Looking for things to do in Borrego Springs? If you’re hoping for a quiet weekend getaway from Southern California, you’ll love this wide open, desolate desert landscape, I just know it! Keep on reading for everything you need to know about my new favorite area in San Diego County.
Borrego Springs is that quirky desert town everyone forgets about it (although not as eccentric as Salvation Mountain and Slab City!). It’s laid back and unpretentious, with fabulous night skies and a super funky art scene.
I imagine Borrego Springs is what Palm Springs was like decades ago — pristine desert landscapes, super starry dark skies, crystal clear air, extraordinary spring wildflowers, and oases full of cacti and palm trees. The entire town is completely surrounded by Anza Borrego Desert State Park — the largest state park in California!
On our drive over from Salvation Mountain, my husband actually asked me why I picked Borrego Springs as our next road trip stop. And honestly? I don’t know why! I had heard of and seen photos of Anza Borrego Desert State Park before, so when I saw it on the map, I kinda randomly picked it!
Little did we know that these 3 days in Borrego Springs would be some of our favorites of our entire Southern California desert road trip! It’s not as popular as nearby Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park, and I kinda like it this way! Let’s keep Borrego Springs our little secret desert oasis. Aka don’t tell all your friends about it! 😉
It makes for such a serene weekend getaway from a whole bunch of spots in Southern California! So if you’re looking to get outta the hustle and bustle, head on over here — there’s tons of things to do in Borrego Springs to keep you busy but not too busy!
While there’s actually a whole slew of things to do in Borrego Springs to fill up a whole weekend or more, we loved spending time relaxing by the pool. Especially when the heat of the desert crept in come afternoon. It was the perfect mix of exploration and relaxation!
Pre-Travel Guide to Borrego Springs
Weather and When to Go
If you wanna see and do all the things in Borrego Springs, I highly recommend visiting between late October and early April. This is when you’ll find the temps a bit cooler, and not as scorching hot (the summer months, from May to September, commonly see temps soaring past 100°F – ack!). To put things in perspective, December and January see average winter daytime temps of around ~70°F, so yeah, it never really actually gets cold cold here.
I mean, this is the desert we’re talking about! And like most desert towns (Palm Springs included), Borrego Springs is hot and dry. The whole area sees very little rain, with the tiny bit it does receive from December to March (but really, it’s hardly much).
Temperatures are high, humidity is often low, and the sky is a clear deep blue color. We hardly saw a cloud in the sky our entire visit — it was marvelous!
For reference, we visited in late March, and while the temps were starting to heat up, it wasn’t unbearable. There were lots of desert wildflowers which I absolutely loved (despite no super bloom), which gave the desert some much needed vivid color. It was so quiet and peaceful compared to our weekend in bustling Palm Springs, and we felt like we had the entire desert to ourselves at times!
A bunch of hotels and restaurants even close entirely during the hot summer months, as it’s just not safe to truly welcome visitors. The desert is just too damn hot — blame those extreme temps!
Weather in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
With all this being said, the weather surrounding Borrego Springs — in Anza Borrego Desert State Park — is actually quite varied. This is due to the fact that there’s significant elevation changes within the park (makes sense, the park is HUGE) and the fact that Anza Borrego is influenced by Pacific weather patterns. Because of this, snow on the mountain peaks in Borrego during the late fall, winter, and even early spring are quite common!
And then you gotta think about flooding because yup, desert flash floods can occur any time of year! Did you know powerful thunderstorms happen in the desert? Don’t fret — this doesn’t happen often, with the late summer monsoon season (July to September) being the most common months for this occurrence. This isn’t a major concern for Borrego Springs itself, but at higher elevations within Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
If you’re doing some major exploring, always keep an eye on the weather, and don’t go into areas that are susceptible to flash flooding if the weather is questionable. You can always ask the visitors center to be sure!
Anza Borrego Super Bloom
Imagine beds and beds of wildflowers within the desert! It’s glorious! Pinks, purples, and yellows galore!
