The elephant tree is likely the most unique plant in the entire Anza-Borrego Desert, and there is only one such tree along this one-mile nature trail. Pick up a pamphlet at the start of this self-guided loop, and enjoy a brief lesson on elephant trees and other more common vegetation. This is a great trail for those interested in learning about plant life in the Anza-Borrego Desert.
Beavertail Cactus blooming along Elephant Tree Trail
Did you know ocotillo can live to be 200 years old? Did you know desert lavender changes its leaves with the season? Discover even more about desert plants from readings in the pamphlet that coincide with numbered markers along the way. This easy trail circles a level wash with a diversity of desert cacti, brush and trees. Half way around the loop, the botany lesson comes to a climax as you arrive at a sole elephant tree. This rare trunky tree with small green leaves grows natively in the Anza-Borrego Desert and areas of Mexico. Scientists first recorded elephant trees at this location in 1937, when there were over a hundred growing along Alma Wash.
The elephant tree
There is only 50 feet of elevation to contend to along the easy-to-follow trail. Relax and pay close attention to the sample of desert botany that is present throughout Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. To explore one of the other self-guided nature trail in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, check out Yaqui Well Trail, Cactus Loop Trail, or Narrows Earth Trail.
To get to the trailhead: From Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs, drive 11.5 miles southwest on Borrego Springs Road. Turn left on Route 78 East and drive 6.6 miles to Ocotillo Wells in Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area. Turn south on Split Mountain Road and drive 5.8 miles to an information panel for the elephant trees. Turn right and drive one mile up a dirt road to the trailhead. The road is rather rocky and low clearance vehicles will have to stop a quarter mile from the trailhead.
Trailhead address: Split Mountain Road, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Springs, CA 92004
Trailhead coordinates: 33.068153, -116.1168 (33° 04′ 05.35″N 116° 07′ 00.47″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
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Or view California Desert Hikes in a larger map
|Wind Caves Trail|
This 1.25-mile round trip hike climbs 250 feet to a sandstone formation near Elephant Tree Trail that begs to be explored.
This short hike descends through a narrow canyon beneath a natural rock span that is among the most photographed landmarks in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
|Narrows Earth Trail|
This 0.5-mile self-guided hike explores the geology of the park.
|Yaqui Well Trail|
This 1.6-mile out and back hike on a self-guided nature trail explores area botany and history, crossing a wash to reach a rare desert water source.
|Borrego Palm Canyon Trail|
This 3.25-mile loop visits a popular palm tree oasis in a canyon west of Borrego Springs.
|Hellhole Canyon Trail to Maidenhair Falls|
This 5.5-mile hike visits a 20-foot waterfall in a canyon near Borrego Springs, making it the perfect place to cool off on a hot day in the California Desert.
This 1.8-mile hike visits rock paintings drawn by Kumeyaay Indians who lived in the Anza-Borrego Desert thousands of years ago.
This 0.6-mile hike visits a village of boulders once occupied by Kumeyaay Indians who left behind Morteros, grinding bowls carved into the rock.
|Calcite Mine Trail|
This 4.25-mile trek climbs 600 feet to a historic mine site, exploring exciting narrows along the way.
|Rainbow Canyon Trail|
This 2.2-mile adventure follows an undeveloped trail up a colorful canyon full of vibrant rock formations and desert plants.
|Hikes in the California Desert|
Explore more trails in Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Mojave National Preserve.
|Anza-Borrego Desert Campgrounds|
There are four developed campgrounds, eight primitive campgrounds, and extensive roadside camping to accommodate your visit to California’s largest state park.
|Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Wildflowers|
The desert bloom brings bursts of color to barrel cactus, beavertail cactus, ocotillo, and more.