Anza-Borrego Junior Ranger Program
This program will deepen your seven- to twelve-year-olds’ appreciation of nature. It is the ultimate outdoor adventure for kids since parents are not allowed! On Saturday and Sunday during winter and spring, you can drop off your children at the visitor center for supervised activities in the park.
Kids receive a log book to record their visit. Best of all, the Junior Ranger program is free! Call the park for current times and a schedule at (760) 767–4205.
We just got back from a day trip to Borrego Springs. I'm always surprised by all the gems that exist in the desert; Borrego Springs was no exception.
We started our visit at the Visitor's Center, a really informative and interactive building hidden in the hill. It had a great view of the entire valley and Borrego Springs. We met with rangers to get recommendations on good hikes for our family (on this day, our family was me and my two kids 3 and 6). Please, get recommendations! Anza-Borrego is a HUGE park and I would have felt like I was wandering around the desert without their direction as many of the great spots for kids required driving to a location miles from the visitor's center. The visitor's center had a quite nice area about the geology, plate tectonics, and biology of the area. Many of the areas were interactive, and there was a Discovery Center in the back just for kids to learn. The park apparently is a popular place for field trips and they have stocked up on fun and educational activities for kids. My boys' favorite was trying to guess the pelts of animals from the area and then turning over the pelts to find out more information about each creature.
After speaking with the ranger about what type of hikes we like (adventurous, but gentle enough for my just turned 3-year-old to hike himself), we went out and had a picnic at one of the many tables near the visitor's center.
Then, it was back in the car to see the two hikes. First up, The Slot. This required an almost two mile drive on a dirt road (easily passable by my small two-wheel drive SUV). Once you reach the canyon, it's a short hike over the hill and then into the canyon. It was the perfect introduction to hiking slot canyons for kids!! Less than a mile, no steep areas, just fun scrambling, so I felt comfortable letting them explore. We hiked as far as we could with me being able to pick up my little guy (he was a bit moody as we went during nap time and wanted to be held), as the canyon gets progressively more thin. We then hikes back the way we came with both kids feeling brave and climbing a bit on their own. Now, if we had gone all the way through to the end of the canyon, there is an option to hike back up the ridge, but I think we still would have chosen to return through the slots - more fun, more shade, and less uphill.
The second recommended hike was Narrows Earth, a nature hike with interpretative guide that introduced the topics of plate tectonics and geology. It was a circle about .6 mile long. We learned about igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock as well as faults during the hike as multiple fault lines are clearly visible in this hike. The sign was incredible hard to see from the road; so watch carefully.
Tip: There were no bathrooms or tables at either trailhead. I highly suggest using the restrooms at the visitor's center before heading out. Also, this is a desert environment; bring sunscreen, wear hats, lots of water, and breathable layers. Prepare for wind as well, as this year gets hammered by high winds.
My husband thinks I have a knack for finding the most unusual vacation spots (of which he is always skeptical in the planning stages) but they turn out nothing short of fabulous! So I have earned the highly esteemed title and position of "head travel planner" in our family! (A little trust goes a long way hey!)
A weekend in Borrego Springs tops the list of strange yet wonderful places we have been!
We ventured into the nothingness of the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in the cooler month of November. Still, the sun was fierce and the shade....well....non existent. I was THAT mum that hovered over her children with lashings of sunscreen, and insisting on their wide brimmed hats!
That said, the evenings were stunning,the mornings crisp and invigorating, and the dark night skies showed us stars like you wouldn't believe!
We stayed at a great airbnb condo find, which was a treasure! Fabulous pool (shared with only one other condo) and positioned on the Anza Borrego Golf Course, with its meticulous green expanse like a cool welcoming oasis. Perfect for evening strolls, and morning jogs.
Now for the best bit....in terms of daily activities, if you are the type of family that likes planned, structured and artificial type experiences, stop reading here!
Borrego Springs is simply and refreshingly a tiny town in the desert. Think Radiator Springs in Disneys Cars movie!!! (My son said it a thousand times!!! We were almost waiting for Mater to rumble around each corner!!!) A town in the desert with miles of sand, scrub, cactus, and flat nothingness. BUT... stay with me here... rising out from the desolate earth surrounding this desert town were the most remarkable pieces of metal sculptural art I have ever seen. Huge whimsical creatures, dinosaurs and other prehistoric inspired beasts dot the landscape and beg for you to drive/cycle/walk to them, touch them (yes!) and photograph your kids standing wide eyed in awe of them! (or pictured pretending to be fed to them... ok maybe that was just us!)
Anyhow its hard to do justice in words of just how fabulous the art work of RIcado Breceda - and the fascinating story of this accidental artist...trust me its worth a visit.
It's free to roam the sites, and you can approach all sculptures. We even saw a group of people picnic/dining in the evening right beside one "beast!" Clearly waiting for the dark & starry skies to envelop their party! The kids loved running the dusty trails around the sculptures, and sizing up the teeth, claws, ears etc of each mammoth! Take plenty of H2O and snacks in the car (we packed an icy cooler for the day and enjoyed refreshments on hand) We also biked to many of the creatures nearer to our condo.
For further info: http://www.abdnha.org/borrego-springs-sculptures-of-ricardo-breceda.htm
Dining in Borrego Springs is limited. We enjoyed a Saturday night meal in the local hangout of Carlys. Huge servings of Americana food, happy locals, and a noisy albeit slightly bar like atmosphere...but fun all the same.