The Anza Borrego super bloom typically occurs between late January to early March — if there’ll be one! Unfortunately, you can’t expect there to be this large burst of flowers in the desert every year. A super bloom only occurs if there’s been ample rain in the area, which wasn’t the case when we visited (despite visiting in prime super bloom time).
There are websites which track the specifics of the super bloom and even predict if and exactly when they will occur, so check that out if you want specifics ahead of time! The NPS has a page dedicated to wildflower updates as well. There’s even an Anza Borrego wildflower hotline you can call to check for updates: (760)767-4684. Seeing a super bloom here will always and forever be on my California bucket list!
Where is Borrego Springs?
San Diego County! Can you believe it?!
It’s a world away from SoCal beach life, completely surrounded by the 600,000+ acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and multiple mountain ranges!
It’s within the extreme western desert and only 40 miles from the Mexican border! Besides the Anza-Borrego desert, Borrego Springs is surrounded by the Salton Sea to the east, San Jacinto mountains to the north, and the Cleveland National Forest to the northwest.
Due to its remote desert location, Borrego Springs doesn’t see as many visitors as the more popular desert hotspots like Joshua Tree and Palm Springs. Fine by me! But it does however make for a quiet weekend getaway from so many popular spots in Southern California.
- From Julian: 45 minutes | 30 miles
- From Palm Springs: 1 ½ hours | 85 miles
- From San Diego: 2 hours | 85 miles
- From Joshua Tree: 2 hours | 115 miles
- From Orange County: 2 ½ hours | 130 miles
- From Los Angeles: 2 ½ hours | 150 miles
How to Get to Borrego Springs
If you’re coming from Southern California, you’re not terribly far from Borrego Springs. But if you’re coming from further afield, you’ll first need to get yourself to California of course!
Thankfully, SoCal is dotted with a whole slew of airports, including:
- From Palm Springs International Airport: 1 ½ hours | 80 miles
- From San Diego International Airport: 2 hours | 90 miles
- From John Wayne (Santa Ana) Airport: 2 ½ hours | 135 miles
- From Los Angeles International Airport: 3 hours | 160 miles
How to Get Around
Due to its remote location, you’ll undoubtedly need a car (either rented or your own if you’re coming from your home in SoCal). There’re actually only a few main roads in Borrego Springs, which all converge at Christmas Circle (a huge roundabout — pay close attention because we missed plenty of turns here).
And get this → there’s ZERO traffic lights in town! Or traffic for that matter (at least when we visited). Why? The town is protected from light pollution since it’s an International Dark Sky Community and bright lights are just not allowed (way more on stargazing later).
Hot Tip: If you wanna get around Anza Borrego Desert State Park with ease and see all the hotspots, definitely consider renting a 4×4.
We didn’t realize that most of the attractions in the park were only reachable by a four-wheel-drive vehicle, and sadly missed out on them! Now you know (and we know) for next time! I’m so bummed we missed the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves because of this!
How Long to Visit Borrego Springs
We stayed 3 nights, and had two full days in the town and park (plus some additional time on our first and last day). I will say that we definitely relaxed way more than usual, and were still able to see a whole bunch of things to do in Borrego Springs.
If you aren’t renting a 4×4 and don’t have tons of time, you could probably see and do all the things we did in 1 1/2 days or so. If you wanna truly explore Anza-Borrego Desert State Park as well as Borrego Springs, I recommend a full 3-4 days. Remember, once it gets super hot out you probably won’t wanna be hiking, so keep this in mind while planning and give yourself extra time (aka additional mornings and late afternoons).
Where to Stay in Borrego Springs
For being such a tiny town, I was surprised with how many accommodation options there were! While researching, I saw a handful of quaint inns and even some more resort-y style places. There were also a whole bunch of RV resorts — perfect for those adding in all the things to do in Borrego Palms onto a much longer road trip!
Just remember — if you’re planning to visit in the steamy summer months, plan ahead as some hotels close when the temps get too hot.
Hotels and Inns
Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort: If you’re looking for a unique accommodation, be sure to check out Palm Canyon! You can book a vintage trailer, a wild wild west themed hotel room, or even an airstream (something that’s been on my bucket list forever)! Got your own RV? Park it over here as well!
