Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior

#21 of 153 in Wildlife in Arizona
Must see · State Park · Garden
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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  • Visited the Boyce Thompson Arboretum today. What an interesting place! Many trails to traverse that are easy to walk with kids and dogs. The various areas display desert plants from around the world.....  more »
  • Boyce Thompson Arboretum is a great place to see for a day a week or a lifetime. Maps, and s variety of guided tours at no cost are offered. Check their website for details.  more »
  • Nice getaway from the city. Definitely give yourself at least a couple of hours to stroll through here. Enjoy seeing the plants and trees from different regions. They do have guided tours that one day I will take. It's a good, easy hike. You should go!
  • This is an excellent place to view exotic desert plants and occasional wildlife. There are plenty of shaded areas and a few water features. The early developer, Boyce Thompson, home on top of the cliff and above the lake is a wonderful sight. The earlier settlers homestead and herb garden was also interesting. There a very nice gift shop with desert and garden plants for sale. Bring a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water. The drive from Phoenix is easy and very scenic - Enjoy!

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