A Palm Oasis in the middle of the desert with a real stream and mini waterfall? Awesome! The Borrego Palm Canyon Hike is the state park’s ‘signature hike.’ It is a very scenic and easy 3 mile round trip hike and we all enjoyed it. One could hike in but we paid the $10 parking fee which I thought was well worth it. All the other hikes were free so this was a small price to pay to support the park and this hike. Plus this hike was magnificent! It really highlighted the desert landscape and palm oasis, was well marked and numbered (pick up a nature trail guide pamphlet to read about each numbered area), and the sound of gushing water was welcomed after hiking in the desert.
Most of the hike at the beginning was flat, filled with desert plants and well marked rock lined trails. The kids had a good time finding each numbered post and taking turns leading the hike. Eventually there was a gradual incline, with stairs, and some easy bouldering, and then all of a sudden we were surrounded by hills and mountains.
Since bighorn sheep were known to climb these mountains and drink water near the palm oasis, the kids and I were keeping our eyes wide opened to see if we could spot one. (Sadly we didn’t but the hikers behind us did…they showed us pictures of the two sheep they saw camouflaged high up in the hills). My youngest happily pointed out a hummingbird though!
We started hearing water and before we knew it we saw a little creek. There was a junction where one had to cross by walking over a log. The kids needed help balancing/crossing and I didn’t want to drop my camera helping them along so I didn’t get a good picture of that. But it was fun!
As we got closer to the palm trees, there was a lot more water and a nice waterfall. I didn’t get too close as I didn’t want the kids climbing over the bigger rocks that could be slippery so we stopped a bit short. We rested on top a big rock, the kids enjoyed a nice snack and we headed back.
On the way back, I chose to take the ‘alternate’ path. So we did not cross back on that log over the creek. It was definitely very scenic and fun climbing up and down, with more desert plants to admire too.
I imagined myself as a bighorn sheep climbing up and down those hills. It was also really quiet (no one was around) so it was very peaceful and a good time to clear the mind or just think about things.
I was being adventurous and thought we could do this, no problem. I think it would’ve been fine if we had more daylight. But as it was, sunset was soon upon us and it was starting to get dark. The alternate path was not as well marked and it seemed to climb up and down and just as soon as we thought we were starting to go downhill towards the parking lot, we started going up again. This was the only time that I was a bit worried we wouldn’t get to the parking lot before dark! It was getting colder and I was getting worried about the kids and visibility. But luckily we made it! Whew! The pictures I took however were too dark to see much. It was gorgeous though! Something definitely better to appreciate in person than in pictures.
We went home after that hike as it was getting dark and we drove out past the windy mountains just in time. Next time we will plan on not cutting it that close. 🙂
Below is a photo of one of the many Galleta Meadows metal sculptures that we saw right before the Palm Canyon Hike. The kids really enjoyed looking around to find more and more of these wondrous figures towering in the middle of the desert. There were horses, camels, elephants, and even a sea serpent (we couldn’t find him though so we will look for him next time). The dinosaur sculpture below was one of their favorites. I admit though it was a bit tough in the family van driving through the bumpy unpaved dirt roads to find these sculptures. Our van made it though and the kids loved this part of our adventure!
Another thing that kept the kids busy and very intrigued during the drive in between the hikes and during the hikes…the Anza Borrego Natural History Association has a Desert Exploration program for kids. Just print out the packet and read about the plants, animals, sculptures, and fun facts. Great learning experience for us! If your kids spot the different things listed on their packet, they get to check it off and collect points. For example, the ocotillo plant and desert agave were everywhere and you get 5 points each for spotting one of those. Once you hit 100 points, turn it into the ABDNHA Nature Center, and get a free Junior Naturalist Arm Patch. That was a hit with our kids! Not to mention their well-stocked souvenir store (we ended up buying some rocks, souvenir visor, and stuffed animals). It’s online at the abdnha.org or click here
Thanks for reading! Hopefully you got a chance to read through Anza Borrego Part 1 for details on location and the other hike (The Slot) we did.
On to more adventures…