Boondocking Carrizo Badlands: Anza Borrego, CA

Boondocking Carrizo Badlands: Anza Borrego, CA

The Anza Borrego Desert State Park in southeastern California is a dramatic desert terrain full of hiking, camping, badlands, slot canyons, and off-roading trails. Star-gazing is top notch and if it’s been a wet winter you just might catch the desert in bloom in the early springtime. One of our favorite free campsites is the Carrizo Badlands Overlook at the very southern end of the state park.

THE QUICK DETAILS

  • This is free camping within the state park
  • GPS: 32.8287, -116.1673
  • The closest grocery stores would be in El Centro or Borrego Springs
  • We were here Feb. 6-9, 2019 and had pretty comfortable weather with highs in the 60s, lows in the mid30s
  • There are only a few sites available at the Overlook but much boondocking is available throughout the state park
  • The access road is a little rugged, so we prefer to enter and exit at the western end of the Overlook
  • You can see more photos and reviews on Campendium
Pastel sunset over golden badlands
View of the badlands from the overlook

The last time we stayed here we had several days of strong wind, lots of rain, and more than a couple rainbows. We didn’t have our 4x4 vehicle at that time but we noticed a Jeeping group head down into Canyon Sin Nombre, which is what the Overlook faces. On this visit we were excited to take our Xterra Off Road off-roading. The 4x4 trail is rated as easy but the first mile has a handful of tricky sections. The rest of the 6 mile loop is pretty easy going but with some areas of deep soft sand to be aware of.

Car on an off-road trail
Our Xterra, Frida, looking tiny against the canyon walls

It was a short stay for us here, only three nights, so time flew by quickly. We walked the dogs around the Overlook, we enjoyed sunsets and starry nights, and we got out for a beautiful hike just a few miles down the road at Mountain Palm Springs. We had seen a huge cluster of palm trees from the highway and found out there was a hike to see them. You can do it as a short or long loop, or an out and back. We were short on daylight and just did the out and back option. We only saw one other couple on the hike and had the main oasis all to ourselves. It was an easy hike on rugged terrain and we would highly recommend it.

Man standing in front of a large grove of palm trees
A beautiful large grove of palm trees awaits you on the trail

Our next stop was just a bit north near Borrego Springs and so we wanted to empty our tanks and get some water near Carrizo Badlands. Brad learned of Agua Caliente County Park and not only was it just $7 to use their dump station and get fresh water, they have hot springs pools. It’s $3 per person for a day use pass and at the indoor hot pool they have an adult-only hour from 9:30am-10:30am. We used to really enjoy taking hot soaks in our bathtub back in our stationary days, so we always enjoy a good hot tub or hot springs whenever we get the chance.

It was then a short 45 mile drive up to Borrego Springs where we got all settled in at a new boondocking spot for the week – but more on that next time.

Be sure to check out the video below all about our explorations near the Carrizo Badlands!

Maggie Pitcher

Hi, I’m Maggie! I enjoy exploring new cities but my real passion is spending time in nature. Hiking, kayaking, and photography all fill my cup to the brim, as does spending time with my sweet little family. We’ve been living and traveling in our motorhome since 2016 and it’s one of the best decisions we ever made. When I’m not scrambling up waterfalls or researching our next stop, I spend my time video editing for our YouTube channel, blogging and taking pictures – we love this way of life and have no plans to stop anytime soon!