Arizona Hiking Gallery
Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike
Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, Cave Creek, AZ
April 21, 2007
Gallery contains 46 photos
Gallery last updated: 5/2/2007

This main objective of this hike, which was led by a Spur Cross Ranch interpretive ranger, was to visit the Elephant Mountain Fortress site, an archaeology site containing a large rock wall thought to be built by the Hohokam approximately 800 years ago. Parts of the rock wall still stand about 6 feet high and 3 to 4 feet thick. Although the wall might have been used for defensive purposes (hence the fortress name) there is not much evidence to support this. Some archaeologists suggest that the site may have been used as a lookout and/or signaling station.

The fortress site along with other sensitive archaeological sites in Spur Cross are closed to the general public and access is generally only allowed when accompanied by park officials. Several ranger lead hikes are offered throughout the year. For more information visit the Spur Cross Ranch web site.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 1
Ocotillos (Fouquieria splendens) spread their flame tipped branches before the fog shrouded hills in Spur Cross Ranch.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 2
Sugarloaf Mountain rises into the misty morning sky.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 3
New Mexico Thistle (Cirsium neomexicanum).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 4
The Rock Echeveria aka Live-forever (Dudleya saxosa) is wonderful succulant with its red stems, red sepals, and orange-fading-to-yellow star-like flowers.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 5
Closeup of Rock Echeveria (Dudleya saxosa) buds and flower.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 6
Yellow Menodora (Menodora scabra) has a bright flower which emerges from a red bud.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 7
The bright yellow flowers of Parish Viguiera (Viguiera deltoidea var. parishii) (sometimes called Parish Goldeneye).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 8
Closeup of Parish Viguiera.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 9
There is a surprising amount of color in the desert today. Here we have a bright orange Mariposa Lily aka Desert Mariposa (Calochortus kennedyi) filled with water from this morning's rain.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 10
Mariposa Lily (Calochortus kennedyi) just beginning to open.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 11
Flat-Top Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 12
Closeup of Flat-Top Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 13
Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja sp.).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 14
Rock Echeveria (Dudleya saxosa) popping up through Flat-Top Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 15
Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 16
Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) with a couple of paintbrush flowers in the background.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 17
An Ocotillo stands guard from behind the fortress wall.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 18
The mornings clouds still haven't lifted from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 19
A jumble of rocks make up the Fortress Wall.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 20
From this angle you can see that the wall is built with large rocks on the outside with much smaller rocks in the center.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 21
Elephant Mountain against a gray sky. Note how the cholla and saguaro cacti only grow on the south side, the warmer side, of the mountain (left side in this view).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 22
The fortress wall is built right along the edge of the cliff.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 23
Looking along the fortress wall.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 24
Teddybear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 25
A section of the fortress wall.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 26


Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 27
A cloudy view to the east southeast from atop the butte.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 28
More Rock Echeveria (Dudleya saxosa).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 29
Here's a better view of the Rock Echeveria (Dudleya saxosa) plant including the leaves which resemble a miniature agave.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 30
A view looking out to the northwest from the butte.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 31
A view of Sugarloaf Mountain and the surrounding terrain.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 32
The lower southern slopes of Elephant Mountain studded with the silvery green Teddybear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 33
Closeup of a yellow Buckhorn Cholla (Opuntia acanthocarpa) blossom. The flowers of the buckhorn can vary from yellow to red.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 34
Buckhorn Cholla (Opuntia acanthocarpa) in bloom.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 35
Saguaro Cactus (Cereus giganteus).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 36
Saguaro Cactus (Cereus giganteus).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 37
Saguaro Cactus (Cereus giganteus).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 38
Saguaro Cactus (Cereus giganteus).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 39
Burro Weed Strangler (Orobanche cooperi) is a member of the broomrape family. Since the plant does not have chlorophyll it is parasitic on the roots of other plants.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 40
A bright orange Mariposa Lily (Calochortus kennedyi).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 41
Strawberry Hedgehog (Echinocereus engelmannii).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 42
Engelmann's Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha).

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 43
White Ratany (Krameria grayi). Notice the spikey fruit in the upper left of the photo.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 44
Paleface Delphinium (Delphinium parishii). A strange looking flower with its light blue petals and lavender spur.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 45
Eastern part of Elephant Mountain.

Elephant Mountain Fortress Hike: Image 46
Desert-Chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana).

All images Copyright ©2007 Terry Wright. All rights reserved.