Anza is an unincorporated community located in southern Riverside County, California, United States, in the Anza Valley, a semi-arid region at a mean elevation of 1253 meters above sea level. It is located approximately 56 kilometers southwest of Palm Springs, 230 kilometers southeast of Los Angeles, California and approximately 120 kilometers northeast of San Diego, California, being traversed by State Route 371.
In local vernacular Anza, and several other mountain communities (including Garner Valley, Idyllwild, Pinyon Pines and Aguanga) are collectively referred to as "the Hill". As of the 2000 census, the unincorporated town of Anza had a total population of approximately 2100.[
Anza, California is specifically located at 33°33'17.14" North, 116°40'27.02" West GR1.
Regional geographic subdivisions of the unicorporated town include Anza Valley and Cave Rocks (Central); Tripp Flats, Chandler Heights and Cahuilla (West) as well as Oak Spring, Burnt Spring and Heller Spring (East). The Anza Valley in which the unicorporated town is nestled is bordered by three significant mountains- Cahuilla Mountain to the West, Thomas Mountain to the northeast and Beauty Mountain to the southwest.
The area is characterised as high desert experiencing somewhat stronger temperature variations than those of the coastal cities, including sudden dips of temperature even on summer evenings, due to the high elevation. The Anza Trail originally travelled on horseback by Juan Bautista de Anza in 1774 through what was then referred to as the Cahuilla Valley, traverses the city from southeast to northwest.
Significant local landmarks include Saddleback Mountain with its characteristic tripple peak located in the northwest of the city and bordered on the northwest by Tripp Flats and the South by Chandler Heights.
It is estimated that the Cahuilla aboriginal tribes inhabited an area including what is today the Anza Valley more than two thousand years ago and encountered Europeans only as late as 1774 when a Spanish expedition in search of an overland route from Sonora to Alta California made its way from Tubac, Sonora through the valley to Monterey, Alta California. That expedition was lead by Juan Bautista de Anza in whose honour the valley was renamed from Cahuilla Valley to Anza Valley on 16th September 1926.
Up until about 1580 the area was in the proximity of a larger body of inland water known as Lake Cahuilla, but that inland lake larger than the current Salton Sea which occupies a portion of its former location evaporated, thus increasing the desert character of the Anza Valley. These climatic and cultural factors can be seen as having exercised a unique influence on the early European settlers of the Anza Valley. During the 1800s settlement included ranchers, a limited number of miners and honey producers. The mid to late 1800s witnessed moderate population and above average economic prosperity for this isolated community.
From the late 1860s on, Anza was largely settled by families seeking to build ranches under the Homestead Act. Of the homesteads in the area, one, the "Cary Ranch" on Cary Road (south of Anza, east of the Tripp Flatts Ranger Station) still exists and is still owned and occupied by family members of the original settlers. The ranch is now occupied by the Hopkins family. The Hopkins' are direct descendents of the Cary family. Although the Cary Ranch used to encompass thousands of acres of land, most has been sold off only a 20-acre parcel and several original buildings exist.
Already in the 1970s sales of property parcels and lots in Anza were promoted with particular emphasis on the proximity of this unspoiled countryside to larger coastal cities of southern California. Though perceived by outsiders as friendly and open to newcomers, Anza has been among those unique rural communities determined to systematically avoid the social and environmental problems of over-urbanization and since the 1980s this close-knit community has sought to preserve its unique artistic and creative culture by closely scrutinizing any development plans that could give rise to dysfunctions experienced in other regions of the state.
Due to its history and relative isolation for hundreds of years, Anza is dissimilar to many areas in California settled during the same period. The cultural identity of many long-time Anzans exhibits the marked influence of Cahuillan aboriginal culture on the White population, expressed in terms of art and folklore.
During the 1990s the city enjoyed an increasingly widespread reputation as a growing artists colony featuring newcomers from as far away as Europe. Common free-time activities include trail wandering, local historical activities and festivals as well as motorbiking and horseback riding along the Anza Trail. The Mountain Cahuilla operate a casino from their reservation on the southwestern edge of the city.
UFOs are regularly reported in Anza since the 1970s and was on the May 15, 1992 segment on the paranormal TV series Sightings. Residents see the strange lights or in daytime, spacecraft hover around Cahuilla Mountain. Alien abductions and contacts are common place in the Anza valley, on its' way to become Southern California's "hot spot" for UFO activity. The residents commonly refer to the alien that is often spotted hovering above Cahuilla Mountain as "Goldie", due to the gold color of the spacecraft. There is also a rumor of a black panther that lives on that mountain.
Every summer Anza has a parade to celebrate the Fourth of July. This is called "Anza Days" and it is a festival the whole town celebrates, and people travel miles each year to see it.
Anza also has a local gymkhana horseshowing circuit put on by the Lions Club six months out of the year. This is also a popular event the public enjoys.