Anza-Borrego: Plant Guide To Villager Peak Trail

Introduction and Explanation of Plant Trail Guides

Highlights of This Trail
Fieldwork Dates and Summary of List Changes With Time
Botanical Trip Reports
The Plant Guide
Comments On Specific Species


The Villager Peak Trail climbs a north-south ridgeline of the Santa Rosa Mountains that is directly north of the Borrego Badlands and directly east of Clark Dry Lake. Even the lowermost portion of that ridgeline gives excellent views of the Borrego Valley and surrounding mountains, especially of the Borrego Badlands, with distant views into Mexico.

This is an unsigned use trail. The trail begins at milepost 31.8 on Highway S22 at its junction with the Truckhaven Trail, at Call Box S22-319, and one simply heads north toward the easternmost tip of Lute Ridge. The first 0.64 miles are in a wash, and I found two different paths with a number of footprints; both are shown in the map below. This makes it difficult to create a single plant trail guide, so you may have to look on the other path for a listed species.

Once at the east end of Lute Ridge, the trail becomes very clearly defined and well marked with cairns. From that point on, there should be no ambiguity in following the plant trail guide.

The trail stays in the flattish dissected alluvial plane, with a net gain of only 215 feet of elevation, until mile 1.3, where the fun begins elevation-wise. The trail leaves the wash and ascends a steep cliff on a well-marked, switchbacked trail to get on the north-south ridgeline. Once on the ridgeline, the views open up, and the trail beckons one further to see what each step forward on the ridgeline will reveal.

The trail is described in Schad, Afoot and Afield in San Diego County. Schad says that Villager and Rabbit Peaks are among the most popular destinations for peak-baggers in the Anza-Borrego Desert. The round trip to Villager Peak is 13 miles, with 5000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

We have surveyed only to mile 2.8, making a round trip of 5.6 miles with 1950 feet of elevation gain and loss. That portion of the trail is shown in the map below.

See also:

Highlights of This Trail

The following histogram gives the number of trails in our database that contain each taxon on this trail. I had 227 trails and surveyed areas in my database when this histogram was made; 71 of those trails, including this one, are in Anza-Borrego State Park. A number of "1" means the taxon has only been found only on this list, among all the trails in our database.

Number of Trails
Containing A Taxon
Number Of Taxa
On This Trail
% of Taxa
On This Trail
Total Taxa95100%

Five additional taxa are not in the above table, since they are found only off-trail.

The three species that are found on only a single other trail or survey are: Linanthus jonesii, Cryptantha barbigera var. fergusoniae, and Prenanthella exigua. However, Cryptantha barbigera var. fergusoniae occurs on additional trails, which have not yet been updated to distinguish this variety, which was not present in the 1996 First Edition Jepson Manual.

Fieldwork Dates and Summary of List Changes With Time

The following table gives the dates the trail was walked and taxa recorded. After each visit, the table gives the total number of taxa on the list and the breakdown of the taxa without positive identification. See Explanation of Plant Trail Guides to understand the symbols below.

Visit DateVisit ## taxa# "?"# "sp"# "~"# "ssp"

The trail was covered to mile 2.34 on 1/29/08, and to mile 2.76 on 2/8/11.

Botanical Trip Reports

29 January 2008

The Plant Guide

The mileages have been obtained from a GPS recording for the species, which did not capture the switchbacks in the trail. Furthermore, the trail is ill-defined for the first 0.64 miles, so your route may not match the route we took. The relative mileages are probably accurate to ~0.02 miles, with the absolute accuracy somewhat worse.

Because we didn't think this trail was going to be well enough defined to create a plant trail guide on the first survey trip, we didn't record which side of the trail the species were found. Some sides were supplied from memory; others were obtained on later trips. But due to the braided nature of the trail, you should not trust the side religiously.

Because of the ill-defined trail, the # plants in the following does not follow the convention of the other plant trail guides. Instead, it is the number of plants in a much-larger area around the trail.

Version for printing, without lines and other text on this page: html (4 pages) or pdf Clickbook booklet (1 double-sided page). (See printing instructions for an explanation of these options)

See Explanation of Plant Trail Guides for an explanation of the column headers (except see the note immediately above about the # plants in the # here column).

