Posted February 20, 2020 – Narrated by Carmen
*see our 5-Bambi rating legend at the end of this review.
Jim’s no Snowbird. He digs extreme cold. Dives head first into icy ponds. Loves a cold shower.
In fact, I’ve seen him stand outside in 40 degrees wearing a Tommy Bahama shirt, shorts and sandals enjoying an ice cold beer. Someday, when 23 and Me updates his DNA report to reveal that he is 4.8% Yeti, I shall express no astonishment.
Me, I’m a desert rat.
Jim is doing this whole SoCal desert tour thing for me because Anza-Borrego is my favorite place in the world. I love this remote, sunshiny and sparsely populated region and could happily live here year-round.
Jim says, that’s okay, he will visit me once a year in wintertime.
One more week in this serene and beautifully maintained desert hide-away and the party-boy might have snapped and run off to Kalamazoo.
The scenic two-hour drive to Borrego from San Diego is mountainous, a bit treacherous and best done in full daylight.
The Resort Details
This fairly new resort opened in 2004. Reservations are accepted year-round. Temperatures are nearly perfect in Fall, Winter and Spring with high off-season temperatures beginning in June and continuing through September.
We arrived without a reservation in late January, shoulder season, and stayed through the first week of February. Most days peaked in the mid-70’s with bright blue skies and two days of light, cold rain. The annual rainfall is below six inches.
There are 160 sites – some border the golf course and ponds, some on the wide interior streets – and all are designed to accommodate large rigs.
All sites have full hookups with 90 pull-through sites (35′ wide) and 70 premium back-in sites (averaging 40′ by 80′), all with 20, 30 and 50 amp service.
Special features are a concrete pad, a beautifully landscaped yard with attractive indigenous plantings – some with citrus trees – and a picnic table.
Some of the sites have hook-ups on both sides for water, electricity and sewer – ideal for motorhomes.
The spaces are open and most have some level of green screen between sites.
Most sites are in direct sun with few trees to cast shade over your rig.
All roads are paved and wide enough for a quick, no-hassles back-in experience.
There are a few grassy areas for children and dogs to exercise. Dense decomposed granite topper keeps the dust down on windy days.
The desert magic begins at sunset when the sky smears bubblegum colors around and then the stars come out to chew it all up.
In the cool evening air, campers gather around propane fires and stargaze well into the night.
Our Verizon cell service was blazing fast, especially with our weBoost cell signal booster. So after star-gazing in the hot tub every night, we binged on our latest obsession The Great British Baking Show or – as I call it – “They Shoot Bakers Don’t They?”
With our hotspot giving us unlimited data, we did not use the resorts WiFi. We tested it and sometimes it was fast, other times very slow depending on how many folks were live-streaming at night.
Unfortunately, they do not allow detached shade structures in the RV sites, so we were not able to use our beloved Clam Quick-Set. Flying insects are not a big problem in SoCal, but we do have these pesky gnats that descend from the trees during the sunset hour – so it would be an improvement to allow screened dining shelters.
The saltwater pool and 4 spas (103°) are open 24/7 with healing, natural mineral well water. The main pool temperature was a bit too hot for a serious daytime workout, but in the cool night air the temperature was glorious. Water aerobics classes are held at the pool on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.
The restroom facilities with hot showers are somewhat dated but clean. The maintenance crew attends to them daily around noontime.
This is the most pet-friendly resort we’ve ever visited. While there is no extra charge for pets, there is plenty of special infrastructure featuring three large enclosed dog parks with fenced separations for large and small dogs. There is a dog wash station, but it only offers cold water, so it was basically useless for our little devil.
Daily curbside trash and recycling pickup is a very nice perk.
The fully-equipped laundry facility is clean, provides very hot water, and most machines are in good working order.
The pond at the end of the golf course allows catch & release bass, catfish, and tilapia.
A designated dry-camp is available. There are no hook-ups, but for $30 access to the grounds, pool and showers is a bargain. This desert is a free-camping paradise, but it’s nice to have luxury facilities once a week or so.
A free dump station is available in the dry camping area. The sign says its potable water but we – as a precaution – never refill our fresh water tank from a hose that is near a dump station.
The Wellness Center offers holistic massage therapy and acupressure, by appointment.
Every Tuesday the campground hosts a free outdoor event on the terrace beside the pond. Chili, hotdogs and s’mores are served. This is a popular mixer to meet neighbors and get acquainted with the wonderful camp hosts.
The recreation room is open 24/7 for gatherings, yoga classes, card and board games, music (there is a piano) and a quiet library. Complimentary computers and printers are available.
Tennis, pickle ball courts, horseshoes, table tennis and lawn bowling are located throughout the resort. The office loans out equipment so you can play all of the games at no additional charge.
The exercise room is open 24/7
The large amphitheater hosts live concerts, and also serves as a basketball court.
The registration office has a small store that offers RV equipment, souvenir clothing and a very nice selection of wines.
Wood campfires are not allowed at campsites but you can rent a propane fire pit for $5 a day. Propane tanks can be rented for a one time, $15 fee.
Propane refills are available for $3.29 a gallon. In the morning, you simply put your empty propane tank out on the curb and a camp host will promptly pick it up and return it filled.
Rates vary depending on the time of year and length of stay. We paid $61 a night for a 30-day stay. Expensive, yes, but a great value considering the quality of the facilities in such a remote area. In 2020, the rates vary between $42 and $103.
Check-in time is 3:00 pm, check-out time is 12 noon.
