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Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior

(4.8/5 based on 320+ reviews on the web)
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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  • The arboretum is endlessly interesting and particularly well cared for, seeming to have something new each time we go. The variety of plants from deserts around the world is fascinating as well as the...  more »
  • This is a fantastic trip to enjoy nature at its best and just one hour away from Phoenix. The Arboretum offers great trails and a large variety of trees and plants. It is very well kept and all the ci...  more »
  • what a unexpected treasure in the desert ;-) friends told me about this, and since my parents were visiting, we tried to go here, and had an amazing time (full on sun). So much better then the desert ...  more »
  • Love Boyce Thompson. Always bring our out-of-state guests here. Wish there was a restaurant!! Nothing close by, so food would be a welcome addition. Pup friendly. You can spend an entire day hiking trails here. Nice picnic areas. Plant sale is awesome!!!
  • My kids and I really enjoy going to Boyce Thompson Arboretum for hikes. They have some nice easy trails and the plant life is wonderful. They have special walks where you can learn about the wildlife and plants. I have not done that yet. Maybe one day I will.
  • Pretty cool gardens. Personally I think it has a nicer feel than the Phoenix botanical gardens as it is usually less busy and has more of a compact feel while still having a lot of plants to see. Also has a lot of plants on sale usually which generally include varieties that aren't as common elsewhere. Plus they are dog friendly and have some water stations with dog bowls offered. Plus they have classes (albeit some are limited only to members but the membership fees are reasonable)
  • This is a lovely place! There are plants from all over the world! The staff are friendly and courteous and it's a pet friendly place. Houdini and I saw lots of butterflies today!
  • Great place with beautiful scenery. It is far so be prepared for the trip but I would sat it's worth it. Also, great customer service!