And the entire hotel is styled like an old western movie! We ate lunch here one day (the burgers and shakes were phenomenal I might add), and the pool looks absolutely bomb! Who knew there were so many palm trees growing in the desert? I have a friend who stayed here before, and she highly recommends this place, especially if you’re not looking to break the bank. Read reviews and stay here!
Borrego Valley Inn: This is where we stayed, and OMG we fell in love with it the moment we walked onto the property. Breakfast delivered to our door. A seamless self check-in service. Private outdoor patios to watch the starry night skies.
We loved our chic desert hide-a-way, and definitely took advantage of our cozy room (complete with fireplace) and hot tub come nightfall. And there were cookies. Aaaaaand a clothing optional pool. So very Borrego Springs of them. Pretty sure the hotel is adults-only, haha. It was the more expensive option out of the few hotels we saw while researching for our trip, but it was well worth the extra expense. Read reviews and book here!
La Casa del Zorro Resort & Spa: If you’re spending a weekend in Borrego Springs for a special occasion, definitely look into La Casa del Zorro! There’s outdoor desert yoga on the Event Lawn, spa packages (who wouldn’t want a massage after a day of hiking?), and even tennis courts, shuffleboard, and bocce ball! I’ve heard the breakfast is legendary too. It’s way more than just a hotel, it’s more like a retreat.
This was another hotel we were considering, but ultimately decided it was out of our price range (especially since we were staying 3 nights in the desert). The cosy rooms and casitas look so unbelievably cute though — I kinda wanna spend at least one night here next time! Read reviews and book a room here.
Camping in Borrego Springs
Don’t feel like shelling out money for a hotel and have a thing for camping? There’s lots of options for ya!
First of all, if you enjoy backcountry camping, you can camp for FREE anywhere in Anza-Borrego State Park! There’s of course a few conditions you must follow, but it’s FREE, so no complaints!
- You must park your car less than one length off the road (although you may set up camp further in)
- You need to camp at least 100 yards from any water source
- No ground fires, although fires in metal containers are ok
- You must bring your own firewood
- You must follow the Leave No Trace principles
If you’d rather camp at a designated camp site, you can reserve a campsite 6 months in advance (from October 1st to April 30th) at Borrego Palm Campground! Doesn’t get much easier than that!
Things to Pack for the Desert
This is the desert we’re talking about! You NEED to come prepared. While you can most likely buy anything you forgot in town, there’s not tons of choice since the town is pretty tiny.
- Keep your eyes protected from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat and polarized sunglasses (like I said, the desert sun is powerful!)
- Slather on that sunscreen, the sun is strong over here. And on that note, I always like to take along some SPF lip balm to protect my lips as well.
- Hydrating lotion and/or some cocoa butter for all that dry skin — I found my skin got especially dry after being in the desert and pool chlorine for a few days
- A portable phone charger’s always a good thing to take along, no matter the trip! Never worry about your phone running out of battery! This one is super tiny and lightweight!
- Your kindle or mini ipad to read by the pool
- A reusable water bottle to fill up on that H2O (gotta stay hydrated, especially in the desert!)
- These refreshing body wipes, for ya know, when you get all hot and sticky and need a little freshening up in that hot desert heat
- A mini hand-held fan to cool off when you absolutely need it (I definitely recommend this in the height of summer)
- Binoculars are always a good idea, especially when there’s some wildlife to see!
- If you’re planning on using the pool, don’t forget your bathing suit (although as mentioned, our hotel had a clothing-optional pool…)
- A camera, of course! The desert is so fun to photograph! If you’re planning to take photos of the stars, be sure to bring along a camera in which you can manually change the settings (and learn how to do so in advance so you aren’t fiddling with your equipment in the pitch black!)
Other Tips When Visiting Borrego Springs
- Be aware of your water usage. I’m not talking about drinking water — you NEED to stay hydrated in the desert. But washing your hands, showering, etc. Because there’s no way to bring water via aqueduct or pipes to the remote area of Borrego Springs, please be courteous and don’t waste water if you can help it.
