Why Visit Borrego Springs with Kids

Get off the beaten path with a family vacation in Borrego Springs, California. It’s a quirky area inhabited by about 3,500 residents in the middle of the desert. Although it’s located within San Diego County, you’ll feel worlds away from the beachy vibe of SoCal in this desert village. Here’s what to do in Borrego Springs with kids.

Borrego Springs with kids
Borrego Springs with kids (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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1. Hike Anza-Borrego State Desert Park.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the largest desert park in the US, is the main draw for visitors to Borrego Springs. Although I have lived in Southern California and Arizona for most of my life, and I am quite familiar with the desert landscapes of both, I found Borrego Springs to have an otherworldly feel I have not found anywhere else.

As we drove into the area, I exclaimed, “It looks like we’re driving along the bottom of the ocean.” And we were. Borrego Springs was covered by ocean millions of years ago. It almost looked like a real-life version of a scene out of a SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon.

Stark landscape at Anza-Borrego State Desert Park
Stark landscape at Anza-Borrego State Desert Park (Photo credit: curtiskautzer, Depositphotos.com)

Anza-Borrego Visitor Center

Before setting out to hike a portion of the 110 miles of trails within the park, stop by the Visitor Center. Here you can get advice from rangers about which trails will suit your family’s hiking style and needs. You can also pick up a trail map. Be sure to watch the informational video in the center to learn all about the land’s transformation over the millennia from ocean, to valleys filled with grazing animals, to the desert it is today.

Desert Hiking Necessities

Sunscreen, a hat with a brim, and drinking water are necessary during an Anza-Borrego hike. This is especially true during warmer months when temperatures soar past 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If you forgot to bring these items with you (like we did), then you can purchase them in the Visitors Center. In summer, you will want to arrive early in the morning to avoid the crazy heat of the day. The park opens at dawn and closes at dusk.

Palm Oasis prize at the end of Palm Canyon Trail hike in Anza-Borrego Park
Palm Oasis prize at the end of our Palm Canyon Trail hike (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

2. Look for Bighorn Sheep.

Borrego Springs is named for its resident bighorn sheep. (Borrego means sheep or lamb in Spanish.) So, of course, you will want to try spot some borrego during your stay!

Palm Canyon Trail

During our visit to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, my family chose the popular Palm Canyon Trail. This easy 3-mile roundtrip hike leads to a grove of palm trees, called the Palm Oasis. We got a later start than we wanted during our October visit, during which temperatures hovered around 100 midday. Therefore, we decided to hike for just 20 minutes or so, and then turn back around. Returning hikers on the trail, however, kept convincing us to venture a little farther and a little farther with their tales of bighorn sheep seen along the way.

Eventually my 6-year-old son’s legs and attention span called it quits, so my husband headed back to the trail head with him. I wanted to find those bighorn sheep, though, even if it meant hiking the rest of the way solo. I asked my 9-year-old if she would continue with me to the Palm Oasis in search of the sheep. My tween tends to avoid most things that require a lot of effort, especially things her parents would like her to do. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised when she said yes.

Desert Bighorn Sheep in Anza Borrego Desert State Park
Desert Bighorn Sheep in Anza Borrego Desert State Park (Photo credit: volgariver, Depositphotos.com)

Look and Listen Carefully

We rationed our small bottle of water, stopping to take sips in what little shade we could find. When we reached the Oasis, we were saddened to find no bighorn sheep anywhere. After a few minutes of searching, I suggested we head back to the cool air conditioning of the car and get some lunch. But my determined little girl insisted we keep searching.

We heard some rocks tumble down the mountains above and my daughter whispered, “Look! Up there! It’s a baby bighorn!” Sure enough, wandering along the edge of a cliff was a baby sheep and its mama. There is something so exhilarating about spotting wildlife where they belong — in nature. We both beamed at each other, quietly pointing out other members of the bighorn family as they walked along the ridge.

Bring Binoculars and Plenty of Water

All told, the hike took us nearly two hours to complete, a length of time that would typically illicit groans and whines from my girl about sore feet, aching legs, thirst and heat. Not this time. She smiled the whole way back, even when I momentarily lost the trail. I’m so glad we powered on! Next time, we’ll bring binoculars and plenty of water, though.

When we could see our minivan in the distance, we broke into a run. We were so eager to tell the boys about our adventure and the treasure of bighorn sheep found at the end of trail.

Casita private pool at La Casa Del Zorro in Borrego Springs with kids
Our casita’s private pool at La Casa Del Zorro (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Book a casita with private pool at La Casa Del Zorro.

La Casa Del Zorro is a historic resort that first opened in 1937 in Borrego Springs. As a hotel pool lover, I was please to find the resort is home to 23 pools and hot tubs. Book one of the 19 private casitas to get your very own private pool in the desert. Our favorite memories at the hotel were spent swimming in our casita’s backyard pool. The hotel provides beach balls and inner tubes at no extra charge to make pool time even more fun.

Tween with smoothie by pool at La Casa Del Zorro
My daughter relaxing with a frosty smoothie by our private pool (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

We stayed in a three-bedroom La Casa Del Zorro casita with plenty of space to spread out and sleep well. Also fun for kids, you’ll find ping-pong tables, tennis courts (with complimentary rackets and balls), and fire pits around which to warm up during chilly desert evenings. For parents, the on-site spa offers all sorts of treatments to help you relax after desert hikes. Get frosty beverages like piña coladas (with or without alcohol) from La Casa De Zorro’s bar, the Fox Den.

