Anza Borrego Desert State Park

By Megan P Galope

This spring I had the pleasure of attending an Arizona Highways PhotoScapes workshop in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, led by the excellent photographer Sandy Zelasko. Anza Borrego seems to be an unknown area to most, even though it is the second largest state park in the United States, only smaller than Denali State Park in Alaska. It is located in southern California just west of the Salton Sea, and has a variety of terrain and things to see. Lucky for us, Sandy lives nearby and knows all the great places to visit.

We stayed in Borrego Springs, a small town with a lot to offer. In the springtime, it is known for its fields carpeted with wildflowers; unfortunately, the lack of winter rain resulted in very few flowers. Not to worry, though—even without the wildflowers, we found plenty of wonderful things to photograph. For one, Borrego Springs is the home of Galleta Meadows, which is the location of numerous sculptures created by Ricardo Breceda. There are a large variety of animals and people—a little something for everyone.                                        

On the outskirts of Borrego Springs is Palm Canyon. It is a 1.5-mile one-way hike to get to the namesake palm grove, which can now only be seen from a distance as it burned in a fire in 2020. It is a beautiful canyon with plenty to see along the way, including a few wildflowers and some wildlife. We were lucky to see a herd of bighorn sheep that walked right past us (they obviously are used to humans).                               

Sunrise at Font’s Point is a must for photographers (just be aware of the sandy dirt road you must drive on to get there). It overlooks the Anza Borrego badlands, a maze of folded mountains that go on for miles. If you look east, you can even see the Salton Sea in the distance.

With a bit of a drive, there are unlimited photographic opportunities. On our workshop, we visited 17 Palms, Box Canyon, Vallecito Stage Station, and Carrizo Badlands Overlook, to name a few. These locations provided a variety of subjects, from old buildings to macros to sweeping vistas.

Details and Shadows at 17 Palms
Hedgehog cactus in Box Canyon
Old building at Vallecito Stage Station
Sunset at Carrizo Badlands Overlook

Our last morning, we went to the Visitor’s Center in Borrego Springs for one last shoot, and it did not disappoint! A storm rolling through gave us a double rainbow over Indian Head mountain. What a way to end the workshop!

If you like to photograph a variety of subjects in a beautiful area, I highly recommend this workshop. Luckily, Arizona Highways PhotoScapes is offering it again next spring (you can find the details here). And you never know—maybe you’ll have the fields of wildflowers!

IG = @megangalopephotography

Megan P. Galope is a Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes