Corbitt's National Parks
      Organ Pipe Cactus
                 National Monument


1937: National Monument

Size: 330,689 acres

2008 visitors: 340,290

Stamp: Yes

Rating (1-5):

About the Site

This large Monument in southern Arizona is host to an extraordinary collection of plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert. The organ pipe cactus is a large cactus rarely found in the United States, but here it's on prominent display. Other creatures that have adapted to the area's extreme temperatures, intense sunlight, and sparse rainfall include Gila monsters, rattlesnakes, and scorpions.

Bring the kids!

What You're Going to See

You can camp here, though I'm not sure why you'd want to. Fresh water is available at the visitor center, that also has rest rooms, but there are no RV hookups and no reservations. Backcountry hiking is also available.

This is a desert. Bring plenty of water if you go hiking, and watch out for the nasty critters, including six varieties of rattlesnakes. What you're going to see is classic Sonoran desert. Organ Pipe cactus does not like flat compacted ground, so you'll need to take some of the dirt trails to get a good look at these interesting plants. They prefer the looser soils of the mountainsides, and the Ajo Mountain drive (21 miles of graded unpaved road) gives plenty of opportunity to stop and gawk at organ pipe cacti, and ocotillo and saguaro and teddy bear cholla and Englemann prickly pear cactus, along with creosote bushes and paloverdes and mesquite and well you get the idea.

Personal Observations

I took the kids in early May to the monument. It was too hot to hike (oh darn), but the Ajo Mountain drive was great. We saw tons of organ pipes and other cacti, some hawks, and as we climbed the slopes of Mt. Ajo the views were pretty impressive.

But let's face facts, it's a desert. If you don't care for the sere beauty of 5 inches of rain a year, perhaps this Monument is not for you. It's got a stamp, though. A bonus for world travelers is the border town of Lukeville, 7 miles south of the Monument visitors center. Old Mexico beckons!

Getting There

From Phoenix, go west on I-10 to exit 112. Go south on highway 85 for 33 miles to Gila Bend, and continue on for 52 miles to Why. Another 20 or so miles south-bound will bring you to Park headquarters.

An alternate route from south or east Phoenix takes a little longer, but is a somewhat scenic drive through the Tohono O'Odham Nation. Take I-10 south to the I-8 merger. Exit the freeway at the Arizona City offramp, going south, then turn right at the first stop sign. This will take you to Chuicho and North Komelik on the way to Highway 86. At the junction turn right, west, until you get to Why. The park is just to the south. This hilly drive is a nice alternative to the flat desert of Ajo and Gila Bend.

From Yuma, go east on I-8 for 114 miles to Gila Bend, then go south on highway 85 as above.

From Tucson, take highway 86 west for 119 miles to Why, and go south on highway 85 for 20 miles to Park headquarters.

Nearby Attractions

To the east, about 90 miles away, is Saguaro National Park. About 60 miles to the northeast is Ironwood Forest National Monument, and 30 miles past that is Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

Visited May, 2004.

Additional Photos