“The green desert” is home to dense stands of saguaros, ocotillos, and its namesake organ pipe cacti. The monument’s 330,689 acres sit on the Mexican border of Arizona and were recognized as a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve in 1976. The park has a reputation for being dangerous, which it can be for NPS Law Enforcement due to its border location, but tourists should encounter no problems while enjoying the beautiful landscape.
Ajo Mountain Loop, Alamo Canyon, birding, earn an “I Hike For Health” pin
The namesake cactus is more common further south and shares this landscape with 27 other species of cacti, including the famous saguaro. To see the cacti at their best, I recommend driving the 21-mile dirt road Ajo Mountain Loop in the evening before turning in for the night at the campground.
The National Park Service (NPS) runs a shuttle some mornings to Senita Basin from where you can hike back to the visitor center (with an optional side trip to the abandoned Victoria Mine).
The park’s Ajo Mountains are mostly volcanic rhyolite and their jagged outlines photograph well in the twilight hours with the famous saguaro cactus silhouetted in the foreground.
Anytime but summer when temperatures regularly soar above 100°F.
$25 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass
The highway is paved to Kris Eggle Visitor Center and Twin Peaks Campground, but most of the dirt roads are passable for all vehicles.
The park has the very nice Twin Peaks Campground (with solar showers) where you can pick up free hiker shuttles that allow for one-way trips back to your tent. There are also a couple dry campsites (permit required) on Alamo Canyon Road. A permit is required for backcountry camping.
Coronado National Memorial (Arizona)
Saguaro National Park (Arizona)
Tumacácori National Historical Park (Arizona)
Explore More – Why is the Visitor Center named for Park Ranger Kris Eggle?