Super bloom, super traffic
March 14, 2017 2:43 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to try to go see the California desert wildflower "super bloom", but due to my work schedule, I can only go on the weekend. But the traffic is apparently so horrible that there are hours-long delays getting into and out of Borrego Springs! My question is: how can I optimize my schedule/route to avoid the traffic as much as possible? I've never been to Borrego Springs before. I'm coming from San Diego.

I tried to do this last weekend, but I was thwarted by a migraine. My plan then was to leave on Sunday morning around 6:30 or 7am and hopefully arrive at Borrego Springs (to one of the visitors centers... I don't know which one is best?) when it opens at 9am. Good plan? Bad plan? Should I just scrap this whole idea because the traffic will be so awful?

Thanks in advance for your forthcoming advice!
posted by hansbrough to Travel & Transportation around Borrego Springs, CA (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We got there at 9:30 on Sunday and there was a 20 minute backup to get into the park. The main visitor's center parking lot was already closed. There was 1 1/2 hour jam at 1:30 pm to get out to the 79 and 78 and North County. Might be better if you are coming/going via the 8. All in all, I still thought it was worth it. The flowers were lovely.
posted by gryphonlover at 2:53 PM on March 14, 2017

The park is huuuuuuge, and not just limited to the area around Borrego Springs. Anza-Borrego State Park stretches from I-8 all the way up to the Riverside county line. From San Diego, instead of going all the way to S-22 (the road that drops down from the mountains to Borrego Springs and then heads out to the Salton Sea), you can take I-8 and head north on S-2 once you get to Ocotillo; or you can head up kinda-sorta through Julian and take SR78 down the Banner Grade, and then either keep heading east, head north on S-3 to get to Borrego Springs, or head south on S-2 back towards I-8 (heading north on S-2 from there will take you back up the mountain towards the top of S-22). You'll cover a tremendous amount of territory just doing a 78 - S-2 - I-8 loop, especially if you're not equipped for off-roading. The park website has info on where to go, including this bit:

Flower-seekers wanting to get away from crowds would do well to explore the southern end of the park. Highway S-2 from Sweeney Pass to the Carrizo Badlands Overlook is beautiful, and primitive camping areas (try Blair Valley or Mountain Palm Springs) and trails will be much less crowded.

The visitor center is pretty cool, but it's not like they collect all the flowers there and leave the rest of the desert empty.

Get ready for insane butterflies soon.
posted by LionIndex at 4:15 PM on March 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Skip the park and the road leading into the park if you can. That was horrible last weekend, but there were fields of blooms outside of town. I want to say North East but I wasn't navigating or paying attention.
posted by willnot at 7:20 PM on March 14, 2017

There are flowers everywhere around here. (I so love SoCal!) And there will be for another couple months, at increasingly higher elevations.

Just between the two of us, watch this site.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:53 AM on March 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the info- you probably saved us a ton of time.

Me & some friends are going to stay at the state park Sunday and Monday nights (we have reservations) and based on these posts decided to leave around 7am (to arrive 9am Sunday) driving in from San Diego.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:42 PM on March 15, 2017

Skip the park and the road leading into the park if you can.

Me & some friends are going to stay at the state park Sunday and Monday nights (we have reservations)

I just want to reiterate that "the park" takes up the entire eastern 1/5 of San Diego County, to the degree that it is difficult to exit the county through its east side without driving through the park at some point. It's not far from being as big as Yosemite. Borrego Springs and the visitor center are one tiny portion. Also, you can camp almost anywhere in the entire park without reservations (there may be minimum distance requirements from roads or established campgrounds), subject mainly to the limitations of how primitive you can handle and where you can actually get to.
posted by LionIndex at 5:48 PM on March 16, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the tips! Mr. hansbrough & I ended up not attempting the trip this time. We had a ton of stuff to do at home and decided the potential crowd wasn't worth the stress. If there's ever another super bloom, we'll be prepared!!
posted by hansbrough at 9:48 PM on March 19, 2017

Trip Report: left San Diego around 7:30am, arrived Borrego Spring around 9:30am. Traffic was heavier than usual but no significant delays. Arriving at the park, highway patrol immediately was directing traffic away from the visitor center and campground.

Since we had camping reservations, I did a U-turn and waved a piece of paper at the CHP officer and he let us in.

Flowers were glorious, well worth the effort.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:39 PM on March 26, 2017

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