Anza Borrego Desert State Park is a hidden gem in Southern California that is the perfect place for an RV trip.
Aside from the epic and seemingly endless Anza Borrego camping options, visitors can admire its otherworldly landscape filled with cacti, unique rock formations, canyons, a palm oasis, and even hot springs!
We lucked out by getting a local recommendation for this lesser-known state park during our two-month stint RVing in Southern California. We had no idea this place even existed, but after spending a week camping in Anza Borrego, we now feel it should be on every RVers travel bucket list.
Whether you’re looking for a unique place to RV in winter or are preparing for an upcoming RV trip to Anza Borrego; this guide will share everything you need to know about visiting.
From Anza Borrego camping options, the cost of entry, driving tips, and the top things to do here; we’ve got you covered.
Table of Contents
- Quick facts about Anza Borrego Desert State Park
- Where is Anza Borrego
- How to get to Anza Borrego Desert State Park in an RV
- Best time to visit Anza Borrego in an RV
- Getting around Anza Borrego Desert State Park
- Cost to visit Anza Borrego Desert State Park
- Anza Borrego camping options
- What to bring on an Anza Borrego RV camping trip
- Top things to do at Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Quick facts about Anza Borrego Desert State Park
- Closest city: Borrego Springs, California
- Size: 650,000 acres or 1,015 sq miles
- Ancestral Lands: Ɂívil̃uwenetem Meytémak (Cahuilla), Xawiƚƚ kwñchawaay (Cocopah), Cupeño, and Kumeyaay/Kumiais.
- Established: 1933
- Visitor Centers:
- Entrance Fee (as of 2023): $10 per vehicle per day
- Cell service: Limited to none
- Number of RV campgrounds: 15
- Free/dispersed camping allowed? Yes
- Drive time through the park: 3 to 4 hours (with brief stops, no hiking)
Where is Anza Borrego
Anza Borrego Desert State Park is located roughly two hours northeast of San Diego and two hours southwest of Palm Springs. The region is massive, encompassing 650,000 acres of desert land and mountains.
Despite it being a relatively short drive from both Palm Springs and San Diego it’s a completely different landscape that offers visitors very unique experiences you can’t find elsewhere!
How to get to Anza Borrego Desert State Park in an RV
This state park is located in a valley between the Santa Rosa Mountains to the north and the Pinyon Mountains to the south. Its unique location gives you 360-degree views of epic mountains and means getting to the park can be a bit hairy in an RV.
🚚 The park website says the maximum RV and trailer length is 35 feet. This limitation is due to the windy, steep, and harrowing roads in the park, particularly on the highways that enter the park from the south and west.
We did see larger fifth-wheel, class-A RVs, and even semi-trucks in certain sections of the park. However, drivers of large RVs or rigs longer than 35 feet should be comfortable driving on steep grades and very windy roads and should choose their path to the park carefully.
If you’re driving from the San Diego area, you’ll take Highway S22, S2, 78, or 79 to get there. This drive passes through several mountain ranges, gaining about 2,400 feet in elevation (no matter which road you take), and leads you to the park on a scenic (but very windy, steep) drive.
If you take Highway 79 to Highway 78 (like we did), you’ll also pass the town of Julian which is known for its apple pies. 🥧 You’ll see apple orchards and apple pie shops all through their adorable town. If you’re passing through – get one. You won’t regret it! 😋
If you are coming from Palm Springs, take Highway 10 to Highway 86 until you reach the town of Salton City. From there you’ll enter the park from the east. This is the easiest way to get to Anza Borrego State Park and has the least amount of windy roads and steep grades.
Best time to visit Anza Borrego in an RV
Anza Borrego is one of the hottest places in the world behind Death Valley in California. Summer is not the time to visit the park with all visitor centers and most campgrounds being closed for the season.
Winter is the coolest time of year here making it prime time for visiting, but it is the wet season, too. It never really gets “cold” here, even in wintertime. However, the temperatures do drop slightly in the evenings in winter thanks to its high desert location.
