Girls Trip: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Day 3 of my girls trip with my friend Melissa led us to Borrego Springs, a town located 45 minutes away from Julian, CA. On our adventure, Hwy-76 East took us through a narrow winding mountainous road leading to Yaqui Pass Road, where there was nothing but 7 miles of desolate dry rocky landscapes through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Once we arrived at our destination, the day trip was filled with a 2.90 mile (round trip) hike at Borrego Palm Canyon Trailhead under the scorching 84°F sweltering sun with little shade. Then, we checked out some of the metal statues around the town before heading back to Julian. Here are some travel tips if you plan to make your way to the desert.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Travel Tips

Visit Visitor Centers:

Stop by one of the park's visitor centers for maps, information, and educational exhibits about the park's natural and cultural history.

Plan for Desert Conditions:

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park experiences extreme temperatures, so bring plenty of water, sun protection, and appropriate clothing.

Check Road Conditions:

Some areas of the park are accessible only by rugged dirt roads. Verify road conditions and suitability for your vehicle before setting out.

Explore the Wildflowers:

Visit during spring to witness spectacular wildflower blooms, but be aware of peak bloom times and locations.

Stargazing Opportunities:

Experience the park's night skies by camping or attending stargazing events, taking advantage of its designation as an International Dark Sky Park.

Discover Hidden Gems:

Explore slot canyons, palm oases, and other unique geological features throughout the park, but exercise caution and respect fragile ecosystems.

Stay Informed:

Check park conditions, closures, and regulations before your visit, as desert conditions can change rapidly.

Respect Wildlife:

Observe wildlife from a distance and avoid disturbing their habitats. Carry binoculars for safe viewing.

Plan Overnight Stays:

Camp under the stars at one of the park's campgrounds or reserve a spot at a nearby lodging option in Borrego Springs.

Leave No Trace:

Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash, minimizing impact on the environment, and respecting park regulations for a sustainable visit.

Gasoline Pro-Tip: 

Fill up on a full tank of gas before heading to Borrego Springs as there wasn’t a gas station in sight on our route. Also, you might need to bring motion sickness pills if you’re sensitive to curvy turns and changing elevation (like me). Dramamine saved the day and I’m so glad I had it on hand as I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the trip due to the nausea caused by the winding turns down the mountain.

Don’t forget to PIN this post! πŸ˜ƒ


Trip Recap: 

Our hike at Borrego Palm Canyon Trailhead was a fairly flat hike with slight elevation. The trail is considered “easy.” However, do not be fooled, the trail is no joke as it’s an extremely dry hike without much shade so, you’re faced to brace the desert elements. 

Sign transcribed:
The Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail leads to a palm oasis approximately 1 1/2 miles from here. Enjoy your hike, carry plenty of water, and watch for wildlife-Gambel's quail, Costa's hummingbird, black-tailed jackrabbit, and even Peninsular bighorn sheep.

Signs warned us that the hike was dangerous and rule of thumb, thanks to my friend Melissa, is to turn around when you’ve depleted half of your water supply. The signs below freaked us out a bit but we trekked on.

Again, the trail itself was not hard but once you’re under the blazing hot desert sun with hardly any shade, turn around if you start to feel heat exhaustion symptoms. According to the CDC, here’s what to look for: 
  • Heavy sweating.
  • Cold, pale, and clammy skin.
  • Fast, weak pulse.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Tiredness or weakness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
While the age ranges on this on the trail varied from parents with toddlers to middle aged folks, and even elderly hikers, it’s important to stress the fact that this is a dangerous trail if you’re unprepared with little water or if god forbid, you get lost and end up off trail. Heads up, cell signals are touch and go (specifically AT&T), and the heat rendered my iPhone 12 Mini useless saying I couldn’t use it until the phone’s temperature went back to normal. At that point, we turned around and headed back to the car.

The trail, while scary, provided beautiful meditative scenery, which I captured below. 

Pictured below, my “grandma hat” came in handy for this hike. 

Though we were both hot and I started to feel lightheaded half a mile from the end of the trail, with nothing but Dramamine and a KIND Maple Sea Salt bar in my system, we turned around as we didn’t want to kill ourselves to just to see the Palm Tree Oasis. Better safe than sorry as we would have had to walk back to the car under the noon sun. I told myself, “I’ll just watch the end of the hike on YouTube.” πŸ€£πŸ˜‚

After touring Borrego Springs, we made our way back to Julian where we enjoyed a well earned delicious lunch at Quecho Elevated Mexican Eatery. I had the two taco plate consisting of a veggie taco and potato taco with a side of rice and beans. Salsa verde and chips were complimentary. We both enjoyed watermelon margaritas. Melissa raved about her shrimp burrito and we both finished our plates.

After lunch, we walked around town and stopped into The Warm Hearth of Julian to pick up some souvenirs for our husbands. I bought Marie Sharp’s Verde Hot Sauce for my husband and a t-shirt for myself. Melissa picked up some bourbon honey and biscuit mix for her hubby, Jim. I couldn’t leave the town without hot apple cider, apple pie, and an apple turnover to enjoy at our Airbnb. 

We also stopped by Juliantla Chocolate to see if they had any souvenirs and snacks to take back to our rental. They had a vegan cake in their fridge and the place offered everything from Mexican candy to delicious truffles and chocolate covered nuts and pretzels.  

All in all, it was a great day filled with totally different scenery than the day before at Santa Ysabel East Preserve. I’m glad we went to the desert instead of hiking through the Julian mountains for the second time. We had our eyes set on hiking Volcan Mountain but there’s always next time. We concluded the night with our last hot tub + stargazing de-stress session, where I saw my first shooting star. I did a little packing as we had to check out and head back to Los Angeles the next morning. Back to reality. 

Vacation Recap Video:

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