Elephant Trees Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The elephant tree is likely the most unique plant in the entire Anza-Borrego Desert, and only one such tree stands 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 wildflower
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 over a hundred were growing along Alma Wash.

Elephant Tree Trail
The elephant tree

This easy-to-follow trail only has 50 feet of elevation change. 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)

Elevation Profile
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Trail Map

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These photos were taken in March of 2011. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Wind Caves Trails 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.
Anza-Borrego Desert Trail The Slot
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.
Anza-Borrego Desert Trail Narrows Earth Trail
This 0.5-mile self-guided hike explores the geology of the park.
Yaqui Well Trail Anza-Borrego Desert 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.
Anza-Borrego Desert Palms Canyon Trail Borrego Palm Canyon Trail
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Anza-Borrego Desert Maidenhair Falls Trail Hellhole Canyon Trail to Maidenhair Falls
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Anza-Borrego Desert Trail Pictograph Trail
This 1.8-mile hike visits rock paintings drawn by Kumeyaay Indians who lived in the Anza-Borrego Desert thousands of years ago.
Anza-Borrego Desert Trail Morteros Trail
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Anza-Borrego Desert Trail Calcite Mine Trail
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Anza-Borrego Desert Trail Rainbow Canyon Trail
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California Trails 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.
California Desert Camping Anza-Borrego Desert Campgrounds
Four developed campgrounds, eight primitive campgrounds, and extensive roadside camping accommodate your visit to California's largest state park.
Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflowers Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Wildflowers
The desert bloom brings bursts of color to barrel cactus, beavertail cactus, ocotillo, and more.
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Tagged with · Borrego Springs · California State Parks · Free Trails · Nature Trails
Distance: 1 mile · Elevation change: 50 feet

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3 Comments on Elephant Trees Trail in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

  1. Skip wrote:

    Found the trailhead very easily. There was only one trailguide in the box. No map in the trailguide. Found the first 6 markers, but could not find any of the others and lost the trail. Never got to the Elephant Tree and was very disappointed. Be sure to print the map out from the computer before going on the hike. It might give you a better chance of staying on the trail and seeing the tree.

  2. Ritchie wrote:

    Exit off Split Mountain Road and trailhead were easy to find. Two very faded and weathered brochures were in the map box of the trailhead. Found the first seven markers easily, but the the wash area was washed out. We wandered around for awhile then went back to the start and began again going backwards around the trail… This proved to work as we were able to find the remainder of the markers and the Elephant Tree. Very enjoyable walk as well as imnformative.

    • JB wrote:

      A lot of foot traffic frequents this trail. Trail is marked fairly well with rocks and wood markers. I had no problems locating the elephant tree.