Winter Desert Hiking Tips

Desert hiking season traditionally begins with the day after Thanksgiving. During winter, the weather is near perfect for desert hiking, bird and nature watching. If you haven't been hiking in the desert, here are a few tips about what to bring and where to go to help make your desert nature walks easier.

Being in the desert, there are a few things that are essential to making your hikes and car trips easier:

Make Sure Your Car Is in Good Shape

Check the air pressure in the tires, check the radiator and brake fluids. If possible, have your car inspected if it's been a long time since the last time it was done. Four-wheel drive is critical in many areas deep in the desert, but many trail heads can be reached using paved roads or short, dirt turnouts.

Essential Items for Safety and Comfort

  • Backpack: Medium for day trips. Large, framed for longer, overnight trips
  • Water: one gallon per day per person
  • Snacks: or meals if hiking for a day or longer
  • Change of clothes warm/cold (temperatures can change, suddenly, even in the day depending on elevation)
  • Comfortable shoes/boots
  • A local trail and elevation map

* Cell phones may or may not be helpful when hiking in desert or mountain areas due to spotty reception. Best places with reception are areas near homes, fire stations, sheriff's offices, airports/airstrips, and active railways. Reception in certain areas have been improving over the last few years.

* GPS is useful, but not essential as is a compass.

Check in with the Anza-Borrego Visitor's Center or with the local BLM office to see what the conditions in the area are and to let them know you're out there.

Items for Nature and Birdwatching

  • Binoculars
  • Bird guide (there are folded up versions that are easy to pack)
  • Flower and/or plant guide (folded up versions for this also).
  • Magnifying glass (for viewing bugs and/or flower details)
  • Camera or video camera
  • Journal or notebook

Many of the above items are often for sale at the Anza-Borrego Visitor's Center as well as various places in Borrego Springs. Also, be on the lookout for guided nature tours either through the park or private companies in town.

Happy hiking!

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San Diego Nature Examiner Darlene Luckins is a fine artist and amateur photographer who is passionate about nature. is the inside source for everything local. Powered by Examiners, the largest pool of knowledgeable and passionate contributors in the world, we provide unique and original content to enhance life in your local city wherever that may be.

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