A must-see day trip when spending time in San Felipe, the Valle de los Gigantes is located only a few miles south of town on Km 14 of San Felipe-Puertocitos Highway 5 close to Punta Estrella. For the price of parking all guests may enter the site to experience the wonder of a 1500 year old cactus forest. Unique to this region of the world, the Cardones (also known as Sahuaro Gigantes) are considered a Mexican national treasure.
Cardones are late bloomers, literally. These cacti grow very slowly and reach the height of six feet at approximately fifty years of age. It will take another twenty five years for the woody trunk to produce branches. Each Cardone is capable of producing tens of millions of seeds in its lifetime but most will be lost to the wind and only a few manage to survive and reach maturity.
Once fully grown, these trees have an amazing ability to persevere despite harsh climate and interactions with local fauna. Birds of prey, eagles, owls and woodpeckers make holes to shelter within the trunks of the Cardones. Years may pass with very little rainfall, but thanks to their amazing ability to absorb and store up to several tons of water the trees can survive long dry spells.
The Valle de los Gigantes attracts visitors and especially photographers from all over the world, thanks in part to an exhibition which took place at the World EXPO Sevilla in 1992. At that time the government of Mexico sent a massive ancient Cardone (reportedly 17 meters tall and 10 tons in weight) to Spain to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the "Discovery" of the New World by Christopher Columbus. Media coverage of the exhibition was extensive and so the world found out about Baja California's towering giants.
The terrain of the Valle de los Gigantes natural preserve itself is extremely dry and a bit rugged, so visitors are best off in a vehicle with 4WD capabality. A 2WD will get you part of the way into the preserve, but you won't be able to access all of the ancient cacti that way. Guests are encouraged to keep the area clean and treat local flora and fauna with respect.
Printable pdf brochure from Rancho Punta Estrella with more information and a map: