Family Travel to Borrego Springs

Take a family trip to Borrego Springs in San Diego County.

Borrego Springs may conjure up visions of sun-baked desolation, but a longer look reveals this small, unincorporated East San Diego community as a local treasure with a storied charm as colorful as a blaze of wildflowers after a storm.

The Borrego Springs lifestyle sways with the desert breeze at a slower pace. You won’t find a single stoplight or chain store. You will, as the Chamber of Commerce accurately declares, find “solitude, sunshine, stars and so much more.”

Visit Font's Point for a stunning view during your trip to Borrego Springs in San Diego County.

Exploring the Backcountry
We met with Joe Raffetto, owner of California Overland Desert Excursions. At 600,000 acres, Anza Borrego State Park is the largest desert state park in the United States. Only a small fraction of the park is accessible to family cars. California Overland unlocks some of the most beautiful sights in the farther reaches of the desert backcountry.

Raffetto is a wealth of geohistorical knowledge, sharing fascinating details about each point of interest with spry humor. He managed to keep our sons’ attention (not always an easy thing) for three hours. As we moved deeper into the desert, we relished rare, quenching bursts of flowering color in a wash of browns, reds, greens and golds.

We rumbled past a few “closed area” signs—California Overland is authorized to be in these areas, and treats them with utmost respect. We arrived at Clark Dry Lake, which, according to Raffetto, was a shimmering, deep freshwater lake until about 8,000 years ago. WWII naval aviators trained here, and the rake stations, fortified positions for flight instructors and observers, remain standing. A wartime collision between two training aircraft left an impact crater, surrounded by small debris. The larger chunks were hauled out by the Navy, but we saw black, decaying rubberized fuel bladders, bits of wiring, scraps of fuselage and a few .50-caliber bullets and shells. As historic relics, visitors are not to remove these items, but Raffetto handed the pieces around for us to examine—a satisfying, tangible time capsule experience.

At Font’s Point, the stunning Badlands formations are spliced with red earth from the Grand Canyon. The San Jacinto fault, the most active branch of the San Andreas, buckles through the Anza Borrego, with up to 230 quakes a day. Though most are imperceptible to visitors, the shifting landscape panorama tells its shaking tale.

Stellar Stargazing
Anza Borrego is one of only four designated Dark Sky Communities in the world and one of the Top 10 stargazing sites in the United States, according to USA Today. We were privileged to join noted astronomer, astrophotographer and author Dennis Mammana for a night of stargazing. Mammana has held planetarium positions at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum and San Diego’s Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.

The full moon was magnificent but it was not ideal for stargazing. However, even with the bright gaze of the moon, Mammana guided us to a number of celestial sights with a telescope the size of a lanky child.

The visual treats included Albireo, a lovely bi-color double star at the beak end of Cygnus the swan, the brilliant stars in the Summer Triangle, Cassiopeia, Pleiades and the dazzling Double Cluster.

Then, with considerable effort given the bright moon, Mammana located the Andromeda galaxy and we were awed by ancient starlight traveling to us from beyond our home galaxy. We brought binoculars, lawn chairs and blankets, and were glad we did as winter temps drop quickly after sundown.

Mammana’s patience and enthusiasm left us hankering to learn more about the cosmos. We’d love to return to Borrego Springs during a new moon to take full advantage of the blazing night sky.

Visit Galleta Meadows and see the statues during your trip to Borrego Springs in San Diego County.

Glorious Galleta Meadows

From La Casa del Zorro we made our way to Galleta Meadows, to enjoy Ricardo Breceda’s fantastical steel sculptures of animals both historical and mystical. Breceda’s welded metal “sky art” menagerie must be seen to be believed. These muscular, passionate works create a jaw-dropping dreamscape. We journeyed along, stopping to marvel at a number of the creatures jutting high above the desert brush and cacti. We saw the 350-foot serpent, several of the horses, and original inhabitants of the desert, such as the Gompothere, Camelops, Merriam’s Tapir, and Columbian Mammoth. Fossils from these prehistoric beasts have been found close to Borrego Springs.

The late philanthropist Dennis Avery (1940-2012) commissioned Breceda’s works, a true gift for the generations. We were unable to see all 129 creatures and hope to make a return pilgrimage one day. As we drove away, we pondered how fluently these static metal forms convey movement and even emotion.

