We are pleased that you are considering a visit to Anza-Borrego Desert State ParkŪ. Our staff and volunteers will be happy to help you plan a trip that is safe, educational, and fun!
While groups are welcome at the park year round, most choose to avoid the months of March and April. During these months of the wildflower bloom, the park is crowded with visitors and you may encounter difficulty parking, as well as large crowds at facilities and trails. Please use the following information to plan your visit.
Anza-Borrego Desert State ParkŪ is the largest state park in California. Extending over 900 square miles, elevations range from 6,000-foot peaks to land only 15 feet above sea level. A part of the California State Parks system, Anza-Borrego's mission is to protect and preserve this diverse land and its resources. Collecting natural or cultural resources is forbidden.
While rainfall is generally less than seven inches per year, be prepared for wind, and temperatures over 100 degrees between April and November. Temperatures in higher elevations and after dark may be very cool. Vegetation is sparse in most areas, and shade is hard to find. Plan to carry your own water. Many desert plants are equipped with spines, so be ready with a comb and tweezers to remove them, should you get stuck.
You will find a variety of wildlife at Anza-Borrego. The Peninsular Bighorn Sheep is the namesake of the park, but very elusive. Roadrunners, Cottontail Rabbits, Black tailed Jackrabbits, Gambel's Quail, and a variety of reptiles will be more easily spotted. Nighttime sounds include those made by the Coyote, Long-eared Owl, Bobcat, Kit Fox, and numerous bats and rodents.
Many of the roads at Anza-Borrego can be traveled only by foot or 4-wheel drive. Most of them are in "washes" and subject to flash floods. It is a good idea to visit the park and become familiar with an area before you bring your group.
A free park newspaper presents information about the different resources in the park, along with a basic map. A more detailed Park map is available at the Visitor Center. Inquire at the Visitor Center about conditions on the roads you've chosen.
Because the park is here to preserve and protect this natural area, we ask you to prepare your group to respect the park environment during your visit. Please discuss the following rules:
Collecting of any natural or historical item is not allowed.
Hunting or any harassment of wildlife is forbidden in state parks.
To protect wildlife habitat, dogs are not allowed on trails.
Littering is harmful to the environment and ruins the park experience for the next visitors.
The desert is an awesome place with challenges that should be taken seriously. The well-prepared will take the following if planning to hike Palm Canyon or any other trail in Anza-Borrego.
Student Carries: 1 liter water (winter minimum); hat; sunscreen; long-sleeved shirt/sweatshirt; tweezers; comb (for cholla removal); extra food and water; sunglasses; closed-toed shoes.
Leader Carries: Same as students plus: extra 2 liters water; first aid kit; map; extra food; bright scarf for signaling; emergency reflector blanket; cold pack; trowel; toilet paper.
Begin your visit at the Park Visitor Center. There you will find exhibits, video shows, a native plant garden, an outdoor amphitheater, and a sales area with books, maps and postcards. Modern restrooms and drinking fountains are available, as well as bus parking.
Groups often hike the trail to Palm Canyon. This is a 3-mile round-trip hike that begins in the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground. Visitors to this area must pay a day-use fee of $2 per auto, and higher fees apply to buses. School groups (K-12) may request a waiver of fees by calling the Visitor Center in advance.
Park at the trailhead where you'll find water, restrooms, and a rack of self-guided brochures which describe the features found along the trail. Please ensure that members of your group are dressed for the weather and carry & drink water.
Carry a small trowel and toilet paper for emergencies.
Be advised that dogs are not allowed on the trails in the California State Park System including Palm Canyon.
Yaqui Well Nature Trail & Cactus Loop Trail
The 1.6-mile Yaqui Well Nature Trail Loop and the 1-mile Cactus Loop Trail are both located across from shady Tamarisk Grove Campground and Picnic Area, thirteen miles south of the Park Visitor Center. Water, restrooms, and bus parking are available.
Self-guided trail brochures are available at the trailheads. This is a fee area, request a waiver form by calling the Visitor Center.
