Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior

#18 of 162 in Wildlife in Arizona
Boyce Thompson Arboretum is Arizona's oldest and largest botanical garden. Cooperatively managed by the non-profit 501(3)(c) Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum, Inc., the University of Arizona, and Arizona State Parks, this venerable 392-acre "Arizona oasis" has nearly three miles of paths and trails winding through colorful gardens, woodlands and along native riparian habitat. Founded in 1924 and dedicated to instilling in people an appreciation for desert plants, the Arboretum is about 45 minutes' drive due east of Mesa, near highway 60 milepost #223 as you approach the historic copper-mining town of Superior.

Plants from arid land regions around the world thrive alongside native Sonoran Desert plants. Short trails lead through Sonoran and Chihuahuan desert areas, a cactus garden, riparian areas, an Australian forest, and herb and rose gardens.

Maps and handouts offer information on the other trails and gardens. Most of these branch off from the first part of the Main Trail, so you don't have to walk far to see the highlights. Much of the trail system is wheelchair-accessible.

The Curandero/Sonoran Desert Trail describes traditional herbal medicines of the Sonoran Desert. (Curanderos are traditional healers in Mexican culture.)

Display greenhouses contain cactus and succulents that might not otherwise survive winter cold at this 2,400-foot elevation.

The Smith Interpretive Center, between the display greenhouses, has exhibits on plants and local history. A Demonstration Garden offers tips and living examples of water-efficient landscaping design.

More than 270 bird, and 72 terrestrial species have been seen in the area.

Ayer Lake and Queen Creek on the Main Trail are good places to watch for wildlife. Look around the edge of the lake to a chance to see endangered Gila topminnows and desert pupfish.

Nearby Picketpost Mountain (elevation 4,400 ft.) towers above the gardens and its massive presence dominates the view to the south of the Arboretum.

Developed trails such as the Arizona Trail and the trail to the summit of Picketpost mountain can be accessed from Highway 60 west of the Arboretum. There is no direct access from the Arboretum to other trails that exist outside of the grounds.
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Boyce Thompson Arboretum Reviews
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  • The arboretum is locate just off US 60 a few miles east of where the Valley of the Sun ends and you climb about 1200 ft. into the foothills. The arboretum is a state park, but it is also the botanical...  more »
  • I've always wanted to visit, but had no idea how great it would be. Birds and butterflies everywhere. The main trail was very easy even at the steep part. So many side trails to explore. Gorgeous plan...  more »
  • Hike among the succulents. This is a wonderful place to experience these wonderful plants. Come in the spring when it is all in bloom, and you will not regret it. It is a bit of a drive from Phoenix, but well worth it. You can easily spend the whole day exploring, especially with all the side trails. Very tranquil place to visit.
  • Beautiful trails and tons of things to see. You can take a tour or roam around at your own pace. There are also a good amount of child-oriented exhibits/areas so it's a great place for kids, as well as adults. The grounds and facility buildings are clean and very well maintained.
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