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Monday, October 16, 2017


South Mountain Park, Phoenix
View of the Sierra Estrella Mountains
Twisted in organic, balletic form and smelling like perfume, Bursera microphylla---better known as the Elephant Tree—lives on the slopes of South Mountain Park. Brush up against one of these squat, red-green-barked trees with swollen, contorted pachyderm-like trunks and a pungent aroma of camphor will waif from its tiny leaves.  Related to the plants that produce frankincense and myrrh, sap from the elephant tree also can be dried and burned as incense. But, don't rush out with a collection bucket—the trees are a protected species in Arizona.
Elephant Tree
To get an up close look at this plant that grows only in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and parts of southern California and northwestern Mexico, just follow the Bursera Trail which was completed in 2011. The route is simple-to-follow and connects with both the National and Bajada Trails for those who want to add mileage to their hike. Also, because it's wide and not too steep, the route is very popular with mountain bikers. One bit of advise—although the elevation change for the hike is only 653 feet—you’ll do it twice for an out-and-back-hike.
LENGTH: 2.9 miles one-way (6.68 miles roundtrip including access trail)
RATING: moderate
ELEVATION: 1,235' – 1,888'
BEST SEASON: October -April
From Phoenix, take Interstate 10 south/east (Tucson) to Pecos Road exit 161. Turn right and continue 7.2 miles  to 17th Avenue. Turn right again and continue 0.7 mile to Chandler Blvd. Turn left and go 0.3 mile to the end of the road. There’s only parallel parking—do not block private drives. A generic "trail" sign marks the start point.
From the trailhead, begin by hiking west, making a sharp right about 0.1 mile in at a post for Pyramid Trail. Continue 0.44 mile to the junction with Bursera Trail, veer left and follow the signs.
INFO: City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation