In order to do an early hike in Anza-Borrego Desert, my friend and I decided to camp there, and we considered Culp Valley Campground but ended up at Arroyo Salado Campground, which is the familiar campground where we spent a short night with other friends for Villager Peak hike. And I had the best desert photography camping experience!

HOW TO GET TO ARROYO SALADO CAMPGROUND

If you’re coming from the Greater Los Angeles area, you would be taking I-10 E. Then take CA-86 S to Borrego Salton Sea Way in Salton City. Once you reach S-22/Borrego Salton Seaway, turn right to get on S-22 and drive west for 11 more miles to reach the campground. It’ll be on your left.

If you’re coming from the south of Anaheim or Lake Elsinore and Temecula area, it makes sense to take S-22 E. Whichever direction you’re coming from (I-5 S and then CA-76 E, or I-15 S and then CA-79 E), you will be taking S-22 E. The campground will be on your right.

Note: The sign is small and easy to miss. Slow down to look for it.

Note: Also, the campground itself is not too far from the entry point. If you drive more than 5 minutes and do not see it, you might’ve taken a wrong dirt road. 

Note: A high clearance vehicle is recommended. I drove my Honda Civic there before. It ended up scraping up all the sand mounds. All the sand grains that the bottom of my Honda collected rolled from one side to another whenever I made turns in the following several weeks. 

Note: There is a bathroom facility. No running water. Bring plenty of water for whatever use you need.

WHEN TO CAMP IN ANZA-BORREGO DESERT

All year-round. But make sure that you have enough shade during day in summer. Even early spring and fall, it gets hot during day and the sun can be very intense.

ITEMS YOU MUST BRING

  • Plenty of water
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Headlamp

MY DESERT PHOTOGRAPHY CAMPING

One of the main reasons why I did my desert photography camping in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the blossoming of Ocotillos. It turned out to be quite a fun and exhilarating desert photography day hike experience. You can check out my Ocotillo desert hike.

Ocotillo hike in Anza-Borrego, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, blue sky, clouds, desert, hills, mountains, rays of lights, roads, rocks, sky, trails
Late afternoon in desert

My friend and I decided to revisit and camp at our familiar Arroyo Salado Campground. We spent another night here at the same campground to do Villager hike in the past. I found that its easy access and fee free aspect quite nice especially when you end up spending only for a few hours of sleep before a super early hike.

We were coming from Lake Elsinore area, so we took CA-22 E and drove through a little town called Ranchita in the mountain range. I loved the view as driving the windy road down to the bottom.

Anza-Borrego Ocotillo hike, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, clouds, light, light pollution, long exposure, night, night photography, night sky, stars, stary night
Starry night in desert

When we arrived at the campground, it was quite dark. However, because we had been there before, it was not that difficult to find a spot to settle in. Once we did, I found myself reaching for my Canon to start night photography.

On this desert photography camping, my main concern was the clouds. We were expecting them from the weather forecast, which meant it was going to be perfect for day hike. However, it was not the best case scenario for night photography.

Anza-Borrego Ocotillo hike, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, clouds, desert, light, light pollution, long exposure, Milky Way, night, night photography, night sky, stars, stary night
Clouds hides Milky Way

I woke up at around 2 am and looked out to see if the Milky Way up in the sky but didn’t see it. So, I went back to sleep.

And then something woke me up. It was just a few minutes after 4 am. I knew it was time to get up.

Anza-Borrego Ocotillo hike, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, clouds, desert, light, light pollution, long exposure, Milky Way, night, night photography, night sky, stars, stary night
Milky Way behind Clouds

Unfortunately, more clouds were moved in by then and hung over the campground. I couldn’t get the bright galactic center of the Milky Way out of the clouds. These clouds were there to stay.

I’ll have to go back out there again for desert photography camping. Or Joshua Tree. Or Mojave Preserve.

