Visitor's View – Palm Groves
Last updated 9/14/2023 at 10:36am
A word of caution. The Borrego Sun presents Visitor’s View as a guide for those discovering the wonders of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Many of the destinations are dangerous places to visit in the peak of summer heat, and we urge readers to simply save these articles until the cooler months when hikes and off-road travel are more enjoyable and safer.
If you are into treasure hunts, I’ve got just the thing for you.
Tucked into hidden canyons or dusty badland nooks of the Colorado Desert are more than 20 hidden native palm groves just waiting for your discovery and exploration.
Some can be reached by vehicle, others require short, moderate or strenuous hikes, but all offer an opportunity to view some of the unique wonders of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
Palm groves exist near water, and that means they provide a special environment where many species of plants and animals can be found there that you will not likely encounter in other areas.
In the heat of summer, some of the groves offer shade, shelter and water for birds, bats, rodents, insects and mammals, including the majestic desert bighorn sheep.
At any time of the year, the various palm groves scattered around the vast expanse of Anza-Borrego offer visitors comforting shade, and a place of solitude when you can sit for a while and enjoy the industry of nature as you quietly blend with the habitat.
Bright red dragonflies will hover above standing water, or perch at the tip of reeds growing in the dampness.
Spring explorers may discover unique species of fern or colorful wild fuchsia blooming in a damp pocket fed by perennial water.
Owls will find nesting sites in the skirts of native palms, and lucky hikers may share the groves with bighorn sheep coming into water.
The most popular palm grove in Anza-Borrego is in Palm Canyon, west of the park visitor center and the Palm Canyon Campground.
A relatively easy hike of about three miles round trip will take you to the lower grove.
As mentioned above, this is not a trail advised for summer. The canyon walls can act like an oven, reflecting heat and intensifying temperatures for daytime visitors, creating dangerous conditions for hikers as well as rangers and first responders.
The trail may be closed in peak summer heat, so check with rangers if you do plan a summer hike.
Many of the less visited groves are tucked into canyons rising from the desert floor into the San Ysidro mountains to the west. To reach them, long hikes, or four-wheel drive is required to get close enough for a shorter hike.
Park maps will provide directions to places like Salvador Canyon, also known as Thousand Palm Canyon at the upper end of Coyote Canyon. A bit south of there is Indian, Cougar and Sheep Canyons where more adventurous hikers discover native palm groves.
Other palm groves in the San Ysidro range include places with colorful names, such as Hellhole and Flat Cat Canyons. All of these groves are marked on the Anza-Borrego Park map.
In the Borrego Badlands south of S-22, off-road vehicles can drive to Seventeen Palms Oasis, Five Palm and Una Palma.
These are dry groves with no surface water, but they do provide habitat for many species of desert dwellers.
At the south end of the park along S-2 near the Bow Willow Campground there is a cluster of seven palm groves tucked into the rocky canyons at the northern fringe of the Tierra Blanca Mountains.
There are both wet and dry groves here, and easy trails into the area. The hike to Southwest grove is slightly more than a mile.
To get there, travel southeast on S-2 from Highway 78 about 48 miles until you reach Mountain Palm Springs Road on your right. This is a dirt road and your hike will begin at the road’s end beyond the campground and restrooms.
With summer temperatures now bumping 120 degrees on some days, this is a good time to get a map and begin planning your fall adventures.
Once the crisp days of fall and winter arrive, the many miles of Anza-Borrego’s trails will be there for you to explore.
You can reach the author at Ernie at Packtrain.com.