Guide To Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Klaus Eltrop, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
You’ll find Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument along the Arizona – Mexico border, and it’s the only area in the United States where pipe organ cactus grows wild. You’ll notice these massive cacti right away, they are the start of the show at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
The park itself is 517 square miles of wilderness and it might surprise you how many things there are to do in this small park. Use this guide to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to visit this specially protected land.
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10 Organ Pipe Drive, Ajo, AZ 85321
Hours: 9 am – 5 pm
Cost: Entrance pass good for 7 consecutive days
- Vehicle: $12
- Motorcycle: $12
- Person: $4 – $10
How to Get to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
The closest airports to Organ Pipe National Monument are Tucson International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). They are both about 2 hours and 15 minutes from the park.
You will need a rental car to explore Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and if you are planning on doing the scenic drive it may be a good idea to get a 4×4.
Safety At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
The park shares a border with Mexico and visitors need to be cautious while visiting. There have been some issues with smuggling and immigrants crossing the borders through Pipe Organ Cactus National Monument. You’ll notice warning signs throughout the park. Border Patrol also has a very heavy presence within the park.
Best Time of Year to Visit
The park is the busiest from December through March, and for a good reason! Organ Pipe rarely sees rain storms in the winter and has comfortable temperatures in the low-70s.
In spring Pipe Organ treats guests to a stunning scene of desert flowers that is truly breathtaking. This is another great time of the year to visit the park, particularly in early spring when the temperatures hover in the mid-80s.
Of course, summer in the desert is searing hot, and in this part of Arizona, it’s also incredibly humid. Visiting during the summer is not recommended, as heat exhaustion and heat stroke occur more often.
Kris Eggle Visitors Center – 10 Organ Pipe Drive, Ajo, AZ 85321
The Kris Eggle Visitors Center was named after the Park Ranger that was killed in action in 2002 by drug smugglers while out on a routine patrol.
This is the only visitor center in the park and a great place to get all of the information you need about the park. You’ll discover everything you need to know about Organ Pipe Cactus National Park including hiking maps and other educational materials.
Where To Stay
- Sonoran Desert Inn – 55 South Orilla Ave, Ajo, AZ 85321: This stylish hotel is set in a former school and is great for relaxation in a laid-back atmosphere. At only 16 miles from the park, this is the closest lodging and some of the most luxurious in the area. The Sonoran Desert Inn makes a great base for your time at Organ Pipe, you can book a room here.
- Copper Sands Motel & RV Park – 3711 N Ajo Gila Bend HWY, Ajo, AZ 85321: This small family-owned motel in the small town of Ajo, Arizona is only 23 minutes from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It’s also centrally located and 3 miles from the downtown Ajo area in the gorgeous Sonoran Desert.
- La Siesta Motel & RV Park – 2651 N Ajo Gila Bend HWY, Ajo, AZ 85321: You’ll find these cozy cabins in an RV Resort 30 miles from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. This is a great base for time spent in the park as the rooms are clean, the staff is courteous, and the atmosphere is perfect for relaxing.
Things to Do Near Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Hiking At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
There are trails for all skill levels in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. With a total of 13 trails to explore, the park has plenty of hiking opportunities. It’s important to remember that due to the park’s close proximity to Mexico, you need to be cautious while hiking.
Bull Pasture Trail
- Distance: 3.9 miles
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 1,076 ft
This easy 3.9-mile trail is a great hike for most skill levels, although the elevation gain does make it slightly more difficult. Make sure to keep an eye out for the bull on the cliff.
Victoria Mine Trail
- Distance: 5.2 miles
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 311 ft
This solid easy 5.2-mile trail comes from one of the campgrounds and features many gorgeous and huge organ pipe cacti.
Desert View Trail
- Distance: 1.1 miles
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 190 ft
This easy and informative trail is great for all skill levels. You’ll learn about the desert flora that grows in the area and there are many places to stop and take photos along the way, so don’t forget your camera!
- Distance: 2.2 miles
- Rating: Easy
- Elevation Gain: 127 ft
This easy 2.2-mile hike is perfect for all skill levels. On this trail, you’ll see an abundance of plants and bird species.
Take A Scenic Drive-In Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
One of the best ways to experience Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is with a scenic drive.
Ajo Mountain Drive
This 21-mile gravel road is best suited for cars and provides fantastic views of organ pipe cactuses and the Sonoran Desert. You’ll also find several beautiful picnic areas along the way, so make sure to pack a picnic lunch.
The scenic road dips and twists through gorgeous vistas filled with organ pipes, chollas, and barrel cacti. The majestic mountain backdrop will take your breath away. It’s a one way loop, so make sure to pack some snacks and don’t forget your camera.
Other Scenic Drives
Another great option is the Puerto Blanco Drive, where high clearance vehicles are recommended. This is another drive that is perfect for a picnic lunch in the park. Other fantastic scenic roads include Bates Well Road, Pozo Numero Road, Camino de Republicas. Most of these roads are rough and require 4×4 vehicles.
Camping At Organ Pipe National Monument
Twin Peak Campground
$20 per night
The Twin Peak Campground has 34 tent-only sites and 174 RV sites. The campground also has running water and solar-powered showers. There are no hookups for RVs in the park. Only sites 1-112 allow the use of generators. Generator hours in the park are 8 am – 10 am and 4 pm – 6 pm.
$12 per night
Alamo Campground is for tent campers who are looking for a more primitive camping experience. There are only 4 tent-only sites here that are surrounded by quiet desert landscapes. Camping permits are $12 per night.
$5.00 per zone
There are currently 9 zones for backcountry camping. The backcountry camping fee is $5 per zone. You can get camping permits at the visitor center.
Keep An Eye Out For Wildlife
It may surprise you that Organ Pipe is home to a wide variety of animals. These animals play an integral role in the park’s ecology. You’ll find javelina, scorpions, roadrunners, and 6 different varieties of rattlesnakes.
Gaze At The Night Sky
During the cooler months in the park, Rangers hold presentations on constellations and invite visitors to explore the desert sky. It’s a great time of the year to see the milky way with the naked eye. The park’s remote location also helps its skies to be incredibly dark making them perfect for stargazing.
Tips For Visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Due to the park’s close proximity to Mexico, it’s a good idea to use caution when hiking, especially if you are hiking alone.
During the summer months, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are prevalent problems. During the summer months, it’s important to hike early in the day. Drink plenty of water while hiking, 1 liter per hour, per person in your party.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is home to several poisonous snakes, including rattlesnakes and scorpions. Watch your step and never put your hands or feet near holes or under rocks.
Make sure to wear close-toed hiking boots, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
Organ Pipe National Monument is a hidden gem in southern Arizona. While there is an element of danger in your visit, it’s not a place that you will forget after spending a few days in the beautiful Sonoran Desert!