Explore the wonders of the Earth. In this site, you will find some information about hiking trails, some of the natural wonders in the places we explored, some itineraries of our travels, some road trip information, some health and fitness tips to enjoy the outdoors, and more of the simple joys from our natural world. Life, like hiking, has lots of ups and down, rugged and steep terrains, switchbacks, and beautiful scenic turns.- Betchai
Friday, March 07, 2014
Cactus Monday- Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail
Anza Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego County, CA
from the visitor center: 5.5 miles round trip, 600 ft elevation gain (no fee to park at visitor center)
from Borrego Palm Campgrond: 3 miles round trip, 600 ft elevation gain ( there is $8.00 day use fee to enter campground )
This is the most popular trail probably in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and is also good for beginners because the ascent is very gradual, and the trail is well maintained. Though some parts of the trail would require some boulder hopping, because of the big rocks that litter the ground. Most parts of the trails are rocky, but very manageable.
Desert Nature Trail, Visitor Center
The peak visitation to this park is during winter and spring when the temperature is cooler. In the summer, because of the intense desert heat, the trail is more isolated. Though at other times of the year, the hike here can be drab for some, because there is nothing but sun-blasted vegetation. But during spring, March and April, this park can turn into a rainbow of colors.
Blooming Beavertail and Brittlebush
Though the cactus themselves are already very interesting for me even without the blossoms, but then, seeing them bloom makes it all the more special. Some of the cacti in the nature trail at visitor center are quite huge and seeing them in their full glory in the desert is just amazing for me.
The trail to Borrego Palm Canyon from the Visitor Center starts at the pupfish pond, and walking up the canyon past many desert plants allow us to take a glimpse of how the Indians made used of these plants for their food and shelter.
Start of Trail from Visitor Center towards Borrego Palm Canyon
The willow was used for home building and bow making; the brittlebush and creosote were used for healing qualities; honey, mesquite and beavertail cactus were food staples.
Brittlebush in Bloom and Cholla
From the nature trail at the visitor center to Borrego Palm Campground, the trail is mostly flat passing through thorny vegetation, most of them chollas. The chollas are adorned with the blooming brittlebush, and low on the ground are some desert dandelions and chicory.
Chicory and Phacelia
There are still a lot more other wildflowers in this trail, but maybe I will have to save them for later so that this post will not be overloaded with pictures. After reaching the campground, the trail starts to be more rocky.
Trail Past Campground
There were a lot of tall ocotillos that line up the trail.
A Very Tall Ocotillo (or vine cactus)
The ocotillos have brilliant tubular red blooms, you can try clicking on the above picture if the enlarge one will show the bright red bloom clearly. I will save the up close pictures of ocotillo's bloom and more information about ocotillos in later Cactus Monday posts.
Evidence of Life in the Dark Lining of the Rock
( bacterial action on minerals produce the dark/almost black coloration)
Aside from the ocotillos, one can observe the darkening of the rocks' edges, which are evidence of bacterial action. The walls of the canyons may look brown and sparse of vegetation, yet, on closer look, you will see a lot of barrel cacti and some bushes.
Barrel Cacuts, Grass on Canyon Walls
It is at this slopes where the desert bighorn sheep can be commonly observed. Though we have spotted several big horn sheep in our hike, but they were too far for me to take good pictures. It is hard to spot them, since they camouflage very well with the color of the canyon walls.
Borrego Palm Canyon
After rounding a bend, an iridescent green that is cradled in the canyon is a pleasant surprise, when the early part of the trail were mostly thorny and sun-blasted vegetation. As one gets closer to the palm oasis, the trail becomes more rocky and there is a need to scramble on some rock surfaces to proceed.
Rock and Boulder Strewn Trail
At this part, one will now observe and hear the running creek on between the canyon floor.
Creek at Borrego Palm Canyon
In some parts, water splashes over boulders, and in some, water drops over boulders creating a waterfall.
Getting Closer to the Palm Oasis
Due to massive flooding in 2003 and 2004, about 80% of the palms in the first grove were washed out. The destruction, though widespread, but was not necessarily total. There are still some palm trees left, which provides shade for animals to cool down when the desert gets hot, and also is a beautiful destination of the hike.
Borrego Palms @ Borrego Palm Canyon
This grove of desert palms is the end point of the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail. Some people spend time here to have some picnic, and take some splash in the nearby waterfall that cascades over huge boulders.
Waterfall @ Borerego Palm Canyon (there are many small waterfalls in the trail)
- desert spring oasis -
After this, one can either return to the trailhead using the same route, or take the alternate trail to South Fork , which will add 3.5 miles and 800 ft more elevation to the hike.