Hiking Project Logo

Elephant Knees

  4.0 ( 1 ) Favorite


4.2 mile 6.8 kilometer loop


Ascent: 533' 163 m
Descent: -533' -163 m
High: 962' 293 m
Low: 488' 149 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 43% (23°)


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Matthew Kidd

Hike around and upon a beautiful butte in the Anza-Borrego desert.

Matthew Kidd

Features Views


The Elephant Knees butte is named for its north side appearance. It is one of the magical places in the Anza-Borrego desert that every local hiker should visit at least once. The views, near and distant, are fantastic over the entire loop.

Need to Know

Take a jeep. You might get through Split Mountain with a high clearance vehicle but it's really a jeep road. Alternatively you can hike about two miles through the split, which is appealing on its own but will make for a longer day.


Split Mountain is a great area. Everything around it is magical: the early morning light, the clarity, the whimsical clouds, the mountains, buttes, washes, wind caves, and more. The easiest way to the start of this trail is via Split Mountain Rd to the east and then a drive through Split Mountain on the jeep trail. Park at the edge of the Fish Creek Wash.

This is a hike across the desert without a marked trail so you can mix it up a bit if you want. But the route shown is efficient because follows a major wash for 1.2 miles to the backside of the Elephant Knees with plenty of views that explain the name of the butte. Travel another 0.8 miles on the backside before beginning a steep ascent. It's work but the views south behind you are stunning. Then enjoy 360 degrees views from the Elephant Knees ridge for 0.1 miles.

The drop off the ridge is a bit of scramble into a lesser wash which peters out after 0.4 miles. From here generally head north another mile through washes or over mud hills as your preference dictates. If you don't want to navigate through the washes, you can make it an out-and-back.

Hiked this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Dogs Allowed, Flora & Fauna, History & Background


Rate This Featured Hike

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Hike

Check In



Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 1 vote


  4.0 from 1 vote
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Featured Hike Rankings


in California


10 Views Last Month
1,575 Since Apr 25, 2017



A refreshing water break and refreshing scenery await on the backside of the Elephant Knees.
Apr 26, 2017 near Salton…, CA
Two hikers ascend the Elephant Knees ridge.
Apr 26, 2017 near Salton…, CA
Hikers soak up the views from the Elephant Knees.
Apr 26, 2017 near Salton…, CA
Mud hills and mountain views can be had on the back side of the Elephant Knees.
Apr 26, 2017 near Salton…, CA
Two hikers make their way through a wash toward the Elephant Knees.
Apr 26, 2017 near Salton…, CA
A spiral spins in the Anza-Borrego Desert behind the Elephant Knees.
Apr 26, 2017 near Salton…, CA


Hiking Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Hiking