Affordable RV storage is available for a weekly rate of $28, monthly for $75, and $420 per year – a real bargain for Southern California.
Like most fine RV resorts, The Springs offers three fully-furnished, tiny-house park models. A two-night minimum stay is required.
They are fully equipped with kitchen, dining area, 2 bedrooms with queen-sized beds and 1-½ baths. A sleeping loft can accommodate four more people. Each unit features a spacious patio, picnic table and outdoor kitchen with a built-in gas grill. The nightly rates are between $125 to $299, depending on the season.
San Diego is golf country so, of course, a 9-hole championship course surrounds the campground.
The hiking trails are basically endless – right from camp. Key hikes are Borrego Palm Canyon trail (currently closed due to a fire), Maidenhair Falls via Hellhole Canyon trail, The Slot trail, Calcite Mine trail, Panoramic Overlook trail and Culp Valley Loop trail.
It’s an easy cycling trip to Borrego Springs. The streets are wide and the main drag has a bike lane. The center of town is a little more than a mile from the resort.
Everyday we saw coyotes from our site, in our site, and while walking around the golf course.
So we kept Pico on a short leash and close at all times. During his “Sun-shiny-shine-time” we placed him near the door tucked safely inside his “condo.”
Occasionally, we took day trips to have breakfast with Jim and Sam in Julian (30 miles) …
…or to Ramona (50 miles) to meet our son for lunch.
Or to Santa Ysabel (35 miles) to buy Dudley’s Bread – a San Diego backcountry tradition.
And, sometimes, our San Diego friends came to visit us, because Borrego is San Diego’s secret Palm Springs.
We loved our campsite … the cooing doves, fragrant flowers, desert honeybees and hummingbirds …
as well as the beautiful grounds ….
We love a good resort that offers a wealth of amenities but most of them are so large it’s difficult to meet people. The Springs at Borrego is a boutique RV resort, a fraction of the size yet with all the luxuries of a mega-resort. It was easy to find our besties and invite them over for Happy Hour.
With so much natural beauty to fill the senses, it’s a wonder that art is everywhere in Borrego Springs. We took our time viewing the 130 metal life-sized sculptures scattered throughout hundreds of acres of wilderness in Galleta Meadows, a private preserve in the valley, only minutes from our campsite.
The artist, Ricardo Breceda, brings life to his sculptures by capturing a sense of movement and emotion. It truly feels like an art-safari with views of creatures who roamed this valley before humankind.
But, alas, long time, no sea … so the nearest place in the desert to kayak is the Salton Sea, a 36 mile drive.
There are very few restaurants in the Borrego Springs area, but we so enjoyed The Red Ocotillo for breakfast …
… and the wood-fired pizza with delicious cactus soup at Keslings Kitchen.
Rams Hill Golf Club‘s outdoor viewing patio has a wonderful bar menu and a good selection of Happy Hour wines. Once a week we treated ourselves to a Ram’s Hill sunset.
Borrego Springs has close to 3,000 permanent residents and approximately 10,000 winter residents.
There is basically one grocery store which receives new supplies every Friday. There’s also a small farmer’s market at Christmas Circle on Friday morning where you can buy very fresh produce and locally harvested citrus and dates.
Hiking, glamping, metal art exhibit, free back-country camping, spectacular scenery and desert oases draw the more adventurous tourist to Borrego. This is the anti-Palm Springs desert – no crowds except the stars.
The Dark Skies
Borrego is California’s only protected “Dark Sky” community.
It’s always a rush to drive out into the desert for moonrise.
The Anza-Borrego Desert is my soul place. On our last night in Borrego Springs we drove into the desert. The sky was clear and the stars closed in on us like marauding warriors. Then, the mournful coyote requiem which began in the far off distance shifted rapidly into bloodlust … closer and closer they came until the sound of the wild hungry pursuit enveloped us.
A mortal shock of wonder pulsed through my temples like a drum as I stood there rooted and rumpled as a Teddy Bear Cactus yet feeling as vast and glorious as a nebula ready to whip up a fresh batch of interstellar delights.
Hey, it’s the desert not a dessert. A prooving ground. A place to gather your mettle, fire it up, and discover your best self.
On your marks. Get set. Bake!
Nearby things to see and do
- Julian, California: 20 miles west
- Palm Springs, California: 90 miles north
- San Diego, California: 78 miles west
- Ramona: – 52 miles west
- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: 2 miles west
- Cuyamaca Ranch State Park: 25 miles west
- Agua Caliente/Vallecito Regional Parks: 44 miles southwest
- Ocotillo Wells Vehicular Recreation Area: 17 miles southeast
- Imperial Sand Dunes: 70 miles east
- Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge: 80 miles southeast
- Salton Sea State Recreation Area: 65 miles northeast
- Superstition Mountain Off-Highway Vehicle Area: 55 miles miles east
- Tumco/Hedges Ghost Town (BLM): 85 miles east
|Our “BAMBI” rating system explained:
– One Bambi: Should’a boondocked.
– Two Bambi’s: Better than a Cracker Barrel or Walmart.
– Three Bambi’s: Adequate for a short stay.
– Four Bambi’s: Great place! Met our expectations for an extended stay. Needs minor improvements or is not ideally situated for all our preferred recreation (walking, cycling, swimming, kayaking) without driving.
– Five Bambi’s: Destination Camping at it’s best! Critical as we are, there’s nothing we’d improve, and you can bet your sweet Bambi we’re going back!
If you want to see our exact route, click here.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.