Backcountry hidden pleasures: Our guide to unique adventures in San Diego’s beautiful backcountry
By Miriam Raftery
April 24, 2018 (Borrego Springs) – Located in the heart of the Anza-Borrego Desert in the furthest east reach of San Diego County, Borrego Springs is a place where visitors are surrounded by nature, can stargaze in an internationally designated “dark skies” region, enjoy spring wildflowers, visit the largest state park in California, gaze at whimsical statues across the desert and also find cultural attractions from art shows to musical programs in a performing arts center.
Snowbirds arrive each fall and stay through spring, before the summer heat. During the fall through spring season, you’ll find a wide of special activities, such as:
The Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce website lists an activities calendar and a “things to do” section with options such as birding, bicycling, off-roading, desert hiking, golf, tennis, and a lot more.
The Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association leads seasonal excursions into dramatic landscapes such as the Borrego Badlands, also offering night hikes, classes, lectures and other educational options. They also have a map of whimsical metal sculptures of Ricardo Breceda.
Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California with 500 miles of dirt road, 12 wilderness areas. Five hundred miles of dirt roads, 12 wilderness areas, many hiking trails, washes, wildflowers, palm groves, cacti and sweeping vistas. Visitors may also glimpse roadrunners, golden eagles, kit foxes, mule deer and bighorn sheep as well as iguanas, chuckwallas and the red diamond rattlesnakes. The park is named for Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and the Spanish word borrego, or bighorn sheep. Be sure to stop by the park’s visitor center to chat with rangers and view exhibits.
The Anza Borrego Foundation, celebrating its 50th year in 2018, leads day and overnight interpretive trips as well as biking, hiking, birding, and some creative options such as “hops and hikes” for beer lovers.
California Overland Adventures offers off-road desert adventures as well as overnight camping trips and celestial stargazing outings, as well as wine-tasting tours in Julian, about a half hour away.
Lodging options in Borrego Springs range from luxurious resorts to historical properties, camping in vintage trailers, tent and RV camping.
Ram’s Hill Golf Club was rated best course in the nation in 2016. Casa del Zorro resort has spa facilities, and for those seeking to discover the night skies, famed night sky photographer Dennis Mammana offers classes and tours. (Photo, left, by Dennis Mammana)
Desert USA offers weekly updates on wildflower viewing places each spring.
Tips: Always carry plenty of water when traveling in the desert and make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and if hiking, wear sturdy shoes and keep an eye out for scorpions and snakes. Stay on trails to avoid trampling fragile yet beautiful desert blooms that after a wet winter, can transform the landscape into a colorful carpet of flowers.
East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the County of San Diego for providing a Community Enhancement Grant to support our “Backcountry Hidden Pleasures” weekend getaways coverage.