Our memories were filled with wonderful stories of the desert, the stars and time spent together as a family.


Borrego Springs — IF YOU GO

Stay at La Casa del Zorro during your trip to Borrego Springs in San Diego County.


Anza Borrego Desert State Park
www.abdsp.org
Visit the site for must-read safety tips and info on the Visitors Center, camping and family-friendly trails.

Anza Borrego Desert Natural History Association Desert Store and Nature Center
652 Palm Canyon Dr.

www.abdnha.org
“Just for Kids” section, desert exploration activities.

La Casa del Zorro
3845 Yaqui Pass Rd.
Reservations: 760-767-0100

www.lacasadelzorro.com
Though La Casa del Zorro allows pets for an extra fee, pets are not allowed on desert hiking trails, due to dangers of wildlife, dehydration and scalded paws.
Dining:
The Butterfield Room: A romantic, candlelit restaurant. Dinner entrees priced at $30+; ample breakfasts are offered for $10-$15.
The Fox Den: More casual dining but still elegant with fire in the hearth. Dinners range $12-$15. Try the house-made “Fox chips.”

California Overland Desert Excursions
www.californiaoverland.com
Layer up! Extremes in desert temperatures are to be expected, including depleting heat and cool winds. Lunch and dinner options available.

San Diego Tourism Authority
www.sandiego.org/eastcounty

Dennis Mammana: Stargaze Borrego

www.stargazeborrego.com
dennismammana.com

Borrego Art Institute
www.borregoartinstitute.org

Bike Borrego
www.bikeborrego.com


---------------------
Ondine Brooks Kuraoka is a writer who lives with her family in San Carlos.

Discover California National Parks

Discover California National Parks

These national parks in Southern and Central California are within a day’s drive of San Diego.Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with a visit to one (or more) of these sc . . .

Read more

Family Camping Fun: Activities, Recipes and Ideas

Family Camping Fun: Activities, Recipes and Ideas

  Grab your camping gear and get ready for a great outdoor adventure (even if it's only in the backyard). Here are activities, crafts, recipes and tips that make fabulous family camping me . . .

Read more

Take the Family Glamping in Buellton, California

Take the Family Glamping in Buellton, California

So, what is glamping? Glamping is like camping—but not. Combining the words glamorous and camping, glamping includes amenities and comforts of home (beds, electricity, indoor plumbing). None of th . . .

Read more

Family Road Trip: 6 Fun Stops Along California's Central Coast

Family Road Trip: 6 Fun Stops Along California's Central Coast

The secret is out: San Diego is amazing. In fact, it’s a top U.S. vacation destination. So while the rest of the country is descending upon San Diego this summer, consider venturing away from the . . .

Read more

Plan a Family Adventure to Catalina Island

Plan a Family Adventure to Catalina Island

What do wild bison, an awesome zipline, a casino and walking on the ocean floor have in common? Catalina Island, of course.Looking for a fun family day or weekend trip? I’ll let you in on a little . . .

Read more

Visit Zion National Park in Utah

Visit Zion National Park in Utah

Photo by Lisa Pawlak Breathtaking, colorful Zion National Park embraces towering cliffs, glimmering waterfalls, emerald-green pools, blue skies, red sandstone river canyons and massive multihued rock . . .

Read more

SoCal’s Best Beach Camping

SoCal’s Best Beach Camping

Southern California beaches are a popular destination year round, so why not spend a few days at a beachfront or bayfront campground? “Southern California has some of the best ocean-front campgro . . .

Read more

Fun Things to Do with Kids in the Bay Area

Fun Things to Do with Kids in the Bay Area

Planning a road trip to the San Francisco Bay Area? Here are five kid-friendly stops from Gilroy (south of San Francisco) to Fairfield (north of San Francisco). Each super fun spot will entertain, e . . .

Read more

Get to Know Lake Gregory in Crestline, CA

Get to Know Lake Gregory in Crestline, CA

I had never even heard of Lake Gregory in California’s San Bernardino Mountains until a couple months ago. But now the secret is out! Bustling with fun lake activities for families, it’s a perfe . . .

