How to Plan Your Visit to Anza-Borrego Metal Sculptures

Listen to a podcast of this travel article here: https://anchor.fm/theregoessararose/episodes/Ep-5-Anza-Borrega-Metal-Sculptures-e152dma

In the desert of South California, a T-rex erupts from the sand. You thought you just had to worry about falling on one of the various cacti (check out my video on those here!), didn’t you? Don’t worry, the dino is not the human-eating kind, but a sculpture made of metal.

A little further down the road, the T-rex is joined by a prehistoric mammoth and a kneeling camel. The whimsical works come from the fantastical mind of sculptor Ricardo Breceda. Not originally an artist, Breceda created his first sculpture after his daughter watched one of the Jurassic Park films and he created a dinosaur for her. Fascinating!

Anyone can visit the sculptures, located along Borrego Springs Road, but the journey does take some preparation. There is no fee to view the sculptures and the average vehicle (not one low to the ground) can maneuver the dirt off-road parking areas around each art piece. I recently visited and chronicled my journey through video and my social media, check out some of my favorite photos though in this blog!

Before you go

Before you head out on any trip, it’s important to make sure you’re fully prepared, particularly when traveling in a pandemic.

Aside from packing your camera gear and your favorite snacks, make sure you’re prepared for the weather. Summer weather in San Diego County is temperate, with highs of 77°F/25°C and lows of 62°F/16°C However, the sculptures are located in the desert, with current high’s at over 100°F/38°C so it’s best to bring layers of clothing, a wide-brim hat and sunscreen to help protect you from those golden rays.

The sculptures are mostly visited by car travel, so it may be a little easier to stay socially distant. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends wearing a mask when in public, remaining six feet from anyone outside your part and washing your hands often. Be sure to check the CDC website for the must up-to-date travel tips. 

How the sculptures came to be

Breceda was first commissioned to make sculptures for Galleta Meadows Estate, a large desert property owned by Dennis Avery. Now more than 130 creatures are scattered around Anza Borrego Desert, with new ones occasionally popping up.

The rust-colored sculptures are scattered across 10 square miles. Because the surrounding landscape is barren, it is easy to spot them from far away. 

Some of the most popular sculptures are the sea dragon (or serpent, if you ask some locals!), the grasshopper and the scorpion, and the sloth.

The sea dragon is the largest of all the sculptures and even crosses the road. It stretches across 350 feet and rises to a height of 15 feet. The scorpion and the grasshopper face off in an epic battle, but they are sculpted with intricate detail. The sloths feature fur made of metal and are designed to look like the Harlan Ground Sloth that used to live in the area. Travel post-lockdown left us with lots of travelers, plan your photo sessions well or you might lose out on daylight like I did!

The sculptures are spaced out along Borrego Springs Road, so it’s best to drive to each one. Some portions of the drive require travel along dirt roads, so be sure your car is reliable and has a tank full of gas. Pocket maps can be purchased from the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association at the Visitor Center. Borrego Springs has a wonderful town center in between these sculptures, don’t forget to stop and hydrate or grab snacks to stay nourished (I recommend the Boba truck!).

What to do after

If the desert is still calling to you after your drive, you can head to the nearby Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

With the regional stay at home order lifted, California state Parks are reopening, though some precautions still remain in place.

Reservations are required at many Anza Borrego campsites and the visitor center is maintaining limited hours — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Monday — with limited capacity. Some restrooms will be temporarily closed to keep up with heavy cleaning schedules, so be sure to pack your own hand sanitizer to keep clean.

Park goers are asked to recreate responsibly, including wearing face coverings and maintaining a safe social distance from other hikers. This goes for the sculptures as well.  Be sure to check the most recent state park guidelines before you head out. 

After you’ve fed your wanderlust and creative spirit with a trip to see the sculptures, check out ThereGoesSaraRose.com for more travel tips.

2 thoughts on “How to Plan Your Visit to Anza-Borrego Metal Sculptures

  1. How did it feel going through the trip? Was the sea dragon the most impressive? Was there anything you were surprised by?

    1. An employee at the Visitor’s Center rallied interested parties to a documentary on the Anza-Borrego Desert, her enthusiasm was well-worth agreeing to the event and deserves extra kudos! The sea dragon is by far the largest, however, visiting the sculptures at different times of the day is what I recommend to appreciate their differences. I would have liked more time to explore the area and prepared clothes that covered more, even without a sunburn the rays wear hikers out! It almost goes without saying, I wish I had a camera for night-photo-sessions!

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