We visited in January of 2023 and enjoyed seeing it rain in the desert, especially after learning that Anza Borrego sees less than 7 inches of rainfall per year on average!
A rainy day in the desert isn’t likely here, but it is special when it happens. It rained on us twice during our visit which felt like such a blessing.
🌸 Spring is a particularly attractive time to visit Anza Borrego because of the super bloom that happens in this valley each year. Dates for the bloom depend on the rainfall for that year but usually takes off in late February or March. It’s a sight to behold and people come from across the state (and even country) to see it!
Getting around Anza Borrego Desert State Park
The main areas of the park (Ocotillo Wells, Borrego Springs, Blair Valley, and south) are well connected on a paved two-lane highway.
Outside of that, most of the roads in Anza Borrego State Park are dirt roads. There is very little development in this region and almost no connectivity making it an ideal place to unplug and do some off-roading. Adventure vehicles, like adventure bikes, jeeps, and 4×4 vehicles are very popular here (sorry, no ATVs).
If you are looking to off-road with an ATV (non-road legal vehicle) you can visit the Ocotillo Wells region which is open to ATVs.
If you want to go to some of the more remote places of the park you will need a 4×4 vehicle that is capable of handling off-road conditions, soft sand, or large ruts. We had our KTM adventure bike with us and we were able to get to most places with ease. Although, it was our first time on an adventure bike in soft sand and our novice experience didn’t help us traverse this landscape.
Cost to visit Anza Borrego Desert State Park
The Anza Borrego is a part of the California State Parks system which means there is a $10 entrance fee per day per vehicle. This is in addition to any camping fees and includes stops at popular places like The Slot, Hellhole Canyon, Mountain Palm Springs, Bow Willow, and Horse Camp.
If you are visiting other California State Parks this year or staying longer than 12 days in Anza Borrego, then buying the annual pass is the more cost-effective route. The annual California State Parks pass costs $125 to $175 depending on the pass you are purchasing. You can see prices and details here.
Anza Borrego camping options
There is no shortage of options for camping in Anza Borrego State Park. While you can stay at one of the established RV parks or a more primitive camping spot, you can also choose from endless free camping.
Anza Borrego is one of the few parks that allows wild-dispersed camping as long as you are 100 feet from a road or water source. 🥳
These are wild campsites meaning there are no services like water, electricity, bathrooms, or dump stations. You must be completely self-contained and have a way to keep your batteries full with an RV solar setup or generator.
Some sites are 4×4 only, while others aren’t far off the highway with wide-open flat spots for camping.
Additionally, there are primitive campgrounds that offer some amenities like a shaded cover with a picnic table, fire rings, and vault toilets. These campgrounds cannot be reserved online and are booked on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Details on the seven most popular primitive Anza Borrego camping spots are outlined below.
|Location in park
|RV size limit
|Bow Willow Creek Campground
|Yes – LTE
|Mountain Palm Springs
|Blair Valley Dispersed
|East in Blair Valley
|Yes – Limited
|Yaqui Well Campground
|Yes – LTE
|Culp Valley Campground
|Yes – Limited
|Arroyo Salado Campground
|Yes – LTE
|Fish Creek Campground
During the second half of our trip, we stayed at Blair Valley Dispersed Campground which was stunning and free! There were a lot of Anza Borrego camping options here with room to spread out. The recent rains had left pretty large puddles and some impassable sections for RVs. We saw massive fifth wheels and class A’s camping back here.
There are 12 established RV parks in Anza Borrego. The three California state-run spots are Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, Tamarisk Grove Campground, and Vern Whitaker Horse Camp. These campgrounds offer full amenities, including water, electricity, a dump station, hot showers, and toilets.