- The milky way is visible all throughout the year, but you’ll need to track when it’s above the horizon. When we visited in late March, we would’ve had to wake up in the middle of the night (roughly 4am) to see it. Since we had just recently seen the milky way in November in Death Valley National Park, we chose to sleep.
Things to Do in Borrego Springs
Finally, we’re at all the best things to do in Borrego Springs! We didn’t get to do everything and honestly just enjoyed the pool quite a bit, but hey — gotta leave some things for next time, am I right? And yes, we’ll 100% be back! We absolutely LOVED this serene desert getaway!
So here’s all our favorite things to do in Borrego Springs along with more activities for next time!
The Slot Canyon Trail
Out of all the things to do in Borrego Springs, hiking The Slot was by far our favorite! With it’s alien-looking landscapes, a narrow siltstone canyon, and spectacular cliffs, it was such a fun morning activity. AND we needed to literally squeeze through some rocks, which made it especially exciting!
Being around 1 mile round trip, we were able to check this hike off our list and then head right to lunch and then the pool! Definitely start as early in the morning as you possibly can, as it gets extremely hot in the desert.
While it wasn’t the hardest hike we’ve ever done (hello Angels Landing in Zion National Park — haha), it definitely got our heart rate up and our bodies moving. The hike is mostly flat, with a short descent into the canyon. Because of this, everyone should add this to their list of things to do in Borrego Springs! Although it would be exceptionally difficult with a stroller as you need to make your way down into the canyon, just FYI.
As noted before, The Slot was one of our favorite things we did in Borrego Springs! While not as grand as the slot canyons we saw on our Utah National Parks road trip, it was absolutely amazing. I mean, who knew there were impressive slot canyons like this right here in California?! The Golden State continues to amaze me!
Parking at The Slot: There was a little parking lot near the beginning of the trailhead, but by the time we left, it was completely full. Do yourself a favor and get here early! Do
Fees: I’ve heard a ranger sometimes comes around and collects a $10 parking fee — we lucked out and got free parking the morning we were there, but just something to keep in mind! Bring some cash just in case!
Read all about hiking the slot canyon trail in Anza Borrego State Park here! I’ve got a full guide!
Metal Sculptures in Galleta Meadows Estate
You cannot visit the area and not check out the metal sculptures in Galleta Meadows. What are they exactly? A large collection of supersize prehistoric and fantastical beasts, all crafted by artist and welder Ricardo Breceda. Probably one of the quirkiest road side attractions we’ve seen in a while (minus the teeny-tiny Crochet Museum in Joshua Tree!).
And get this — there’s more than 130 metal sculptures showcased along the highway! How insane is that?! We obviously didn’t check out every single one (that’d be super overkill, haha), but we checked out a handful! You can expect to find giant elephants, raptors, dinosaurs, mammoths, and even saber-toothed tigers. I loved the serpent sculpture the most — it was so long (at 350 feet!!!). Just take a look at it — the head and body literally pops up out of the desert sand! How wacky!
The first sculptures were placed in 2008, and since then, the collection has grown to what it is today! Super wacky and such an offbeat attraction in Borrego Springs — don’t miss a few; they’re super iconic to the area!
How to find them? If you don’t see them literally on the side of the road, simply input “Galleta Meadows Estate” into your GPS! And since nothing is too far in Borrego Springs, these were right down the road from our hotel!
You can either drive up to each sculpture you wanna see (on dirt roads), or simply park on the main road and walk over. Nothing’s terribly far, although expect it to be super hot, so you probably don’t wanna walk too far. We had a rented 4-door sedan and were fine driving on the dirt roads (although always use caution and think twice if it’s muddy due to rain).
Don’t wanna miss any?! Grab a paper map at the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association desert store, right near Christmas Circle. Or you can just play it by ear like we did (and stop when you find something interesting!).