Read more

Winter Family Fun in Big Bear

Winter Family Fun in Big Bear

Ready to take your family on a winter getaway close to San Diego? Head to the mountains for a fun-filled winter vacation at Big Bear. Winter activities include skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and . . .

Read more

Six Snow Play Destinations

Six Snow Play Destinations

photo credit- Big Bear Mountain Resort Ready to play in the snow? The whole family can enjoy a snowy, active vacation with adventures like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snow tubing, ice skating, sn . . .

Read more

Ski Mammoth Mountain

Ski Mammoth Mountain

Take the kids to “shred some pow” at Mammoth Mountain, one of California’s premier winter sports recreational resorts. Families wanting a fun, wintery escape will fulfill mammoth-sized dreams . . .

Read more

Visit Bryce Canyon National Park

Visit Bryce Canyon National Park

Breathtaking Bryce Canyon National Park offers one of the planet’s most surreal landscapes. Within the park’s 56 square miles, the geological forces of weather and erosion have carved intense sa . . .

Read more

Family Travel to Arches National Park

Family Travel to Arches National Park

Arches National Park, located in southeast Utah, offers an abundance of geological wonders waiting to be discovered by visiting families. The park’s scenic, red rock landscape is home to more than . . .

Read more

Get started with RV Camping

Get started with RV Camping

Take Your Family on the Road, RV Style! During a recent email session with an old friend about our summer plans, I mentioned that our family planned on taking our annual four-week road trip in our . . .

Read more

Insider's Tips when Visiting Catalina

Insider's Tips when Visiting Catalina

Here are helpful insider’s tips you won’t find anywhere else. Things I didn’t know until I got to Catalina. They could make your visit to the island a little sweeter.If you haven’t read the . . .

Read more

Make Traveling with Kids a Lifelong Adventure

Make Traveling with Kids a Lifelong Adventure

Travel is loaded with benefits for families. It awakens curiosity and helps kids and parents feel more at home in the world while creating strong bonds and lasting memories. As kids grow, the fun of . . .

Read more

Kid-Friendly SoCal Getaways

Kid-Friendly SoCal Getaways

Southern California resorts and hotels that families love! Looking for a local family getaway where there’s relaxation for adults and fun for the kids? These resorts offer plenty of amenities . . .

Read more

11 Kid-Friendly Adventures on Oahu

11 Kid-Friendly Adventures on Oahu

Taking a family vacation to the island of Oahu? Sure, you’ll lounge on the beach, build sandcastles and play in the water; but why not dig a little deeper into the culture, traditions and excitement . . .

Read more

4 Tips for a Successful First RV Camping Trip

4 Tips for a Successful First RV Camping Trip

Is your family new to RV camping? Here are a few tips provided by KOA that will help you get started.1. Make your first trip close to home so you can work out any kinks in your RV before getting too . . .

Read more

Best Family Camping in San Diego

Best Family Camping in San Diego

Ready to embark on a San Diego family camping adventure? Help your kids experience the great outdoors at one of the many family campgrounds in San Diego County! First-time campers? Consider pra . . .

Read more

Family Fun in Oxnard, CA

Family Fun in Oxnard, CA

Visit Oxnard: Family-Friendly Things to Do, See and Eat Looking for a relaxing beachside community that is void of crowds? Go a few hours up the coast from San Diego to Oxnard—it’s so awesome! . . .

Read more

(Mostly) Unplugged Road Trips

(Mostly) Unplugged Road Trips

8 Survival Tips for Family Road Trips Taking a family road trip this year? You are not alone—traveling to a vacation destination via car is still popular with families. While sitting in a car tog . . .

Read more

The Splendor of Sedona

The Splendor of Sedona

Cathedral rock (photo credit: Geno Pawlak) If you’re looking for an active family getaway that will recharge and renew your spirits, look no further than Sedona, Arizona. This spectacular destina . . .

Read more

Weekend Getaway to Long Beach

Weekend Getaway to Long Beach

Want to get away for a fun weekend? Just a couple hours north of San Diego is the pet-friendly coastal city of Long Beach, which offers water activities, popular attractions and a lively night scene . . .

Read more

San Diego Family Magazine Logo

Be Family Informed – Sign up for our Newsletters below!