Elephant Tree Discovery Trail (Anza Borrego Desert State Park)
The elephant tree (Bursera microphylla) is a regular in the deserts of Baja California but uncommon north of the border. Like cacti, it stores water internally, allowing its survival in the harsh climate. There’s only one survivor on this route, but this short hike is still enjoyable for the other scenery it offers, including unobstructed mountain and desert views and a wide variety of plant life. This hike is particularly good late in the day, when the sun sets over the mountains.
From the parking area, follow the trail west into Alma Wash, with the Valecito Mountains looming in the distance. Plants alongside the trail include mesquite, ocotillo, barrel cacti and more. Numbered posts reference an interpretive brochure, although as of this writing, none were available at the trail head. At about half a mile you reach the west end of the loop. On the way back, you pass the large elephant tree (post #9), unmistakable with its convoluted limbs and tiny green leaves. The sap from the tree was considered to have healing powers and was often kept hidden by native shaman; too powerful to be kept in the open.
Shortly beyond post #10, the trail enters a wash and then exits at an unsigned junction. A makeshift arrow has been made out of stones, pointing to the right and post #11. Follow the trail a short distance back to the car, enjoying wide views to the east.
Text and photography copyright 2016 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.