Borrego Palm Canyon is a wide trench descending west to east down the San Ysidro Mountains just west of Borrego Springs. The creation of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park began in the 1930s with the protection of this palm-filled canyon. The popularity of the trail exploring Borrego Palm Canyon has endured, even as the park has expanded to protect a thousand square miles of southeastern California. This 3.25-mile loop ascends 450 feet to a shady oasis in an alluring desert canyon.
The trail is located just north of the park visitor center, making it a convenient place to begin your exploration of the Anza-Borrego Desert. To reach the trailhead, drive through Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, the largest developed campground in the park, where an eight-dollar day use fee is charged. This is the only trailhead in the park that requires such a fee.
The start of Borrego Palm Canyon Trail
Pick up an informative pamphlet and begin hiking west up the wash outside Borrego Palm Canyon. Numbered markers coincide with entries in the trail guide that tell the story of the canyon as you hike. The trail passes through a variety of cacti and other desert vegetation. In the early spring, a surprisingly active stream flows out of Borrego Palm Canyon. Follow the trail back and forth over the creek bed a few times to arrive at a marked junction one mile (and 300 vertical feet) from the start. To the left, an alternate trail heads back to the campground. Hike this way on the return to add an extra quarter-mile to the trek, along with wider views and varied scenery.
Turn right, continuing up the canyon toward the oasis. Downed palm trunks scattered around the mouth of the canyon are evidence of damage from a flash flood that tore through Borrego Palm Canyon in 2004. As the trail becomes slightly more rugged, amble over and around rocks to reach a small cluster of palms, 1/3 of a mile from the junction. Press on to the grand oasis of California fan palms just ahead.
The first cluster of palms
Borrego Palm Canyon Oasis
Relax in the shade of one of the largest palm oases in California. A far less traveled track continues up Borrego Palm Canyon toward seasonal waterfalls and an ascent trail to Indianhead Mountain.
On your way back down the canyon, continue straight through the junction to return via the alternate trail. This single track climbs 90 feet up and over an alluvial fan south of the canyon itself, providing new views on the way back to the trailhead. This 1.25-mile track sees less foot traffic than the main trail up the canyon, passing through thriving cacti, ocotillo, and other desert brush.
If you finish with this hike and still have energy, there is another trail departing from Borrego Palm Canyon Campground. Panoramic Overlook Trail is a 1-mile round trip hike ascending to a scenic spot on the ridge south of Borrego Palm Canyon. Dogs and bikes are allowed in the campground but not on the hiking trails. There is a $10 day use fee to enter Borrego Palm Canyon Campground (as of March, 2013), but no permit is required for either hike, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs, drive 1.5 miles west on Palm Canyon Drive to an unmarked service road just past Route S22, and 0.2 miles before the park visitor center. Turn north and drive one mile to the entrance of Borrego Palm Canyon Campground. Pass through the entrance station and drive to the trailhead at the west end of the campground.
Trailhead address: Borrego Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, CA 92004
Trailhead coordinates: 33.269838, -116.418042 (33° 16′ 11.41″N 116° 25′ 04.95″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
Or view California Desert Hikes in a larger map
|Panoramic Overlook Trail|
The 1-mile round trip hike ascends a ridge on the south side of Borrego Palm Canyon to sweeping views of the San Ysidro Mountains and Borrego Valley.
|Hellhole Canyon Trail to Maidenhair Falls|
This 5.5-mile hike visits a 20-foot waterfall in a canyon near Borrego Springs, making it the perfect place to cool off on a hot day in the California Desert.
|Kenyon Overlook Trail|
This 1.15-mile loop sets out from Yaqui Pass to reach an incredible viewpoint across Mescal Bajada.
|Culp Valley Loop|
This 2.2-mile loop visits Culp Valley Overlook and Pena Springs, delivering views of the San Ysidro Mountains and Borrego Valley along the way.
|Calcite Mine Trail|
This 4.25-mile trek climbs 600 feet to a historic mine site, exploring exciting narrows along the way.
This short hike descends through a narrow canyon beneath a natural rock span that is among the most photographed landmarks in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
|Narrows Earth Trail|
This 0.5-mile self-guided hike explores the geology of the park.
This 0.6-mile hike visits a village of boulders once occupied by Kumeyaay Indians who left behind Morteros, grinding bowls carved into the rock.
This 1.8-mile hike visits rock paintings drawn by Kumeyaay Indians who lived in the Anza-Borrego Desert thousands of years ago.
|Rainbow Canyon Trail|
This 2.2-mile adventure follows an undeveloped trail up a colorful canyon full of vibrant rock formations and desert plants.
|Elephant Trees Trail|
This easy one-mile loop offers a lesson in desert botany including the rare elephant tree.
|Wind Caves Trail|
This 1.25-mile round trip hike climbs 250 feet to a sandstone formation that begs to be explored.
|Hikes in the California Desert|
Explore more trails in Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Mojave National Preserve.
|Fortynine Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park|
The 3-mile round trip hike visits a cool desert oasis.
|Lost Palms Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park|
This 7.2-mile hike visits a desert oasis nestled between mountains in the southeast corner of the park.
|Anza-Borrego Desert Campgrounds|
There are four developed campgrounds, eight primitive campgrounds, and extensive roadside camping to accommodate your visit to California’s largest state park.
|Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Wildflowers|
The desert bloom brings bursts of color to barrel cactus, beavertail cactus, ocotillo, and more.