miles#idCommon NameLatin Name#here#all
0.00   Begin guide at Call Box S22-319 at jct. of S22 and Truckhaven Trail; head north toward easternmost tip of Lute Ridge on either one of two use trails; elevation ~965 feet (294 m). The following 8 annuals are all at the trailhead vicinity, given in alphabetical order
0.00b1 hairy sand-verbenaAbronia villosa var. villosa20 / 421
0.00b2 frost matAchyronychia cooperi10 / 313
0.00b3 *Asian mustardBrassica tournefortii99 / 965
0.00b4 desert pincushionChaenactis stevioides10 / 117
0.00b5 narrow-leaved cryptanthaCryptantha angustifolia99 / 937
0.00b6 downy daleaDalea mollissima3 / 214
0.00b7 desert plantainPlantago ovata99 / 951
0.00b8 *Mediterranean schismusSchismus barbatus99 / 970
0.00b9 creosote bushLarrea tridentata99 / 978
0.00b10 burroweedAmbrosia dumosa99 / 971
0.00 11 Emory's indigo-bushPsorothamnus emoryi2 / 130
0.02r12 white rhatanyKrameria grayi50 / 956
0.03r13 brown-eyed primroseCamissonia claviformis ssp. peirsonii99 / 942
0.04 14 desert lilyHesperocallis undulata10 / 322
0.04 15 California suncupCamissonia californica99 / 980
0.04r  (pencil cholla, Opuntia ramosissima)
0.06 16 big galletaPleuraphis rigida40 / 962
0.07r17 Arizona lupineLupinus arizonicus30 / 938
0.08l18 desert chicoryRafinesquia neomexicana10 / 345
0.08l19 heliotrope phaceliaPhacelia crenulata var. ambigua99 / 921
0.08 20 silver chollaOpuntia echinocarpa99 / 933
0.10b21 ocotilloFouquieria splendens ssp. splendens99 / 969
0.15r22 hairy-podded pepper-grassLepidium lasiocarpum var. lasiocarpum50 / 549
0.15r23 desert dandelionMalacothrix glabrata10 / 233
0.15 24 button enceliaEncelia frutescens20 / 515
0.15 25 spectacle-podDithyrea californica5 / 113
0.16 26 Parish's poppyEschscholzia parishii20 / 929
0.16l27 small-flowered poppyEschscholzia minutiflora ssp. minutiflora50 / 930
0.16l28 white tackstemCalycoseris wrightii50 / 911
0.18l29 pencil chollaOpuntia ramosissima30 / 923
0.18r30 California barrel cactusFerocactus cylindraceus+99 / 954
0.19l31 sweetbushBebbia juncea var. aspera30 / 775
0.25 32 bearded cryptanthaCryptantha barbigera50 / 933
0.26l33 rush milkweedAsclepias subulata8 / 210
0.26 34 wire-lettuceStephanomeria pauciflora var. pauciflora30 / 570
0.26 35 Thurber's sandpaper-plantPetalonyx thurberi ssp. thurberi30 / 329
0.27l36 desert lavenderHyptis emoryi30 / 562
0.27l37 wishbone plantMirabilis bigelovii var. retrorsa20 / 549
0.27l38 cheesebushHymenoclea salsola var. salsola99 / 558
0.27l39 desert needlePalafoxia arida var. arida2 / 139
0.29 40 indigo bushPsorothamnus schottii50 / 759
0.31r41 Palmer's coldeniaTiquilia palmeri10 / 322
0.32r42 Booth's desert primroseCamissonia boothii ssp. condensata50 / 738
0.33l43 Thomas' buckwheatEriogonum thomasii20 / 933
0.37l44 hairy desert-sunflowerGeraea canescens1 / 118
0.38r45 desert trumpetEriogonum inflatum30 / 357
0.38b46 small-seeded spurgeChamaesyce polycarpa50 / 371
0.40 47 rock hibiscusHibiscus denudatus50 / 939
0.40 48 Texas filareeErodium texanum5 / 216
0.40 49 Guadalupe cryptanthaCryptantha maritima99 / 933
0.40 50 broad-fruited combseedPectocarya platycarpa2 / 26
0.42 51 brittle spineflowerChorizanthe brevicornu var. brevicornu99 / 945
0.48r  (catclaw, Acacia greggii; brittlebush, Encelia farinosa)
0.49l52 white-stemmed blazing starMentzelia albicaulis1 / 18
0.58 53 brittlebushEncelia farinosa99 / 974
0.59 54 dune primroseOenothera deltoides ssp. deltoides20 / 39
0.59 55 Schott's calicoLoeseliastrum schottii5 / 218
0.60   Jct. Lute Ridge to west; trail is now well defined, well marked with cairns; elevation 1040 feet (317 m)
0.62   Cross small drainage
0.63 56 pebble pincushionChaenactis carphoclinia var. carphoclinia99 / 923
0.63 57 six-weeks three-awnAristida adscensionis99 / 928
0.63 58 trailing four o'clockAllionia incarnata10 / 321
0.81l59 beavertail cactusOpuntia basilaris var. basilaris30 / 963
0.81l60 yellow-headTrichoptilium incisum10 / 318
0.87l61 star giliaGilia stellata10 / 518
0.89r62~fivewing spiderlingBoerhavia intermedia30 / 112
0.89r63 bracted blazing starMentzelia involucrata5 / 230
0.92l  (Pima rhatany, Krameria erecta)
0.92l64 cottontop cactusEchinocactus polycephalus var. polycephalus1 / 14