Horse sculptures by Artist Ricardo Breceda in Borrego Springs
Horse sculptures by Artist Ricardo Breceda in Borrego Springs (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Look for sculptures by Artist Ricardo Breceda.

Ricardo Breceda is a Mexican-American artist, best known for his unique metal sculptures. One of Breceda’s most notable sculptures is a 350-foot serpent, whose head and body pops out of the desert sand in Borrego Springs. Other notable examples of Breceda’s work include fighting dinosaur statues and a series of wild horse sculptures that can be found in the area, along Highway 79 South. Kids will enjoy spotting these unique pieces of art while exploring Borrego Springs.

Ricardo Breceda's 350-foot long serpent in the Borrego Springs Desert
Ricardo Breceda’s 350-foot long serpent in the Borrego Springs Desert (Photo credit: woodkern, Depositphotos.com)

5. Enjoy stargazing in Borrego Springs.

The remote desert location of Borrego Springs and its lack of city lights makes it an ideal location for stargazing. The stars really do appear to shine brighter in the sky here. To get the most out of your stargazing experience, book a Borrego Night Skies Tour. They offer inspiring and personalized tours of the cosmos above Borrego Springs.

Stargazing in the desert
Stargazing in the desert (Photo credit: jocker17, Deposiphotos.com)

Where to Eat in Borrego Springs with Kids

You won’t find a Starbucks, McDonald’s or any chain restaurants or stores in Borrego Springs. Locals abhor growth and chain anything.

Local Restaurants

The tastiest restaurant we found in Borrego Springs was Carmelita’s, which offers authentic Mexican cuisine and some particularly good salsa. Also, Kendall’s Café is a decent choice for diner fare like burgers, fried chicken, and meatloaf. Although Carlee’s looked like a good option with pool tables to please the kids, I suggest avoiding this place unless you like mushy under-cooked fried shrimp and chicken served ice-cold along with an attitude and slow service.

Chile relleno with rice and beans at Carmelita's in Borrego Springs, California
Chile relleno with rice and beans at Carmelita’s (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Dining at La Casa Del Zorro

There are three restaurants at La Casa Del Zorro. Their fine dining option, the Fox Bistro, was closed during our off-season visit but it gets good ratings on TripAdvisor. The Rose Garden offers outdoor seating. Meanwhile, the Fox Den offers simple fare like salads and quesadillas with hefty price tags. To fill your casita’s mini fridge, pick up snacks and drinks at the small grocery store at The Mall in town. (Yes, it’s actually named, “The Mall.”)

The Fox Den bar at La Casa Del Zorro in Borrego Springs
The Fox Den bar at La Casa Del Zorro (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Where Is Borrego Springs?

Located about two hours by car from either San Diego or Palm Springs, Borrego Springs makes a nice stopping point between the two destinations during a California road trip. It’s also just 45 minutes northeast from Julian, a town renowned for its apple pie shops aplenty.

Father and son hiking in Borrego Springs
My husband and son hiking in Borrego Springs (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Why Visit Borrego Springs

You don’t travel to Borrego Springs for the food, shopping or nightlife. Go to Borrego Springs to get away from your everyday worries and submerge yourself in stark desert beauty. There aren’t even any stop lights in the area, so as to not distract from the stunning display of stars in the nighttime sky.

When we returned home, my creative daughter wrote a song about our mother-daughter trek through the desert called, “What’s a Hike without a Prize?” Families come to Borrego Springs to search for connection with nature and each other. And that’s just what we found.

Surfers at sunset in Huntington Beach, CA
Surfers at sunset in Huntington Beach, California (Photo credit: Wirestock, Depositphotos.com)

Explore More of Southern California

Head inland from Borrego Springs to explore the coast. Huntington Beach is heaven for surf-loving families. Discover what to do in Huntington Beach with kids.

For a unique California vacation, take a look at what to do in Ventura, near Los Angeles.

San Diego’s northern neighbor, Carlsbad, is home to LEGOLAND California and so much more. Review all the fun things to do during a Carlsbad family vacation.

Can’t decide where to go in California? Read my picks for the best California family vacation destinations.

Things to Do in Borrego Springs, California with Kids

Save these Tips for Visiting Borrego Springs

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Would you like to visit Borrego Springs with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: La Casa Del Zorro hosted my family’s stay at their resort. All opinions are mine, as always.

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  1. Colleen , come back and visit and you may change your mind about dining in BS–We have Kesling’s for wood-fired pizza, Red Ocotillo for fantastic burgers and Carmelita’s for wonderful, family-style Mexican food ( and try the Skinny Margaritas if you need something after hanging with the kids). VRBO has a condo #23 at Villas Borrego , right on Palm Canyon Drive that is 2 suite. There are two pools and it is usually so quiet that you have a pool all to yourself!

    1. Thanks for the heads-up about the food in Borrego Springs! We enjoyed Carmelita’s during our visit. Will need to check out the other options the next time we visit!

  2. We are here right now. Spent a lot of time here a decade ago pre kids. Now with 4 boys we couldn’t wait to show them this special spot. We too are staying in Casa Del Zorro and love it. My boys LOVE hiking “the slot” and climbing in Culp Valley. Ages 8, 8, 6, 3. We spent two nights here during our 9 day San Diego adventure. We stopped in Julian for pie and the train/gold mine tour too.

    1. Kristin – How great that you brought your kids back to Borrego Springs so many years later. Sounds like you had a wonderful SoCal family holiday!

  3. I am so excited to check this spot out now! We live between Arizona and Orange County and I have never heard of this. We love to do family hikes and this looks just perfect for our family. Thank you for your fun review and for giving us another fun place to add to our family travel list!