With a vacation day on Monday for our planned return from Death Valley National Park, we decided to check out Anza-Borrego Desert State Park because it was closer and not as hot. We also wanted to take advantage of a day with the girls as we both have business travel on the horizon.

Many San Diegans have told us about Anza-Borrego and it did not disappoint. We made the 2.5 hour drive from our house through Julian to the eastern edge of San Diego county. We read about the heavy traffic around the park to see the flowers. We got lucky with the weekday crowds and had little traffic to deal with and plenty of parking.

The first thing we noticed was how green the desert looked. There was so much flora. Cactus, plants, trees – just tons and tons of greenery.

Our first stop was to Hellhole Canyon as we saw a decent sized parking lot, lots of flowers and bathrooms. We slathered the kids up with sunscreen and hit the trail. We started hiking around 11:30a and it was already approaching 90 degrees. We made sure we hydrated, but also took some water breaks for the girls. They did great as we hiked up the mountain. We had no objective to achieve the summit so we just explored and chatted with people along the way. Carrying the girls in the Kelty Kids carriers always brings some awkward looks with comments such as, “Riding in style…” and “Double trouble…”

Many people thought we were backpack camping. With the Pacific Crest Trail running through Anza-Borrego, we got asked a few times if we were hiking the PCT until they realized we had our kids in the packs and not a ton of gear. We got up about 2/3 of the way up the mountain and saw the girls were getting a bit red on their arms. We took a break in the shade and then headed back down to our car. On the way back down the mountain, the view was spectacular with so many cactus in bloom, along with ocotillos, and other wildflowers- beautiful colors of yellow, pink, red, purple, and white.

Map of Anza-Borrego

Climbing up the mountain looking back toward the valley
Beavertail with ocotillo in the background
Slender goldfields with ocotillo in background

Once we got back to the car we had lunch in the shade. Our next stop was to Coyote Canyon which was touted as having great wildflowers in the local news. Coyote Canyon was in another part of the park that required a 15 minute drive. We went through the town of Borrego Springs and through a few orchards with grapefruits, oranges, lemons, and dates, and a very cool sculpture park.  We ended up on a dirt road that didn’t require four wheel drive even though it had some real sandy spots. In fact, we had to help someone who parked a bit too far from the road and needed a push out of the soft sand.

We parked and took the girls for a quick walk into the lowlands of Coyote Canyon. We were amazed to see different types of flowers, including desert lilies, which was something Mary was hoping to see on the trip. In addition to more flowers, we also saw some Sphinx Moth caterpillars  which were absolutely huge!

All in all, the trip to Anza-Borrego was a blast and we’ll definitely be back to camp and explore some more. If you’re near Southern California, check out these flowers!

Lupine (I think)
Quincy playing with the flowers
Desert lilies

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