Road Miles: 69.6
Trail Miles: 11.4
Originally we planned a point-to-point hike on the PCT from Montezuma Valley Rd to the Warner Springs Community Center with a stop at Eagle Rock. However, because the weather was funky with lots of wind, threatening skies, and cold, we decided to do an out-and-back from the Community Center instead to reduce exposure. Eagle Rock is one of the most iconic spots on the Southern California section of the PCT. Like McAfee Knob on the AT, getting a picture on the eagle is pretty much mandatory. This is also one of the most popular day hikes on the southern PCT, with easy road access and terrain that virtually anyone can walk. There were plenty of other hikers out on the trail, and although we didn’t see any cows (which is unusual – usually this area is full of them), we did see a bunch of deer.
Back at Warner Springs, I said goodbye to my hiker family and headed to the Visitor Center at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park to pick up maps and information about the Anza-Borrego Foundation’s 5 Hikes for 50 Years Challenge. I saw that one of the five hikes starts near the Visitor Center, so I decided to knock that one out since there was still enough time to finish it before dark.
The Borrego Palm Canyon Nature Trail is the most popular hike in the park. Although there’s parking available at the trailhead for a day use fee, I left Freya in the free Visitor Center lot, and walked the 0.7 mile Campground Trail to the trailhead instead. The Campground Trail is flat, surfaced with concrete, and includes several interpretive signs. According to the hike brochure, the Nature Trail is a 3-mile out & back to a palm oasis. However, I had already walked at least an additional half-mile between the top of the Campground Trail to a sign indicating that the oasis was 1.5 miles away. So, from the Visitor Center, the full round-trip hike is around 5.5 miles.
Even though it was near the end of the day, there were tons of people on trail of all ages and levels of fitness. It was a little alarming that many of them didn’t appear to have any water. Always carry water on any hike, especially desert hikes! Overall, it was a beautiful trail, with great mountain and down-canyon views, and it was awesome to see running water in the desert due to all of the recent rains, which have also brought this year’s superbloom. Not much wildlife to be seen on the main trail, which isn’t surprising due to all the human traffic, but I did see a jackrabbit on the Campground Trail return trip.
I made it back to Freya before sunset, and headed south to find a place to camp near two of the other 5 for 50 hikes. While there are a number of designated campgrounds in Anza-Borrego, one of my favorite things about this park is that you can camp for free virtually anywhere you like (although cars must remain within one vehicle length of the road). So, I used Google Maps to find a little pullout behind a hill on Little Blair Valley road. There was another jackrabbit in the spot when I got there – a good luck sign!