Most just have electricity at the sites with several water fill stations throughout the campground and one central dump station. Reservations can be made for these campgrounds online at reservecalifornia.com. Walk-ins are permitted, too.
|Number of sites
|RV size limit
|Location in park
|Borrego Palm Canyon
|120 sites. Mix of primitive and electricity.
|Central (7 minutes to Borrego Springs)
|$5 – $35 (depending on primitive vs electricity)
|Yes (good LTE)
|14 RV campsites and 9 cabins.
|Central (15 minutes to Borrego Springs)
|Vern Whitaker Horse Camp
|11 equestrian sites
|Central (20 minutes to Borrego Springs)
We stayed at the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground for the first half of our stay and loved its location. It was a 5-minute walk to the Palm Canyon Oasis hike and had stunning views. It was also just a short 7-minute drive to Borrego Springs and was centrally located to get to most places in the park.
We were also glad to have electricity because it was cloudy for most of our trip which meant we had limited solar to recharge our RV batteries.
The Tamarisk Grove Campground is well positioned about 15 minutes from Borrego Springs and located near two trails, the Yaqui Well Trail and the Cactus Loop Trail. However, the sites are a bit close together and you can hear highway noise since you’re just off the road. You can see user-submitted reviews about the campground here to see if it looks like the right choice for you.
The Vern Whitaker Horse Campground is best for those who may be taking horses with them for backcountry trail riding. If we had to choose out of the three, it would be Borrego Palm Canyon Campground without a doubt.
If you are looking for more amenities out of your Anza Borrego RV camping trip or have an RV over 35 feet, you can stay at one of the full-service RV parks in the area. Most RV parks in Anza Borrego are near Borrego Springs.
|Location in park
|Number of sites
|Palm Canyon Resort + RV Park
|Near Borrego Springs
|Full-fledged high-end resort with pool, hot tub, store, restaurant, gym, and full hookups at each site.
|Oasis Inn Borrego
|Near Borrego Springs
|Pool and jacuzzi, water and electricity but no dump site.
|Stagecoach Trails RV Resort
|South (near Julian)
|$39 – $79
|Full hookups with pool, laundry room, and dump station.
|The Springs at Borrego RV Resort
|Near Borrego Springs
|$67 – $97
|This big rig friendly RV park has great views with amenities including a pool, jacuzzi, laundry, and full hookups.
|Agua Caliente County Park
|44 partial hookup / 33 full hookup sites
|$34 – $38
|Full-fledged high end resort with pool, hot tub, store, restaurant, gym, and full hookups at each site.
What to bring on an Anza Borrego RV camping trip
You definitely want to come prepared for an RV camping trip in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. There are small grocery stores to restock on fresh food if you run low, but it’s not a well-stocked grocery store. We make sure to provision for a full week before venturing into the desert.
Cell connection is inconsistent in the park. There were areas where we had great service and others where there was none. Generally, Verizon seemed to do better the AT&T. However, we recommend having Starlink with you if you need a reliable connection and don’t want to be limited by connectivity when it comes to choosing your Anza Borrego camping spot.
Here are some other things we recommend bringing with you:
Hiking is a top thing to do in Anza Borrego. We highly recommend bringing your favorite hiking gear with you to enjoy the trails. We personally never hike without a quality backpack that can carry water like this Camelback. We also love these Merino wool socks, hiking boots, and this sun hat from REI. We also like to protect our arms when we’re in the sun for long periods with a lightweight long-sleeve SPF shirt.
It’s easy to get dehydrated in the desert. We recommend this reusable water bottle which has a built-in water filter to stay hydrated. We love to add an LMNT hydration pack to our water which helps replenish the electrolytes we are losing without nasty ingredients or unnecessary sugars.
Make sure you have all your favorite camping gear. We never go anywhere without our outdoor mat, club chairs, and outdoor table. Since Anza Borrego is a dark sky, you’ll want to enjoy the night sky from the comfort of your outdoor chairs.
Get the gear here:
- 👕 Long-sleeve SPF shirt
- 🕶️ Sunglasses (we love that these are made from recycled plastic)
- 🧢 Sun hat
- 🥾 Hiking shoes
- 🧦 Breathable and comfortable merino wool socks
- 📸 Camera equipment
- 🚰 Reusable water bottle
- 💧LMNT hydration packs
- 🪑Camping chairs
- 🚐 Outdoor mat
- Outdoor table
- Generator or RV solar set up (to keep your batteries charged)
- Portable fire pit
- Groceries (enough for the time you are there ideally)
Top things to do at Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Anza Borrego is chock full of epic activities to fill your time outside of camping. Below are a few of the top things to do in Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
1. Visit the Anza Borrego slot canyon
If you’re headed to Anza Borrego during the dry seasons (Fall or Spring) you have to explore the Anza Borrego slot canyon. Aptly named, The Slot, this easy 1 mile hike takes you through a narrow slot canyon.
