Ride your bike around Borrego's prehistoric sculptures

And stay for the stars

Prospector and mule now near the saguaro
  • Prospector and mule now near the saguaro

Borrego Springs is the unincorporated town in San Diego’s desert area surrounded by Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It is an official International Dark Sky Community where you can really see the stars at night. Borrego Springs is the center for the annual desert wildflower show when literally hundreds of people flock to town in spring. Also, the home of over 130 metal sculptures commissioned by Dennis Avery, son of the founder of the Avery Dennison Corporation beginning in April 2008. Metal sculptor Ricardo Breceda constructed the sculptures, called “Sky Art” by the late Dennis Avery.

Map to the sculptures

Map to the sculptures

Most of the life-like metal sculptures are replicas of early Pleistocene animals that roamed this valley several million years ago based on the fossil record as described in the award-winning book Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert. Included are sculptures representing creatures not found here, such as dinosaurs and a fantasy dragon with a rattlesnake tail. An updated laminated map entitled Sky Art Metal Sculptures of Borrego Valley has details about each of the sculptures and is available online or in retail shops in Borrego Springs.

Fighting velociraptors

Fighting velociraptors

Descriptions of the sculptures and suggested bike tours are featured in earlier Roam-O-Rama columns in 2014 (5/28/14 and 6/4/14). Recently some of the sculptures in the northern valley moved from the Indian Head Ranch area to land owned by the Avery estate known as Galleta Meadows. This article presents a new route for the northern valley to visit the sculpture’s current locations. Moved sculptures include desert bighorn sheep, a prospector and his mule, and the following Pleistocene animals: tapirs, peccaries, saber-toothed cats, and giant tortoises.

Rules for using the area

Rules for using the area

Begin the bike ride on the north side of Christmas Circle at the intersection of Palm Canyon Drive and Borrego Springs Road. Head north on Borrego Springs Road 1.82 miles to Big Horn Road to see the gomphothere family camelids and two recently moved giant tortoises. Follow the dirt road east and pass the scorpion and grasshopper and the grape harvesters. Turn left on Big Horn Road and bike 0.3 mile to the turnoff on the right for the Shasta ground sloths. Follow the winding dirt road west toward the camelid just off Borrego Springs Road for viewing seven tapirs, two saber-toothed cats, and a peccary family.

Follow the dirt road north to view the Harlan ground sloths and then return to Borrego Springs Road and continue north to the dragon that appears to be diving under the road. Just past the dragon is the intersection of San Ysidro and Borrego Springs Road. Turn left on the paved road and bike about 0.2 mile to view camelids and llamas. After viewing them, return to Borrego Springs Road and head north to the elephants and a dirt road to the right. The dirt road angles northeast and passes 12 desert bighorn sheep in various poses.

At the paved Henderson Canyon Road, turn left to view Indian Head and giant tortoises. At the curve and junction with Borrego Springs Road, turn right to view the padre and his dog, and then follow the dirt road west to the saguaro where you will find the recently moved prospector and his mule. Then take the dirt road southeast to the Jeep sculpture and turn east on Henderson Canyon Road and follow it 1.2 miles to the junction with Di Giorgio Road. Turn right and bike 3 miles to the junction of Palm Canyon Drive and Di Giorgio Road. Turn right and bike 0.3 mile to the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce, where you will find the recently moved velociraptors and the sculpture of Juan Bautista de Anza. In another 0.2 mile is Christmas Circle where you began the loop.

Refer to the June 4, 2014, Roam-O-Rama column for a description of the bike tour in the southern valley.

Distance from downtown San Diego: Approximately 90 miles (Borrego Springs). Allow 2 hours driving time. From Ramona, drive east on SR-78 to Santa Ysabel. Turn left (north) on SR-79 and continue past the power station before turning right (southeast) onto SR-2/San Felipe Road. Turn left (east) onto SR-22/Montezuma Valley Road to the stop sign in Borrego Springs. Turn right (east) onto Palm Canyon Road to Christmas Circle and park.

Biking length: A loop of about 10 miles with several stops to view the sculptures. Difficulty: Easy with relatively no elevation gain or loss. Early morning or late afternoon best during summer months. Mountain bikes recommended, as a road bike would have difficulty due to sandy trails. For bike rentals, contact Bike Borrego in Borrego Springs.

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