Anza-Borrego Ocotillo hike, Ocotillo hike in Anza-Borrego, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, clouds, desert, hills, landscape, landscape photography, light, road, Salton Sea, sunrise, sunrise glow
Orange clouds

The sun started lingering below the horizon. This was the tradeoff. When there is no cloud, I don’t get such a dramatic, intense sunrise glow all over the sky.

And now, with the same amount of the clouds that blotted out the Milky Way less an hour ago, I was watching all the clouds lit up in fire!

Anza-Borrego Ocotillo hike, Ocotillo hike in Anza-Borrego, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, campground, clouds, desert, hills, landscape, landscape photography, light, motor home, mountains, restroom facility, road, Salton Sea, sunrise, sunrise glow
Waking up the mountains

Once the sun rose over the horizon, it started waking up the desert hills and mountains across the park.

Anza-Borrego Ocotillo hike, Ocotillo hike in Anza-Borrego, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, clouds, desert, hills, landscape, landscape photography, light, road, Salton Sea, sunrise, sunrise glow
Sunrise in desert

It is always a humbling experience when I am out there watching sunrise. It promises a new day, a new beginning and a new start. It is up to us to bring whatever we are doing to fruition.

Things in the dark started revealing themselves slowly but surely.

Anza-Borrego Ocotillo hike, Ocotillo hike in Anza-Borrego, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, campground, clouds, desert, hills, landscape, landscape photography, light, motor home, mountains, restroom facility, road, Salton Sea, sunrise, sunrise glow
Morning in desert and clouds

One at a time, the hills and mountains in the desert still under the messy rain clouds come into its own existence.

Anza-Borrego Ocotillo hike, Ocotillo hike in Anza-Borrego, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, bushes, campground, clouds, desert, hills, landscape, landscape photography, light, motor home, road, rocks, sand, shrubs, sunrise, sunrise glow, trails
Want to stay in the shade

The sun was up, and this desert land’s turn to embrace it. It’ll grow warm.

Anza-Borrego Ocotillo hike, Ocotillo hike in Anza-Borrego, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, bushes, campground, clouds, desert, hills, landscape, landscape photography, light, long exposure, motor home, ND filter, Neutral density filter, road, rocks, sand, shrubs, sunrise, sunrise glow, trails
Clouds over Desert

I didn’t get the Milky Way shots that I wanted, but I couldn’t let it spoil the opportunity to capture these clouds racing!

Anza-Borrego Ocotillo hike, Ocotillo hike in Anza-Borrego, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, bloom, blue sky, bushes, campground, clouds, desert, flowers, hills, insects, landscape, landscape photography, long exposure, mountains, Ocotillos, sand, shrubs, trails, Hellhole Canyon
Lone Ocotillo

Once our slow early morning ritual was over, we got ready for a day hike with an anticipation of seeing Ocotillos in blossom. Unfortunately around the campground, Ocotillos were scarce, and it looked like they had already seen their blossoming prime time.

However, it turned out that the best part was kept tucked away. We got quite excited after stopping by the visitor center in Borrego Springs that Ocotillos and cacti were blossoming in Hellhole Canyon. We were on our way.

Note: You don’t want to miss my Ocotillo hike on Hellhole Canyon Trail.

Have you camped in Anza-Borrego Desert? If so, how was your experience? Which campground did you camp at? If not, are you planning to head out there soon?

Thanks for reading.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Wow! Very entertaining reading and watching at so many beautiful photos at the same time. I love the stars at night , the sky looks amazing. Absolutely great job

    • Thank you Maydu! Appreciate it. And thanks for the follow. More night photography is in planning. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I create them (and blog about them)!!!

  2. I really like the photo of clouds over Desert…nice
    Do I have to fill out my name and stuff every time I comment? If so, you might want to think about changing that, as most people don’t want to take the time to do that to comment…I don’t, I find it annoying. But your photos are nice…

    • Thanks for checking it out. And I am glad that you liked the clouds. And thanks for the feedback. I didn’t know that you had to fill out your name and such. It is true that people do not enjoy putting the info in every time they want to leave a comment. I think you logged in with your WordPress username and left a comment, right? I wonder why it did that. I’ll look into it.

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