Coming back from 4XFAR (read about that here) we were driving through Anza Borrego Desert State Park (California’s larges state park) and figure instead of wasting the gas and a two-hour trip we would break it up and get a camp in. As it would have it, we were already driving through the park and had a decent ides of where we wanted to go even though I had never been to Font’s Point Brice (Brice Weaver Photography) had been. I bring this up because I usually don’t advise route finding to new places in the desert at night.
But like I said Brice had been there and it is a popular destination so the routed is decent and marked plus the GPS gave us a solid route to it. Feeling confident we left the 4XFAR and proceeded into the desert. Coming from the Coachella Valley we took the 86 and made good time it’s not until you turn off and head the park that the roads get a little rough and we advise paying attention. Now the whole park was lit up with various camps and desert goers and off roaders, after all winter is desert season!
Desert season is the best time and an often-overlooked time to visit the park with a lot of focus being on the wildflower bloom, but winter is where it is at. Mild temperatures are what really make it so great with shorter sunny days in the 70’s there is ample time for quick hikes, off-roading and exploration. The nights dip down to the 30’s but a warm fire and the right clothes make all the difference and an enjoyable time, layers are key out here. But we are very lucky to be able to camp year-round here.
The camping options for this park a pretty great too! You have a few well-developed Campgrounds inside the park like Tamarisk Grove and Borrego Palm Canyon, these are your standard state park camp sites with bathrooms, showers, dumpsters and the like. These are pay sites and they can fill up fast so reserving them isn’t a bad idea. I definitely recommend them if you are new to the area, it is well worth being able to google it get directions and roll in safely at night, plus they have cool events and the staff is usually pretty helpful.
For those of you that have cut your teeth and feel a little more adventurous there are a bunch of undeveloped campgrounds like Blair Valley, these areas resemble a trail head and often are with a dirt lot and maintained road access and usually have a vault toilet there. These spots are great for experienced campers after all you are kind of on you own and will need to pack in all of your gear and water and back everything out including your trash. This kind of camping is fun, but you also need to be familiar with the park rules for dispersed and primitive camping. Some of the notable things is unlike most places you can have a fire just about anywhere, it just needs to be in a metal container, and you need to bring your own your own wood, no collecting.
And then of course there is my favorite camping which is just straight up primitive camping. For this you want a capable off-road vehicle and be ready to take care of yourself to include recovery gear because even jeeps can get in trouble out here. But I enjoy being on my own out here and the freedom we have at Anza Borrego (within reason).
Now no matter what type of camping you are doing be prepared for the desert even if you are just doing an “easy trip”. Proper clothing, extra water is at the top of my list but remember this too, cell service is spotty there, I had to climb a hill and hold my phone in the air to get one bar so my text would go out. That being said have an itinerary and leave it with a responsible adult who will call for help if you don’t contact them at a pre-determined time, that is your back up for no service. Have a map, I suggest San Diego Backcountry from Tom Harrison Maps. If you have more questions let us know, you can sign up for our backcountry skills classes and brush up on your skills for this region or we are always happy to help plan your next trip!