Yes, for the most part you can camp anywhere in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, as long as your vehicle remains on established roads and trails, and pulls into previously used campsites and clearings. There actually are established “park orders” designating where primitive camping and backcountry camping is allowed.
Can You Camp Anywhere in Anza Borrego?
Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the only state park in California that allows dispersed camping (boondocking) without having to obtain a permit or pay fees. It’s also one of more popular areas for boondocking in California.
Park Orders For Primitive Camping
The Colorado Desert District, which is a subdivision of California State Department of Parks and Recreation, has issued a “Park Order” describing exactly where dispersed camping is allowed inside Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
The current Park Order was issued July 1, 2019, and still remains in effect. You can view a PDF copy of this Park Order here.
Here is a run down of what this Park Order says…
- Primitive Camping is allowed at any one of the Park’s eight (8) designated primitive camps as listed on the park map (Arroyo Salado, Blair Valley, Culp Valley, Fish Creek, Mountain Palm Springs, Sheep Canyon, Yaqui Pass, and Yaqui Well.)
- Primitive Camping is allowed along the Park’s designated dirt roads where vehicles must be parked no more than one (1) car length off a given road where it will not disturb natural features.
- Primitive Camping is allowed in road-less areas where a camper may travel on foot.
- Primitive camping is NOT allowed in the area surrounding the Park’s Visitor Center nor Borrego Palm Canyon Campground (which is located next to the Visitor Center).
- Primitive Camping is NOT allowed in areas posted with “No Camping” signs.
Click here to view the official road map of Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
Click here to view the official Anza Borrego Desert State Park visitor information guide.
Best Places for Boondocking in Anza Borrego
Blair Valley – large area off of County Road S2, just a mile east of Shelter Valley. Very popular area, has pit toilets. Weak Verizon 4G signal, however. (Blair Valley, on FreeRoam)
Slot Canyon – Dispersed camping area for small to medium sized RVs. Popular for hikers planning to crawl through the slot canyon (Slot Canyon, on Campendium)
Peg Leg Road – Lots of free camping on a wide clearing on the east-side of Peg Leg Road. This is technically outside of Park boundaries, on BLM land. State Park rules do not apply here. Very popular area in Winter. (Peg Leg Road, on Campendium)
Carrizo Valley – In the southern portion of the park, along County Road S2. This is technically outside of Park boundaries, on BLM land. State Park rules do not apply here. (Carrizo Valley, on Campendium)
Scissors Crossing – This is on the far-west side of the Park, still inside Park boundaries. Located at the intersection with County Road S2 and State Highway 78. This is parking lot for hikers on Pacific Crest Trail, but boondocking permitted here. (Scissors Crossing, Boondocker’s Bible)
Vehicles and Off-Roading
You must drive only on established roads and trails. You are not allowed to drive off-road, nor over natural habitats, plants, or archaeological remnants. You can camp in your RV just about anywhere in Anza Borrego Desert State Park as long you use previously-used campsites, or clearings free of vegetation.
The California Vehicle Code applies to all roads in the park, including dirt, sandy wash, or pavement. All vehicles must be highway legal; you cannot ride quads, side-by-sides, dirt bikes, other OHVs.
Campfires and Firewood in Anza Borrego
All firewood must be brought in from outside the park. You are not allowed to gather dead plants, branches, or tree trunks, found lying on the ground. Moreover, all fires must be contained in a metal container with sides and a bottom. You cannot light a fire in a circle of rocks on the ground.
What is the Maximum Time Limit for Camping?
Anza Borrego Desert State Park allows dispersed camping for no longer than 30 days in a calendar year. You can move your camp to other areas of the park, as long as the combined time of camping does not exceed 30 days. After that, you are not allowed to disperse camp inside the Park for a full year.
However, you can still camp inside developed campgrounds (fee based).
Rules for Pets at Anza Borrego
Dogs are not allowed on trails or off-trails anywhere inside the Park. They are only allowed on park roads and in within your immediate campsite. Even then, it has to remain on a leash no longer than 6 feet. Dogs are generally frowned upon by park rangers. Dog poop and pee will confuse coyotes and cause them to abandon their territory and move into other potentially unwanted areas.
Boondocking Inside the City of Borrego Springs, CA
There is no boondocking or camping allowed within the City of Borrego Springs, CA.
There is an area along Peg Leg Road (see Best Places for Boondocking in Anza Borrego, above), north east of the city limits, where many boondockers camp. It’s BLM land there. This is the only place close to town where you can legally boondock.
Note: Many people have been camping in the Galleta Meadows area off of Borrego Springs Rd (County Road S3). This is where most of the metal sculptures are. This is private property, and camping is not allowed here. Sheriff’s deputies will remove you from the land, if the property owner, or the City complains.