Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is part of the National Park Service and is located in the heart of the Sonoran Desert near Ajo, AZ. As the name implies, this is the only area in the United States where the organ pipe cactus grow wild.

Ajo Mountain Drive

While visiting Organ Pipe, there are two mountain ranges you can explore, the Ajo Mountains or the Puerto Blanco Mountains. The park ranger suggested we visit the Ajo Mountain side to get the most out of our visit. Ajo Mountain Drive is a 21 mile one way dirt road with 18 points of interest and leads you to the 4 hiking trails in the area. The visitor’s center had an informative drive guide to accompany the points of interest so Alan drove while I read aloud the information at each point.

Ajo Mountain Drive

One of my favorite parts about visiting new places is learning about the native people that used to inhabit these lands. The Hohokam and Tohono O’odham people used to called the Sonoran Desert home as far back as 12,000 years ago. There are only two rainfall periods, one in the winter or spring and another in the summer so it is incredible to learn how people were able to survive by farming on a dry land.

Arch Canyon Trail

The start of the Arch Canyon Trail

Halfway through the Ajo Mountain drive was the Arch Canyon Trail. This trail was less than 2 miles round trip but there was an opportunity to reach the arch by adding 1 more mile and gaining 1,500 feet in elevation. So of course we kept going! The terrain got rockier and we had to scramble some but we eventually made it to the top. The clear skies allowed us to see miles away and into Mexico.

View from the top!

Twin Peaks Campground

Since we had a late start to the day and did not get to Organ Pipe until the late morning, we were still making our way around Ajo Mountain Drive when the sun was going down. Alan and I usually try to park our van for the night before it gets dark so we decided to stay inside the park campground that night. We were two weeks into this van life and this was the first time we actually had to pay to park somewhere. Not too shabby!

A cactus wren hanging out by our campsite.

Takeaways

This is a very family friendly park and has many short hikes for everyone to enjoy. The drive around Ajo Mountain Drive was scenic, educational and highlights all of the history and nature that make Organ Pipe so special.

Want more?

For more photos from our visit to Organ Pipe National Monument, click here!

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