Go stargazing (on a tour or solo)
Another one of the most iconic things to do in Borrego Springs — stargazing! As soon as the sun goes down, you’ll quickly take note of the millions of stars in the sky — it’s simply indescribable! Borrego Springs has some of the darkest, starriest night skies imaginable, and it’s simply stunning. I thought we had seen a lot of stars in Kauai, San Blas, and even Death Valley, but nothing prepared me for what we’d see here!
Borrego Springs just happens to be California’s only International Dark Sky Community, meaning the sky is absolutely unreal here. Because of it’s designation (in 2009), the town is dedicated to protecting the night sky from light pollution. AKA tons and tons and tons of stars! There’s not even a single traffic light in town for this exact reason! Backyard stargazing parties happen almost every night, and why shouldn’t they?!
While you can absolutely just look up, we booked a night sky tour so we could learn more about astronomy and look through a telescope! Our guide taught us everything we needed to know and then some, and pointed out constellations, planets, and even other galaxies (which we saw with our own eyes through the telescope). Kinda insane if you ask me!
That combination of minimal light pollution, clear skies, and wide-open space makes for perfect conditions! Book your own night sky tour here.
Hang at the Pool
I won’t lie — we spent a decent chunk of time just relaxing at the pool! Due to the high temps and the fact that we didn’t have a 4×4 vehicle, we had a whole bunch of down time! Usually I absolutely hate this, but considering we had just had a busy few days in Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, and Salvation Mountain, we loved this extra time to just relax and take it easy!
And if you’re visiting in the intensive heat, you’ll wanna hang by the pool come afternoon (trust me!). Our hotel, The Borrego Valley Inn, boasted a few pools, one of which we had COMPLETELY to ourselves an entire afternoon. Pure bliss! We even used the hot tub one night looking up at the stars — now that was something we’ll remember forever.
Watch sunrise/sunset at Font’s Point
I desperately wanted to watch the sunset one night, and quickly learned that Font’s Point in Anza-Borrego State Park is the place to do it! But then I realized we didn’t have a 4×4 and couldn’t get up there! Unfortunately we were unable to do it — next time I’m definitely renting something more durable!
If you do have the proper vehicle, head to Font’s Point — it’s a remote location within the Borrego Badlands, offering one of the most unparalleled overlook vistas in all of Southern California. And it looks spectacular!
While I did read about some people making it with a typical sedan, we didn’t wanna risk the chance. The park strongly encourages a 4×4 vehicle on this road, so better safe than sorry. If you are attempting the drive, understand the roads can be very difficult (with tons of loose sand) and there’s not many automobile services in the area. Go at your own risk.
Photos of Font’s Point reminded me of Badlands National Park in South Dakota, which we explored on our cross country road trip from NY to San Francisco back when we moved to California a few years ago!
Take a 4×4 Tour of Anza-Borrego State Park
If you aren’t renting a 4×4 and still wanna see the major sites of Anza Borrego (besides The Slot and Palm Canyon Trail), you’ll need to book yourself on a tour. Had I realized this beforehand, I would have 100% done this (despite being pretty pricey)! Next time!
Anza-Borrego is California’s largest state park afterall (covering more than 600,000 acres), so it’s hard to see it all! But California Overland Desert Excursions will take you off-roading to Font’s Point and the surreal desert badlands (California’s Grand Canyon), the remote Clark Homestead site at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, a dry lake bed surrounded by colorful mountains, and to the views of Vista del Malpais. There’s a whole bunch of tours to choose from, depending if you want an overview of the park, wanna spend some time hiking, and/or a more rugged adventure.
And they’ve even got a Sunset-to-Stars Dinner Excursion, adventure during the day followed by dinner and the splendor of the stars come night.
Borrego Palm Canyon Trail
Looking to stretch your legs one morning and the thought of a 3 mile roundtrip (flat!) hike to a palm tree oasis gets you excited? Hike the Borrego Palm Canyon trail — it’s one of the most popular things to do in Borrego Springs!
The Borrego Palm Canyon trail is a self-guided nature trail that passes a whole bunch of desert-y stuff: think cholla cacti (like we saw in Joshua Tree!), desert lavender bushes, catclaw, honey mesquite, and ocotillo plants. You’ll have a fun time identifying all the desert plants!