We love exploring slot canyons, but unfortunately, since it had rained quite a bit while we were visiting there was a risk of flash flooding. It’s on our bucket list for next time!
2. Visit Fonts Point
Fonts Point is one of the top places to visit in Anza Borrego. This unique landscape is often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of California” because of its slight resemblance. We feel that it’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s incredible nonetheless.
The California Badlands were formed over millions of years from water, ice ages, and the shifting of tectonic plates. Today, the views at Fonts Point will make you feel like you’ve stepped onto another planet.
The road to Fonts Point is a sandy dirt road with several soft sections. We saw vehicles (non-4×4) get out there without issue, but we also saw others get stuck. Be weary if you’re not comfortable driving in soft sand. From the parking lot, it’s just a short walk to the overlook.
You can read all about visiting this impressive canyon in this blog post. 🌅
3. Go hiking
Hiking in Anza Borrego is one of the top things to do. Some of the best hikes in Anza Borrego Desert State Park are the Palm Canyon Oasis hike near Borrego Springs and the Morteros and Petroglyphs hikes in Blair Valley.
The Oasis hike near Borrego Palm Canyon Campground is by far the most popular in the entire park. Its accessibility from the visitor center and campground as well as its unique features makes it a no-brainer hike for all ages. It’s a 3-mile trail that can be made out-and-back or loop trail if desired that takes you to a hidden oasis in the middle of the desert.
This was my first time visiting an oasis and I was absolutely blown away. A full-fledged waterfall and river were running at full steam despite being one of the hottest and dryest places on earth. 🤯
Both the Morteros hike and Petroglyphs hike give you a glimpse into the indigenous history of this region. We absolutely loved both of these hikes. They were not only easy but in a stunning landscape with almost no one around. They are a bit tricky to get to, with 4×4 vehicles being required to reach the trailhead.
There’s a ton more hiking you can do in Anza Borrego. These were just the hikes we were able to explore in our week RVing here.
4. Relax in hot springs
We love a good hot spring. In the south area of Anza Borrego visitors can relax in a natural mineral hot spring called, Agua Caliente. The pool was a bit run down in our opinion and smelled kind of funny, but we both felt extremely relaxed after soaking.
It was only $3 to enter per vehicle and the best part is there is option camping.
5. Enjoy the Anza Borrego sculptures
Another super popular thing to do in Anza Borrego is to visit the Anza Borrego sculptures. There are 130 different metal sculptures scattered throughout Anza Borrego near Galleta Meadows to enjoy. Some of the popular ones are the sea creature below, a giant mammoth, scorpion, camels, and slots.
This unique art installation is the brainchild of Dennis Avery, a major landowner in this region. To make his vision a reality he enlisted the help of artist Ricardo Breceda. Breceda started with just a few sculptures but added to them each year (even to this day).
Finding the different sculptures is a fun scavenger hunt and a great way to spend an afternoon.
6. Admire the Anza Borrego wildflowers
The Anza Borrego wildflower bloom is a top thing to do in the Spring season. If you’re lucky enough to visit during this magical season (or you’re smart enough to plan a trip here then) you’ll want to go Henderson Canyon Road, hang around the Visitor Center, or venture to Borrego Palm Canyon to see the flowers.
Remember the timing is never the same from year to year. You can check to see when the wildflowers might bloom in the Spring season here.
Hopefully, this RV guide to Anza Borrego Desert State Park has helped you plan an epic camping trip. From the amazing Anza Borrego camping to unique activities and stunning views, this road trip will not disappoint. Let us know if this post was helpful for you in planning your trip in the comments below.