Perhaps no desert epitomizes the old Wild West as much as the Sonora Desert - of the most iconic cactuses of the American deserts. The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is located in extreme southern Arizona on the border with Mexico. It is the only place in the United States where one can see the Senita and organ pipe cactus growing in the wild.
Not only will visitors see the Senita and organ pipe cactus, but also other types of cacti. Perhaps the most famous park in Arizona is Saguaro National Park - it is home to the giant Saguaro Cactus, the largest cactus in the United States. The Saguaro National Park and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument are both in the Sonoran Desert.
Why The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Is Famous
The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is famous for its organ pipe cactus. This is the only place in the United States where one can see these stunning magnificent cacti in the American desert. It was created in 1937.
- Size: 517 sq mi (1,340 km2)
- State: Arizona
The national monument is located in Arizona right on the border with Mexico. To the south, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument borders Mexico, to the northwest it borders the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, and to the east, it borders the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation. The northern entrance of the monument is the amusingly named unincorporated community of Why.
- North Entrance: Why, Arizona
Visitors are greeted with a diverse collection of plants and animals that call the place home. There are also plenty of hiking trails and camping where one can spend the night in the desert amongst the organ pipes.
Hiking In Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
There are plenty of hiking trails managed by the NPS. Bring the family and earn a reward from the NPS for hiking in the Green Desert.
The tails in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument range from easy to strenuous (with most something in the middle). Remember this is a very hot desert so always take sunscreen, a hat, plenty of water, and other hiking necessities.
Examples of Hiking Trails In Organ Pipe:
- Desert View Trail: 1.2 Miles Easy Loop Trail Great Fro Sunrise and Sunset
- Palo Verde Trail: 2.6 Miles Round Trip - Pet-Friendly Hike Between the Campground And Visitor Center
- Arch Canyon: 1.2 Miles Round Trip That Heads into The Arch and Oak-Juniper Laced Canyon
- Bull Pasture: 3 Mile Round Trip And Difficult Trail With Spectacular Views of Mexico and The Monument
- Estes Canyon: 3 Mile Round Trip, Moderate and Great For Birding
There are plenty of other hiking trails with more information listed on the National Park Service's website.
Camping In Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Visitors can choose from two campgrounds in the national monument - the Alamo Campground and Twin Peaks Campground. Here one can camp amid the organ pipe and saguaro cacti surrounded by a quiet desert landscape
This small campground only has 4 tent sites and there is no water. Fires are not permitted, and camping permits are $12.00 per night. This campground is more remote and is only for tents - no RVs.
- Camping Fee: $12.00 Per Night
Twin Peaks Campground:
Twin Peaks Campground is the larger of the campgrounds and has 34 tent-only sites and 174 sites for RVs. The campground has restrooms with running water and even a few solar showers.
- Camping fee: $20.00 per night
Alternatively, one can also go backcountry camping - the fee for backcountry camping is $5.00 per zone (group or individual) and is good for 7 nights.
The Organ Pipe Cactus
The organ pipe cactus is known as "pitaya dulce" in Spanish (meaning "sweet pitaya" or sweet cactus fruit). Its tennis ball-sized fruit is said to taste better than watermelon and is made up of red flesh. It mostly grows to heights of 5 meters or 16 feet but has been known to reach as much as 7 to 8 meters or 23 to 26 feet.
- Scientific Name: Stenocereus thurberi
It is found mostly in Mexico - particularly in Sonora, southern Baja California, and Northern Sinaloa. It mostly grows on rocky hillsides up to 900 meters or 3,000 feet in elevation.
- Grows: Organ Pipe Cactus Monument & Mexico
The cactus doesn't do well in frosts and so is rare in low desert areas that get cold at night. It is slow-growing and likes full sun and well-drained soil. It is normally pollinated by bats.
Next time traveling to Arizona, take time to explore the ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert and its rich collection of cacti. Deserts are often far from desolate and destitute.