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Elephant Trees Discovery Trail

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California

The 1.5-mile Elephant Trees Discovery Trail climbs gently up a rock-lined alluvial fan, granting the hiker the opportunity to view a rare elephant tree, before eventually looping back to the parking area. The elephant tree, a rarity in the California deserts, attains a height of only ten feet and sports a peeling parchment-like bark and wrinkled limbs that vaguely resemble the skin of an elephant—it’s a bit of a stretch, but the tree is still much admired by park visitors. Elephant trees are common to Baja California and the Mexican state of Sonora, but are scarcely scattered amid the washes and canyons of Anza-Borrego, one of the northernmost extents of their range. Follow the self-guided nature trail (brochures usually available at the trailhead) until you reach signpost #10, where you will see the trail’s signature elephant tree, but for those hikers that arrive during the spring wildflower season, your attention will most likely be overtaken by the amazing colors and fragrances of a desert in bloom. While hiking this easy, educational loop, we were amazed by the incredible blooms found along the trail—yellow cactus barrel blooms, magenta beavertail cactus blooms, and the greenish cholla cactus blooms catch the eye immediately, while the smaller blooms of chuparosa, chicory, desert dandelion, ocotillo, pincushion, ghost flowers, desert five-spot, wild heliotrope, and Bigelow’s monkey flowers take a little more effort to find. We were pleasantly surprised to find all of the afore mentioned specimens blooming, which made for an even more enjoyable desert walk.

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