Recently on a visit to Palm Springs, I was invited to spend a weekend in a town not far from the Coachella Valley. I’d never heard of Borrego Springs before, but I quickly found it’s an easy weekend or day trip, and it’s loaded with things to do if you’re into photography, hiking, golf or just sightseeing the desert. Just 90 minutes drive from Palm Springs, the town is easy to get to, but once you’re there, you’ll feel like you’ve left the busy world behind.
Town of Borrego Springs
The tiny town of Borrego Springs is an excellent jumping off point to explore the desert. While the town is a little lacking in excitement and services, it’s cute and quaint and does have what you need for a short stay in the area. There’s no major grocery store to speak of, but a small market does have some of the basics.
While you’re in town, eat at some of the great restaurants here, starting with Carlee’s Place. While it looks like a divey biker bar on first glance, the bar is actually clean, and tidy and serves delicious food, with super friendly service. When my friend couldn’t think of a drink to order, she sighed, “I guess I’ll just have a margarita.” The amiable bartender actually refused to make her a drink until she found something she was excited about. Mr Bartender helped her pick out something special and she was pleased as punch with the service and the beverage.
Breakfast was at Red Ocotillo, a tiny but bright and art-filled cafe. Good service, and delicious breakfast, particularly the potatoes, but get the faux holindaise on the side, as it was a pasty add to the otherwise good bennies.
Font’s Point in Anza-Borrego State Park
Want to stand on the edge of a massive badlands canyon and maybe get buzzed by a plane? That’s what happened to us on the day we visited Font’s Point view point, about 15 minutes’ drive due east of the town of Borrego Springs. The view point is pretty easy to find, but you’ll want a high clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicle as the road is quite bumpy and very sand-covered.
The viewpoint is about a 10 minute drive off the road, past what can only be described as a hippie camp near some hills right off the highway. There’s a well-marked parking loop at the end of the road, and the viewpoint is up a slight hill from there.
As you walk up, all of a sudden the massive badlands unrolls in front of your eyes and stretches to the horizon. It’s a staggering sight. While these mountainous ripples in the earth aren’t exceedingly deep, it’s the cocoa and cinnamon-hued undulations’ sheer expanse that’s most impressive.
There are several areas where you can take amazing photos, and even make it look as though you’re hanging off the edge of the earth. We were even buzzed by a small plane!
While I visited mid-morning, I’m told that sunrise and sunset are particularly picturesque.
Galleta Meadows Sculptures
If you do any reading on Borrego area, you’ll no doubt see a massive iron dragon sculpture in photos. The dragon is part of an amazing 130+ series of life-sized sculptures scattered across this area, and concentrated in a desert park called Galleta Meadows. From camels, to dinosaurs and animals of all sorts, as blog DesertUSA describes it the works are, “inspired by the animals that roamed this desert millions of years ago. Prehistoric mammals, historical characters, fanciful dinosaurs, and a 350-foot-long fanciful serpent are just some of the inhabitants.”
The sculptures are visible across Borrego Springs, but there’s a large park of sorts just west of De Anza Country Club.The map below is from GalletaMeadows.com
Golf at Par in Borrego Springs
While in Borrego Springs we were guests of friends at De Anza Golf and Country Club. This pretty older course is ringed by mountains and provides beautiful vistas and a quiet neighbourhood. We stayed in a lovely rental condo that was well-stocked and clean, and quiet.
While we were here we ate fabulous meals at the club. Friday night was prime rib night, which was very popular with the members. The food was outstanding and the cocktails were superb. Just when we thought we couldn’t improve on the experience, burger night the following day blew us away. I haven’t had such a delicious and fresh burger in years!
The course is beautiful and well kept and was fun to play. There’s a huge variety of architecture along the course and looking at the beautiful desert homes was almost as much fun as playing the course. We also learned the club has a unique promotion for Canadians; memberships at par!
De Anza’s friendly and charming General Manager, Damien Gallardo, tells me, “we do offer Canadian Dollar at Par for all of our Discovery Program Memberships. Those Memberships are 1 Day, 1 Week, 30 Days & 90 Days. The program is offered at par and all the food & beverage consumed during their trial membership is paid in Canadian Dollar at Par as well.”
Not only that, but if you’re considering a golf membership in the desert, de Anza even allows you to pay your monthly dues in at par in Canadian funds!
Explore the desert in Anza-Borrego State Park & Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area
We had no idea there was so much to see and do in the Borrego area. If you’re keen to explore the desert landscapes up close, it’s easy in this area. Anza-Borrego State Park if full of gorgeous trails, hikes and sights, like Font’s Point I noted above. We also did a very easy and short, but spectacular hike in a canyon called The Slot, that reminded me a lot of Petra in Jordan, the site where Indiana Jones was filmed. Read about that adventure here.
If ATVing is your thing you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven in Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area. This park adjacent to Anza-Borrego is loaded with sandy desert dunes, trails, pathways and plenty of hills and valleys made especially for ATV/quad/motorbikes/dirtbikes. The trails are labelled just like streets and avenues, making it easy to find you way through the vast sandy plains where everything looks the same.
We headed out in search of an odd rock formation called the Pumpkin Patch. The patch features dozens of perfectly spherical rocks strewn across the sand. We followed some online directions we found, but even in our 4WD SUV, the going was slow. After about an hour, and probably just withing a couple miles of the patch, our gas gauge warned us we’d better turn back. This site is now on the top of our list for the next visit, and we’ll probably rent quads to help us explore easier through the sandy trails.
If you’re looking to have some fun in the desert, I highly recommend adding a stop in the Borrego Springs area to your itinerary.
I’ve written extensively on things to do in the Palm Springs area. Click here to check out some of my other recommendations and picks.
Special thanks to blog DesertUSA for great tips on this area.