Captivating South California

The ultimate desert experience in the USA

  • United States - California
  • Duration: 12 days
  • Self-drive (guided or not)
  • Own vehicle or rental
  • Best season: February to June and October to November

Areas of Interest

Although it’s only two hours east of San Diego’s beaches, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a world apart from the city and coast. This desert preserve pairs the name of famed Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza, who crossed the desert in 1774, and the Spanish word for sheep (“borrego”), referring to the region’s native bighorn sheep.

The Painted Canyon is renowned for its brilliant natural rock formations that display colors that look as if they had been painted onto the rock itself. Shades of green, gray, orange, cream, pink, red, and brown can all be seen throughout the Painted Canyon, documenting the various types of rock and sediments that have settled in the Earth’s crust over millions of years.

Your itinerary will complete with the iconic Joshua Tree National Park, where two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and Colorado, come together. A fascinating variety of plants and animals make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California.

Itinerary

    • Overview of your holiday

The itinerary starts from San Diego, where you will be staying for one night. Depending on the choice of the service, you will either pick up your vehicle, or drive your own, and start with an exciting exploration of the area around Ocotillo, and drive along some very nice trails. Your real adventure will start with the amazing Anza Borrego Desert, and then, driving east, you will visit the Salton Sea, and the Painted Canyon.

Your itinerary will complete with the iconic Joshua Tree National Park, and a beautiful drive along the coast to San Diego.

    • Your adventure in brief

You will stay in a bed & breakfast in San Diego. Meet & greet with your guide. We will then leave San Diego early morning, and start driving towards Ocotillo.
We’ll spend one day in Ocotillo and three days in the Anza Borrego Desert.
On the fifth day, we will leave Anza Borrego, and drive to Salton Sea and the Painted Canyon. This will take two days.
We’ll then move to Joshua Tree National Park for two days, and the Big Bear Lake for a relaxing two days before returning to San Diego.
We will then leave Black Bear, and drive to San Diego along the beautiful coastline.

    • Adventure-style and vehicle options

We strongly recommend our guided 4×4 service, which includes professional 4×4 guidance, morning coffee, portable showers and camp toilet, and an evening fire. You will need to bring a sleeping bag (0 to 20-degree rating), pillow, toiletries, camp clothes, a warm jacket for the evenings, sturdy shoes for hiking, a headlamp and a good community attitude. You will need to bring food and drinks, and be ready to cook for yourself and your friends or family. You can drive your own 4×4 vehicle with 8 inches of minimum ground clearance from the lowest point under the vehicle, a low range transfer case and a minimum of 31 inches “All Terrain” or “Mud Terrain” tires are required. Should you use your own vehicle, you will have to bring a tent and all the camping gear you need for the adventure. We can rent a fully equipped vehicle with rooftop tents and everything you need for an overland adventure.

Photo credit: Robby Mc Cullogh, Scott Austin, Ethan Dow, Chuck Holland, Alec Basanec

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