0.95r65 devil's spineflowerChorizanthe rigida10 / 224
0.95l66 desert starMonoptilon bellioides20 / 319
1.00b67 bristly langloisiaLangloisia setosissima ssp. setosissima5 / 28
1.00l68 Gander's chollaOpuntia ganderi+99 / 957
1.03l  (fish-hook cactus, Mammillaria tetrancistra)
1.05r69 Emory's rock-daisyPerityle emoryi99 / 945
1.07l70 catclawAcacia greggii5 / 169
1.07r  (threadstem, Pterostegia drymarioides; glandular nemacladus, Nemacladus glanduliferus var. glanduliferus; desert mistletoe, Phoradendron californicum; Mojave ragwort, Senecio mohavensis)
1.08r71 narrowleaf ditaxisDitaxis lanceolata99 / 347
1.08l72 desert five-spotEremalche rotundifolia5 / 115
1.08l73sspcurvenut combseedPectocarya recurvata50 / 221
1.08l74 purple three-awnAristida purpurea30 / 921
1.10r75 whispering bellsEmmenanthe penduliflora var. penduliflora5 / 337
1.13l76 California fagoniaFagonia laevis50 / 332
1.14r77 Nevada cryptanthaCryptantha nevadensis2 / 25
1.16r  (pygmy-weed, Crassula connata; woolly lipfern, Cheilanthes parryi)
1.17r78 California filagoFilago californica50 / 139
1.17r  (desert agave, Agave deserti)
1.18r79 Mojave ragwortSenecio mohavensis50 / 128
1.20r80 woolly lipfernCheilanthes parryi10 / 141
1.21l81 smoke treePsorothamnus spinosus10 / 133
1.23r  (ghost flower, Mohavea confertiflora; pygmy-cedar, Peucephyllum schottii; Yuma spurge, Chamaesyce setiloba; strigose lotus, Lotus strigosus)
1.23l  (blue palo verde, Cercidium floridum ssp. floridum)
1.23r82 Jones' linanthusLinanthus jonesii7 / 12
1.23r83 Santa Rosa Mountain bearded cryptanthaCryptantha barbigera var. fergusoniae2 / 12
1.23   Leave wash and ascend steep cliff on well-marked, switchbacked trail to get on ridge; elevation ~1180 feet (360 m)
1.27l84 thick-leaved ground cherryPhysalis crassifolia1 / 135
1.37 85 teddy-bear chollaOpuntia bigelovii99 / 943
1.76 86 Pima rhatanyKrameria erecta50 / 925
1.77l  (California trixis, Trixis californica var. californica)
1.80l  (San Felipe dogweed, Adenophyllum porophylloides)
1.82r87 beetle spurgeEuphorbia eriantha1 / 112
1.88 88 desert agaveAgave deserti99 / 443
2.01r89 fish-hook cactusMammillaria tetrancistra2 / 19
2.20   elevation 2260 feet (690 m)
2.20   The following species are from a separate survey of the area above this point, and hence are not necessarily on trail:
2.20 90 California trixisTrixis californica var. californica5 / 341
2.28l91 strigose lotusLotus strigosus2 / 168
2.31 92 goldenheadAcamptopappus sphaerocephalus var. sphaerocephalus2 / 14
2.40   O. ganderi with pink spines
2.51 93 bajada lupineLupinus concinnus1 / 152
2.76b94 bright-whitePrenanthella exigua20 / 12
2.81 95 California matchweedGutierrezia californica1 / 119
2.91   First view of Rattlesnake Spring to right; elevation 2900 feet (884 m)
3.50   Elevation 3280 feet (1000 m); knob 3261 feet to right
4.50   Flattish area at elevation ~4300 feet (1310 m)
6.00   First area of green trees marked on topo map; elevation ~5300 feet (1615 m)
6.30   Peak just before Villager Peak; elevation 5640 feet (1719 m)
6.60   Villager Peak; elevation 5756 feet (1754 m)

Comments On Specific Species

Ferocactus cylindraceus. The varieties are not recognized in the Flora of North America treatment.

Opuntia ganderi. The population on this trail has spines that range from the normal white / yellow to a beautiful pink color which we've never seen elsewhere in the Borrego Desert. Jon Rebman has seen this variation in one other place, along old Hwy 80 from the Jacumba exit to the InKoPah exit in San Diego County. He and Mike Mayer found that the DNA of those plants had no significant differences from the DNA of plants with the normal spine color.

Jon recognizes another variety of O. ganderi that is endemic to Baja CA which has three very distinctive spine color forms (pink, yellow, and white). Jon says that these spine color forms frequently occur together, producing very attractive displays.

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Copyright © 2008-2011 by Tom Chester, Mike Crouse and Vince Balch
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to us at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester Last update: 11 February 2011.