Please refrain from taking anything from the desert, such as rocks, plants, etc. as this is unlawful and can damage a delicate desert environment. Remember the saying "Pack out what you pack in", help keep our desert clean and beautiful for the next person!
It’s been many years since we have traveled out to Anza-Borrego Desert so we planned an overnight trip out on Tuesday and Wednesday. To get a jump start on the trip we decided on an early AM departure, it was a crisp morning at 49F in Inland Empire where our trip began. The ride from our location is about two hours however we normally prefer to have a stop along the way for a hearty breakfast before reaching the desert. The roads leading into the Anza-Borrego desert floor are very winding and sharp turns, it always bothers me how fast drivers out here take these twisting mountain roads, so be prepared if you are driving through the area that you will have many folks that want to speed and ride very close behind you trying to get you to go faster, my advise is sit back enjoy the ride and ignore the person in the rear view mirror.
Anza-Borrego State Park is one of the few places were you are allowed to hike and camp in virtually any place that you would like without any cost or permit. You are required to park off any road no more than one car length maximum, this is to prevent damage to the desert environment. If you do camp in any of the designated camping areas there is a fee (Online Reservations). Fires are allowed in many areas however they must be contained in a metal container. Look here for some great information about the park rules (California Parks).
Desert hiking/camping is not like most other that you might be use to, depending on the season it can be extremely hot or very cold. Most people don’t associate the desert with extreme cold temperatures but I have several nights in the desert when temperatures dropped down into the upper teen’s.
We make out a planned route and left a paper map copy of our plans with a person not going on the trip, including our departure and expected return time. There is no cell phone service in much of Anza Borrego so it is important that someone knows where to start looking for you in case you do not return as expected. We also always carry a DeLorme Explorer SAT device with us which gives us the ability to send/receive text messages to others, as well as an SOS function in case of real emergency. I strongly advise that you do both these things before heading out, no matter if you believe you are a seasoned desert expert or a novice. Your life is not worth the risk, and many people have died in desert environments.
Water of course is a very critical concern in this environment, you should carry enough water for one gallon per person per day for drinking, and extra for cooking or otherwise. Do not think that you are going to go out hiking ten miles into the desert with a single water bottle, it is a highly probable you will not be coming back! We normally carry a full 2.5L Osprey water bladder in our day packs as well as a couple of 16oz bottles of waters. I also carry a packet for each person of Oral Rehydration Salts, ORS is a sodium and glucose solution. A packet of ORS is to be mixed with the recommended amount of clean water. Although these ‘salts’ are specially made for the treatment of dehydration, they can also be used to prevent dehydration. The point that I am making here is that dehydration in the desert is no joke and it happens to people every single year that are careless and think they are superman!
I also advise that you throw a shovel in your vehicle, depending on where you plan to go, a lot of the trails are very rough and many have very soft sand spots which can cause potential problems. There are very remote areas that can be traveled and if you did get into trouble it could be a long time before anyone came that way or spotted you. So it is best to be prepared to help yourself as much as you can.
There are a lot of canyons at the southeast end of Anza-Borrego near Salton Sea City where many ATV riders take their RV’s to camp every weekend and ride either the flats of the surrounding desert or ride through the canyons. It is unfortunate though because of this activity this area is not very accessible by hikers into the canyons, unless you don’t mind ATV’s whizzing by or breathing lots of desert dust. But luckily with over 600,000 acres there is plenty of room for everyone and just about every activity.
The first night the temperature dropped into the mid 30’s and the wind howls down the canyon walls as it try’s to make setting up camp a challenge. a low profile tent is the best in this environment for a several reasons, it will be more light weight making it easier to pack in and out, the low profile will hold better in strong winds, and also the lower volume inside means less dead space to heat which gives you a more warm comfortable nights sleep.
If you like coffee or hot tea, especially in the mornings, then it’s a great job for the JetBoil. We had coffee the next morning in chilly weather in less than 5 minutes! We also used the JetBoil for all our meals. I can’t say which is the best brand of dehydrated foods to buy but all three of us agree that so far we love all the Mountain House meals. One package is big each for two of us, another reason why if we are on a solo trip we don’t mix the water and food in the dehydrated food package, instead we mix it in a small plastic bowl because that way you only have to use have the meal contents at a time, seal the rest back up in the resealable dehydrated food package for another meal at a later time.
There are several wildlife within the park, including Peninsular Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, Coyote, Kit Fox, Bob Cat, Mountain Lion, Desert CottonTail and other small mammals. Mountain lions are extremely secretive in their movements and normally have an natural aversion to humans. They rarely disclose their position. But if you do see one in the wild, with males weighing up to 150 pounds, you are best to follow the advice of the Mountain Lion Federation: “If you see a mountain lion, no matter how thrilled you are to be one of the very few gets such an opportunity, stay well back, and take the encounter seriously.” Coyotes do not hunt in packs like wolves but they do often will hunt in pairs. In situations where they encounter humans on a regular basis they will loose their fear of humans and pay little attention. But dependence on humans is not something to be encouraged, and as fascinating as they may be, it is never a good idea to put food out for the coyotes.
If you love solitude, Anza-Borrego is a place to get it, with that many acres it is easy to get away from it all.
|Gas/Convenience Store||33.2795805415559, -115.96541118691675||There is a gas/convenience store located here that you can fuel up your vehicle and your body!|
|Food and Drink||33.25683970874825, -116.37495375238359||Don't forget to get some water and food before you go out on the trail, there are several mom & pop restaurants and convenience stores.|
|ATV Entry Point||33.25622664288483, -116.01058173197089||Many ATVer's enter the canyons from this point.|
|Dry Lake Bed||33.343332822914896, -116.27697659656405||This was once a large lake but has since been dry for many years. Great place for meteorite hunting.|
|Canyons||33.2773148573819, -116.0583465101081||This is a good location for a photo of the canyons below.|
|Off-Road||33.294211893562384, -116.29026103299111||At this point it turns into dirt road, farther up the trail the road gets very rough with a lot of sandy areas.|
|CampSite||33.32875274160008, -116.3031356362626||This was the location we choose to camp, it was a very windy day and this location provided natural protection from the wind.|