We also had a great mexican fill for lunch from the local Mexican take out. We carried it over to Christmas Circle (a lovely grassed park amid a traffic circle!!!) and enjoyed the elusive cool of the shade of the big trees, and a barefoot runaround for the kiddos.
The Visitor Centre within the bounds of the State Park was wonderful. One of those fabulous touch/feel/explore type exhibits, with many knowledgeable staff/volunteers to chat and quiz with our questions!
They set us on the trail for a morning hike within the park. The hiking was hot, and exposed (no shade), so was a little oppressive for our 2 yo in a backpack. But the older kids loved the scrambling of rocks, undulating trail, and quick glimpses of lizards and hawks soaring overhead in the vast blueness!
Overall a refreshing break from reality. City dwellers would get a lesson in quiet, starry skies, and open uncongested roads! Two nights was enough time to take in the treasures of the desert - if you like that kind of thing!
For info on our airbnb, please msg me!.
This is the biggest state park in the United States, with 600,000 acres of wildly rugged mountains (highest elevation 6,000 feet) and desert (elevation 40 feet), along with flora, fauna, and fossils dating back 540 million years. You will see mesquite, yucca, and smoke trees; cacti; and thousands of native plants and flowers.
Start your visit at the magnificent 7,000-square-foot visitor center, built into the hillside, with exhibits, maps, natural history books, a twenty-minute video presentation, and volunteers who are eager to help your family plan your desert experience.
There are nature walks, campfire programs, fossil programs, and guided hikes to choose from. The park is geared for off-road travel and exploration. The most dramatic and popular attraction is the spring wildflowers. Our favorite hikes include the Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail, a gentle 3-mile round-trip, as well as the Pygmy Trail, a 1-mile round-trip that leads to fifty short palm trees. Among the park’s many other points of interest: the Box Canyon Historical Monument, Coyote Canyon, the Culp Valley Overlook, the Elephant Tree Discovery Trail, the Mason Valley Cactus Garden, and the Vallecita Stagecoach Station.
San Diego County, with its rich Spanish and Mexican heritage and American spirit, is a world-class destination with an ideal climate, fantastic natural wonders, and enough excitement to create a wonderfully satisfying family adventure. Adios!
We spent 3 nights at the campgrounds here last week. We were in the more primitive sites, so we had a bit more space than the other sites. However, the other sites appeared to be well spaced out as well. During the week, the campgrounds are pretty empty, although the RV section was pretty full. We brought our bikes to ride around the campground. You can also ride them to the Visitor's Center, or you can drive or hike from the campgrounds. The Visitor's Center is very nice and very informative. I would highly recommend a stop to the Visitor's Center at the beginning of your trip. The campsite was clean with a fire pit and picnic table. The bathrooms are cleaned regularly. There is a store in town to pick up forgotten or needed items. There are 2 gas stations to fill up your tank. The town also has stores, hotels, restaurants, and a movie theater.
From our campsite, we could hike directly to Palm Canyon, which is a must see! It's about a 3 mile roundtrip hike that is easily done by toddlers and elderly alike. There are no steep elevation changes. We were there when the wildflowers were in bloom so we got to see beautiful desert flowers in purple, yellow, red and white. It was a real treat to see native palms and an oasis. The cacti were really neat, especially the ocotillo which have bright red/orange flowers. We saw some jack rabbits, but never did see the elusive borrego.
We drove out to Blair Valley to see Marshal South's home and the pictographs. The hike to Marshal South's home was a very steep 1 mile hike (2 miles roundtrip). The views were amazing. The kids loved exploring the small homestead and imaging what life would be like to live on top of a mountain out in the middle of the desert. The drive to the pictographs from Marshal South's home was about 2 miles. The hike to the pictographs was about 1 mile roundtrip on a level trail. The pictographs are on one rock. The road in Blair Valley is all dirt so be prepared and drive a 4-wheel or AWD if possible. We saw a coyote on the drive.
We hiked Palm Slot near the Calcite mine (off S22). This is not to be missed! From the road, the hike might be about 3 miles roundtrip. You can drive down the road toward the mine, take a sharp left at the bottom of the hill and drive until you get to the entrance to the slot. Hiking the slot is about 1/2 mile. We hiked from the main road (S22). The rock formations are amazing and walking through the slot was a fun experience for the kids. We saw bugs of all kinds. I even found a lacewing moth that is very rare (1st discovered in the early 1900s and then only seen once since then)- wow! We saw lizards of all kinds, a bird's nest and a sidewinder. We brought a picnic lunch to eat and found a nice shady spot to rest and enjoy lunch.
We drove to the Salton Sea, just because we didn't know when we'd ever see it again. Not much to see, except some dead fish on the beach. There were some pelicans and sanderlings. We would not visit the Salton Sea again.
We drove to Fonts Point (down Fonts Wash- off S22). This is a dirt road and you should have a 4-wheel drive, or at least AWD. The view from Fonts Point should not be missed! You get 360 degree views of the park. The badlands are just breathtaking! If you can catch the sunset here, you will not be disappointed!
The best time to go to Anza-Borrego is during the spring when the flowers are in bloom and the weather is still cool enough to hike. Fall is probably also a good time to visit. Be prepared with lots of water, sunscreen and a hat! Also know that the desert winds can pick up and be pretty fierce (60+ MPH at night while we were there)- make sure your tent and other items are secure so they don't blow away. The change in temperature can be pretty drastic- 40's at night and 80-90s during the day, so bring layers, especially a warm hat to wear at night/early morning. Summer is sweltering hot and winter is cold.