Anza Borrego
Palm Canyon Trail

Palm Canyon Trail
The Anza Borrego Palm Canyon Trail is quite popular among hikers. It is near the Borrego Palm Canyon campground; it has a varied terrain; and the final destination is a lush palm oasis. Round trip, the trail is 3 miles and it takes 2½ to 3 hours to complete.

Trail Head

Before you start, grab a free Trail Guide and check the notice board for warnings: mountain lions, rattle snakes, and/or flash floods.

It is not a terribly strenuous hike, but it will get hot so fill up with water at the trail head water fountain.

The desert environment is a very delicate ecosystem where everything is in balance. So, use the bathrooms at the trail head if you need to. These Stonehenge-like structures are a sight in themselves: no doors and no roof. Thus, you can pee under the sun and stars.

Palm Canyon Trail
Anza Borrego Palm Canyon Trail
Drinking fountain and bathrooms are made to blend with the surroundings to minimize visual impact.

Palm Canyon Trail
Anza Borrego
Palm Canyon Trail.
One of the best things about the Anza Borrego Palm Canyon Trail is the varied trail conditions - this gives you a sense of change and progress as you go from one habitat to the next.

Beginning of the Trail

The first part of the hike is a dry, hot, barren trail. The ground is coarse sand and there are low bushes with and an occasional Ocotillo tree. About a quarter of the way in, you will approach a cliff side. If you are hiking before 10 am, this section of the trail is in the shade giving you relief from the hot sun. Here, children can climb and clamber over large boulders which have fallen from the rock face.

The mountainside is a geologist's dream with various rock formations. For the naturalist, be on the lookout for Bighorn sheep. The sheep like to gaze down from the rocky cliffs. They are rare and hard to see so consider yourself very lucky if you happen to see one tip-toeing along the cliff side.

Middle of the Trail

As you move ahead towards the half way point, you will notice a change in the landscape: suddenly, the scenery seems more green. Soon enough, you will come to a tree-trunk footbridge which crosses a creek. It's a delight to see water in a desert trail. After the bridge, turn right to head towards the Palm oasis, you may even see it at the distance. If time permits, you can try the loop trail (on your left) during your return trip from the oasis.

This last half of the trail is composed of scrambling over rocks, crossing over the small creak and shouldering around lush bushes. Where there is water - there is life! The water from the Palm oasis feeds the plants, and trees in turn feed the birds, the bees, and the butterflies.

Palm Canyon Trail
A foot bridge takes you across a creek and into a more lush habitat.

Top: an oasis of palm trees among rocks and boulders; note person on bottom right.
Middle: oasis is alive with new growth; note the "skirt" of dead leaves from older palms.
Bottom: more waterfalls beyond the oasis, this water gives life to the oasis.
Palm Canyon Trail
Palm Oasis

Finally at the end, you will enter the Palm Oasis. Here an impressive stand of California palm trees will give you shade, a place to rest, and a place to explore. The shaggy coat called a skirt (previous years' dead leaves that have not fallen off) is home to many small animals. The layers of dead leaves:
    - help maintain a more constant temperature;
    - help retain moisture; and
    - are home to small animals and insects. The skirt is a mini-ecosystem in itself!

From this point on, you may rest and have a snack, or you can hike beyond the palm oasis and explore other waterfalls. Depending on the season and the water levels, there could be another 3 or 4 waterfalls beyond the Palm Oasis. Follow the creek and discover the small pools along the way. There's lots of life here if you stop to look at it. Ladybugs, water spiders, even frogs.

Location, Parking, Price, and Facilities

The Anza Borrego Palm Canyon Trail is within the Borrego Palm Canyon campground. If you are camping there already, the hike is free - otherwise it is $6 for day-use of the trail. Once you've paid, you can enter and exit as often as you like for the day.

Parking is free right in front of the trail head, but it does get quite full by 12 noon. People who camp at the park campground should take the walking trail to get to the trail head and avoid bringing their car.

There are bathrooms and a drinking fountain at the head of the trail. There are no facilities along the way or at the end of the trail.

Palm Canyon Trail parking

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