Some groups avoid the busier areas of the park and head to Blair Valley (32 miles south of the Visitor Center on S-2). This route is not accessible by bus (autos OK). Here you may hike the 2-mile round trip Pictograph Trail; the 1/2-mile Morteros Trail; or the 2-mile trail to and from the Marshal South homesite (Ghost Mountain). The nearest restrooms are at Box Canyon, a few miles south on S-2.
Elephant Trees Discovery Trail
Another less traveled path for groups touring by car
is the Elephant Trees Discovery Trail, a self-guided trail which is
a one-mile loop. This trail is located in the Split Mountain area of
the Park (28 miles southeast of the Visitor Center). Also in the
Split Mountain area is the 2-mile round trip hike to the Windcaves.
Occasionally, due to weather conditions, 4-wheel drive is needed to
get to this trailhead. Be sure to check with the Visitor Center
ahead of time.
Inside the Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, a public picnic area includes 14 individual table sites with shade ramadas and fire rings. If the group campground is not in use, you may picnic there at clustered tables which seat approximately 24 people. Tamarisk Grove Campground is 13 miles south of the Visitor Center. Your group may picnic there at five tables in a shady area, however, no grill is available. Restrooms and water are available at both areas.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park offers interpretive programs on Wednesday-Friday, from November through May. (Available on Thursday mornings only from March 1 through Easter week.) These programs are led by trained staff and volunteers. A phone reservation is required at least three weeks in advance.
Due to the large number of groups that visit the park, we are unable to offer patches, badges, or self-guided activity books.
Here are some of the guided programs we offer:
If you have 15 minutes...
A Slide Show may be viewed by your group in our theater. This program presents the desert in all seasons of the year. (all grades) We also have a 20 minute video on the park's bighorn sheep. (grades 5 and up)
If you have 30 minutes...
The Introduction to Anza-Borrego Talk (formerly Backroom Tour) is an opportunity for your group to see our collection of pelts, bones, bird mounts and fossils. A volunteer will provide information and answer questions.
On our Discovery Room Scavenger Hunt, your students are given clipboards with questions that encourage them to search the pelts, bones, fossils and other exhibits for answers. A naturalist provides assistance and a concluding summary. (Grades 2 and up)
If you have 45 minutes...
The Desert Exploration Walk takes place outside the Visitor Center. Our guides will help your group discover the interactions between desert plants and animals and their environments.
Our Plant Exploration Walk includes a scavenger hunt in the Visitor Center garden followed by a walk to take a closer look and identify many of the plants. (Grades 3 and up)
The Indians of the Desert Walk includes an opportunity to look at artifacts, grind mesquite beans, and focus on the plants and animals used by Cahuilla and Kumeyaay people.
On our Desert Wildlife Walk students search
for signs of wildlife on a walk with a naturalist, viewing bird
nests, burrows and specimens of local wildlife as well as the real
School groups are welcome to visit the park year round. Day use fees are not charged for school groups (K-12 and their adult teachers/escorts) provided reservations have been made.
We are pleased to offer interpretive (naturalist) programs on Wednesday through Friday, from November through May. (Available on Thursday mornings only during March through Easter week.) Be aware that during March and April, parking at the Palm Canyon Trailhead is limited and may be full by the time your group arrives. Reservations for day use in the park and fee waivers DO NOT GUARANTEE a parking space in your chosen location.
School groups shall be accompanied by enough school-appointed adult escorts and teachers to maintain order, and their escorts or teachers shall accompany the students during their stay in the park. Camping is not included under this program. Contact the park for information about our group camps and fee schedules.
To make a School Group Program / Day-Use reservation, follow these steps:
1. Fill out the form and have the principal of the school sign it. If children from more than one school will be attending, a form must be signed by the principals of each school. If you would like to request an interpretive (naturalist) program, you may call the Visitor Center for availability of specific dates, times, topics. The Visitor Center phone number is (760) 767-0334.
2. Return form at least 15 days in advance of the proposed date of your visit. Mail to:
3. Await your confirmation letter if your group is
requesting a naturalist program. Otherwise, consider your fee waiver
confirmed. Please review the general park information on this web
page. Once a naturalist has been scheduled to present the requested
program we will send a letter confirming the time and meeting place.
Note: Teachers must return this form at least 15 days prior to the
For more information, contact: