Anza Borrego – A Day in the Colorado Desert

When most people say they’re flying to California they tend to be excited about spending time in big cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco.

For me, the first thing I did when I arrived in San Diego was head for the Colorado Desert. The desert is actually in Mexico and California – south of the Mojave Desert and considered part of the Sonora Desert.

Colorado Desert - Creosote Bush and Canyon

Colorado Desert - A Creosote Bush and Canyon View in Anza Borrego Desert State Park


Geography lesson aside, the Colorado Desert is a low-lying desert. It’s dry and shrubby. Not many big cacti in this part of the desert. There is plenty to see though!

Barrel cactus - Colorado Desert

A Barrel Cactus in the Colorado Desert, California


Most of my time in the Colorado Desert was spent in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. As California’s largest state park, there was a lot to explore. The wildflowers weren’t out yet, as I arrived in late winter, but I still found the odd looking plants quite interesting.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park - Wildflowers

The only Wildflowers I could find in Anza Borrego Desert State Park


As I continued east from San Diego, through the park I eventually came in sight of Borrego Springs. Nestled amongst the mountains Borrego Springs proclaims itself as California’s Secret Desert.

If you judge it by the odd desert sculptures that greet you as you approach the village, then you don’t doubt you’ve entered some sort of strange desert oasis.

A Woolly Mammoth Sculpture near Borrego Springs

A Woolly Mammoth Sculpture near Borrego Springs in the Colorado Desert


As alluring as those rusty sculptures and looming mountains were, I resisted spending much time in Borrego Springs, as I found the desert itself interesting enough. Wide washes that had been previously flooded were countered by deep canyons and the rocky cliffs would be spattered with pockets of colour, creating a nice visual as I passed through the State Park.

A Cactus in the Colorado Desert

A Spider-like Cactus in the Colorado Desert, California


If you like wide-open spaces and big skies this is a perfect place for camping only a few hours from San Diego. But, if you’re like me, you may want to drive a little further northeast to the edge of the Colorado Desert and into the Mojave Desert to check out Joshua Tree National Park.

About Red Hunt

A former journalist and business analyst that now works in the world of travel marketing. Based in Toronto, Red Hunt has travelled to more than 40 countries over the past 10 years. You can follow Red on Twitter @redhunttravel.