lodging option in town.
Our favorite lodging spot in town is the vintage time-capsule, The Palms at Indian Head in Borrego Springs, CA.
For ultimate relaxation Borrego Valley Inn has all the amenities for a pampered desert stay. This Santa Fe-style property feels like a desert oasis, complete with a fountain-filled courtyard and private patios. Rooms ooze with southwestern charm and are well-equipped at this adults-only sanctuary. Relax in the peaceful pools, one of which is clothing optional (goodbye tan lines), or hot tubs scattered around the property.
Airbnbs in Borrego Springs abound in town as well. For mid-century inspo on a quiet cul-de-sac The Hummingbird Haven sleeps up to 6. The property has a private pool and hot tub backed up against the state park, offering direct access to trails and views for days (or nights). If you want to be in the middle of it all, Cactus & Stars is one block off the town’s main circle and walking distance to town’s shops and restaurants. Room for up to 4 guests to enjoy a private backyard complete with firepit and games. Cheeky California vibes at the Borrego Surf Club with lots of room for up to 4 guests. While the surf boards may just be decor, you can relax in the onsite pool and hot tub to get your water fix.
Where to Dine: the Best Places to Eat & Drink in Borrego Springs, CA
For pub grub, saddle up at Big Horn Burgers & Shakes located at the Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort. Catch your favorite team’s game or some live music here too while you work your way through a craft beer or specialty cocktail – for a local twist on a classic try the tequila old fashioned.
For a classic steakhouse experience while in town, Coyote Steakhouse at The Palms at Indian Head is THE place to be. Enjoy fine-dining by candlelight complete with live piano entertainment on the weekends to transport you to the Golden Age of Hollywood era. From the same owners, Red Ocotillo offers a more casual dining atmosphere with a lovely patio. The organic garden-to-table menu offers fresh takes on American dishes, best enjoyed during their daily happy hour.
For all things wood-fired Kesling’s Kitchen will have you inspired. The menu changes daily and hours are until the kitchen runs out. Also available is grab and go from the counter and all menu items can be prepared to go if you would rather picnic under the open desert skies. Dishes center around the kitchen’s wood fired Mugliani oven, so expect smoked, baked, and roasted plates on rotation.
Insider tip: In and around town you may see fruit stands, some of which are left unattended. Make sure to carry some small bills with you if you want to purchase some uber fresh and local snacks for your journey.
What to Do in Borrego Springs, CA: An Expansive Outdoor Sculpture Museum, Super Blooms and Stargazing
Artist Ricardo Breceda’s large scale sculptures can be found throughout the Borrego Springs area.
The expansive desert landscape is the real draw for visitors to this part of the desert, so take the time to explore at your own speed.
Admire the work of metal sculptor Ricardo Breceda’s large scale pieces installed throughout the desert town’s landscapes. The 130 sculptures offer a variety of prehistoric, mythical, and regional animals and are hard to miss, yet difficult to see all in one day! Pick up a map with GPS coordinates for all the sculptures at the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association shop in town. Our favorite? The sea dragon that spans both sides of the road of course – visit at golden hour or sunset for the best lighting and vibe.
If visiting during spring do not miss the seasonal main attraction: the wildflower blooms. The showiness of the spring bloom is related to the winter rainfall, thus varies year by year (usually best viewed late February to early March). Consult the status of the wildflower bloom online or call the park’s hotline at 760-767-4684 for updates on desert species such as barrel cactus, apricot mallow, and wild heliotrope for a magical landscape of swaying/mesmerizing blooms.
The outdoor attractions don’t end when the sun goes down. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is an International Dark Sky Park as of 2018, and works hand in hand with the town of Borrego Springs to protect this stretch of sky in the southern California desert. Revel in open desert views during the day and the star-filled skies at night.
Further Exploring the Anza Borrego Desert: Hiking & Off-Roading
The 3-mile trek to Borrego Palm Canyon, California’s third largest palm oasis, is well worth your time.
Adventure through over 600,000 acres of pristine desert ecology in California’s largest state park. Anza Borrego State Park offers many self-guided trails and a portion of the famed Pacific Crest Trail even traverses the park’s peaks and canyons. Stop by the Visitor Center at the west end of Palm Canyon Drive for up to date park information.
Trekking the 2.9 mile Borrego Palm Canyon trail is highly recommended for an easy but rewarding trek. This mostly flat loop takes you through an amazing native palm oasis (California’s third largest) and waterfall tucked away in a rocky gorge. Easily accessible from town and showcases interesting natural features – keep your eyes peeled for bighorn sheep!
The Slot hiking trail is a highlight of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. This well-trafficked 2.3 mile loop offers incredible views of the siltstone formations caused by flash floods, some of which reach up to 40 feet in height. Squeeze through a few of the narrower shoulder width sections as you follow the winding route of the once flowing ravine. The trail is a quick 15 mile drive southeast from town and well worth it.
Sunset at Font’s Point, accessible by a 4-mile dirt road. 4×4 highly recommended for this adventure.
Much of the park’s rugged landscape is only accessible with a 4×4 vehicle which offers the ultimate escape into the stillness of the surroundings. Borrego Springs-based California Overland provides public and private off-road desert adventures including stargazing and overnight camping tours (complete with telescopes and a night-sky tour with knowledgeable astronomers).
If your car is able to off-road, the Anza Borrego is an endless playground. A must-see is the off-road journey to Font’s Point, whose overlook at the end provides one of the best views in Southern California. Go for sunrise to beat the crowds, or head up for sunset with friends and a picnic. Additionally, explore Fish Creek Wash, an easy trail with access to some of the regions best hikes – like the Wind Caves Trail – or simply stop and climb some rocks for stunning views of the desert landscape.
Take it from us: these OHV buggies are the most thrilling way to experience the Anza Borrego Desert.
Last, to really take off-roading to the next level, Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area offers 85,000 acres of the region’s varied desert terrain by 4×4 or ATV (though note that ATV’s are not allowed in the state park). Arrange a rental from Ironwoods Off-Road Rental for a true adrenaline rush where rental vehicles come loaded with GPS maps to route you through the desert. While exploring, don’t miss these other points of interest: Devil’s Slide, Pumpkin Patch, Shell Reef, and Blowsand Hill.