Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Named after the unique cactus it’s meant to preserve, the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gorgeous natural park dedicated to not only conserving this unique species of cactus, but also the Sonoran Desert in which it dwells. The park opened in 1937 and has since then repopulated the Organ Pipe Catus to a point of being one of the best-preserved examples of the Sonoran Desert wilderness. Located just off AZ Highway 85, south of Ajo, AZ, this national monument is perfect excuse to get out and enjoy an afternoon away from The Ranch. For only $8 per private vehicle or motorcycle and $4 per pedestrian or bicycle, you can experience the breathtaking scenery, which supports over 26 species of cacti and a host of wildlife, many of which are nocturnal. Pack everyone in the car and take a long drive down some of the scenic driving trails, which spans over one hundred miles! One of the most popular drives is the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive. Although it’s relatively short in distance, one can expect to spend about 90-minutes without stops to complete this trip, which you wont want to end with the views that you’ll encounter on the ride. Filled with cactus plains and volcanic mountains lined with a variety of other desert plants, you will be enraptured by the beauty of the desert and quietness it holds being tucked away from civilization. Enjoy the moment and stop at one of the three picnic areas along the trail for a mid-afternoon snack or picnic lunch. You can also continue the adventure by ditching the car for a few hours and hop on one of the hiking trails, Bull Pasture or Estes Canyon loop, that start on the route. Get in touch with nature by taking a day to spend time on one of their many hiking trails. The trails range in difficultness, but most fall in the middle of the spectrum. As the National Park Service mentions, “if the trail seems steep, the view is worth it,” so push yourself to the limits and reap the reward! Go off the beaten path, set with a map, compass, water and snacks of course, and experience some of the best hiking the area has to offer. The park is open 24/7, which means you can get there before the sun rises for an early morning hike or set up camp on one of their campgrounds and end your night watching the sunset over the beautiful landscape of the Sonoran Desert. Whether you decide to be an early riser or stroll in during the later afternoon hours, the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is sure to provide an excellent time filled with beautiful scenery away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Visit http://www.nps.gov/orpi/index.htm to find more information about the park and all it has to offer.