But the real star of the show? The natural oasis, completely surrounded by California fan palm trees (like the ones we saw on the Andreas Canyon trail in Palm Springs). And those fan palm trees are super shaggy and massive — so impressive and unlike anything we have in Northern California!
Unfortunately the Palm Tree Oasis was closed for restoration when we visited, so we didn’t feel it was worth our efforts to go on this hike. I’m so glad we hiked Andreas Canyon in Palm Springs because of this. With that being said, here’s a photo of the California fan palm trees from our hike in Andreas Canyon so you get an idea of what they look like! I saw photos of the Borrego Palm Tree Oasis and it honestly looks pretty similar.
The hike lasts approximately two hours round-trip, meaning you can grab a quick breakfast, hike to the palm trees, and be back in town before lunch! You’ll most likely wanna take a dip in the pool afterwards, so go for it!
Borrego Springs Farmers Market
If you happen to be in town on a Friday morning between November and April like we were (!!!), be sure to stop by the farmer’s market — it’s one of the most local things to do in Borrego Springs! The market is held in the little town square of Christmas Circle Park (that roundabout we kept making the wrong turn off of), from 8am to 12pm.
It’s the only public urban farmer’s market in town, so if you’re interested in supporting the vendors, go check it out! You’ll find a wide variety of locally-grown produce, including some rare finds! Think fuerte avocados, Christmas tree broccoli, and cherimoyas. When we went there were the most delicious looking strawberries, locally-produced bread, lots of flowers, and even homemade chocolate fudge! If it wasn’t super hot I would have gotten some fudge to take home for sure!
2 Day Suggested Borrego Springs Itinerary
If you’re spending a long weekend in Borrego Springs, you can easily fit in a whole slew of activities (and relaxation!). Wanna do a 4×4 tour? Book it early!
Here’s how I recommend spending your time solo:
- Wake up early and hike The Slot! This shouldn’t take terribly long, but start early to beat the brutal heat!
- If it’s Friday, make a quick stop at the local Farmers Market! Pick up some goods for lunch.
- When it gets too hot out to do anything else, head on over to the pool to cool off.
- After dinner, meet up with your guide for a Stargazing Telescope Tour! Or just have your own star party! One of our favorite things to do in Borrego Springs!
- Another early morning hike! Stretch your legs and admire the Palm Tree Oasis at the end of the Borrego Palm Canyon trail.
- Check out the intriguing metal sculptures at Galleta Meadows Estate. Take some fun pics!
- Pool time, yes, again! It’s the desert and I bet you’ll be hot and sweaty!
Where to Eat in Borrego Springs
While you don’t go to Borrego Springs for the food, we found enough tasty spots to satisfy our cravings. Remember, as I noted before, some restaurants close down for the season in the brutal summer months, so always double check that a spot is open before you go!
Our hotel supplied us with the cutest picnic breakfast each and every morning, which we spread out on our private outdoor space overlooking the desert. That grapefruit juice was so damn good!
We enjoyed meals at the following:
- Carmelitas Mexican Grill: This spot’s kinda an institution over here, so don’t miss it if you’re looking for an authentic Mexican meal! It’s low key and kinda kitschy, but the food’s great and they serve huge margaritas.
- Big Horn Burgers & Shakes (at Palm Canyon Hotel & RV Resort): Whatever you do, you NEED to have at least one meal at Big Horn. Considering it’s in Palm Canyon Hotel we weren’t expecting much, but boy were we wrong. We were shocked with how perfect our burgers were (complete with sweet potato straws), and the thin mint shake — yes, please! They even had a revolving selection of boozy shakes; so fun!
- Los Jilberto’s Taco Shop: Another awesome Mexican spot; this one with a 3-foot burrito (perfect for a large family)! The prices are great and the horchata’s bomb. AND the portions are large — we ended up eating half for lunch the next day!
Hope this helps you plan an awesome trip to the desert! Which of these things to do in Borrego Springs are you adding to your itinerary?!