Elephant Trees Discovery Trail

Ocotillo Wells, California

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2 Reviews
3 out of 5
This well-signed interpretive nature trail climbs gently up a rock-lined wash to a small “herd” of elephant trees. This most unusual elephant tree of the Sonoran Desert was not discovered and identified by botanists until 1937. This grove was long thought to be the northernmost group of elephant trees in California. However, in 1987 another grove of almost 200 elephant trees was discovered on the western slopes of the Santa Rosa Mountains, 21 miles farther north. Here, on the Elephant Trees Discovery Trail, there are only about 100 of these rare specimens. Although large elephant trees attain a height of only 10 feet, they tower above most other desert plants. They cling precariously to boulders and steep side slopes of the wash. Desert-dwelling Native Americans used the trees’ red sap as medicine and to bring good fortune. Mayans and Aztecs burned the sap as incense and made a resinous dye for their clothing. Elephant trees are common to Baja California and the Mexican state of Sonora, but are found in only a few scattered canyons and washes of Anza-Borrego, the northernmost extent of their range. This enjoyable 1.5-mile desert walk along a dry wash provides a fascinating glimpse of how vegetation copes with the harsh desert environment. For example, plants avoid dehydration by remaining short while shedding short, thick leaves.

Elephant Trees Discovery Trail Professional Review and Guide

"This well-signed interpretive nature trail climbs gently up a rock-lined wash to a small “herd” of elephant trees. This most unusual elephant tree of the Sonoran Desert was not discovered and identified by botanists until 1937. This grove was long thought to be the northernmost group of elephant trees in California. However, in 1987 another grove of almost 200 elephant trees was discovered on the western slopes of the Santa Rosa Mountains, 21 miles farther north. Here, on the Elephant Trees Discovery Trail, there are only about 100 of these rare specimens. Although large elephant trees attain a height of only 10 feet, they tower above most other desert plants. They cling precariously to boulders and steep side slopes of the wash. Desert-dwelling Native Americans used the trees’ red sap as medicine and to bring good fortune. Mayans and Aztecs burned the sap as incense and made a resinous dye for their clothing. Elephant trees are common to Baja California and the Mexican state of Sonora, but are found in only a few scattered canyons and washes of Anza-Borrego, the northernmost extent of their range. This enjoyable 1.5-mile desert walk along a dry wash provides a fascinating glimpse of how vegetation copes with the harsh desert environment. For example, plants avoid dehydration by remaining short while shedding short, thick leaves."

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Ocotillo Wells
Distance: 1.5
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Trail Type: Loop/Lollipop
Skill Level: Easy
Duration: Day hike
Season: Best November to March
Local Contacts: Anza - Borrego Desert State Park
Local Maps: Earthwalk Press Anza-Borrego Region Recreation Map; USGS Borrego Mountain SE

Elephant Trees Discovery Trail Reviews

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12/3/2007
Rather uninspiring 1.5 mile loop.... not sure it's worth beating up the vehicle on the rocky road. Unless the trees are in bloom, I would skip it.... short drive further to the Wind caves, or head over to Ghost Mountain for a great view.
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Comments
3/10/2007
Their is only one elephant tree on the trail. If you are willing to walk up to plain you will find a lot of elephant trees. if you ead out to th mountians to the west the view are incredable.
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Jun 2018