One day while we were in Phoenix, Judy and I decided to take a walk in Papago Park. This is a place that is close to the center of town and offers fairly easy walking trails. At the same time, it offers some remarkable views.


The trails encircle a series of buttes formed of red sandstone, which to me have an almost Martian aura.


Before you get to the buttes, though, you pass by a number of other attractions, including the Phoenix Zoo and a couple of ponds where fishing is allowed.


There’s also a half-mile nature walk. It’s OK, but not too exciting. It did enable me to learn the names of a few desert plants, like the aptly named Hedgehog Cactus, above.


We didn’t catch the name of this plant, but I thought it was pretty cool. Are those actual blooms or just the remains of the flowers?



Another of the park’s popular spots is Hole-in-the-Rock, famous as a place to view desert sunsets. However, it looked like there were so many people up there that Judy and I decided to give it a pass.


Instead we set off from the less-crowded Papago West Trailhead. There are paved and unpaved walking paths.


So odd to see this landscape dotted with shrubs and cactus but mostly barren. I always thought that every niche gets filled with some kind of plant – botany abhors a vacuum – but this does not necessarily apply in the desert.



Though there were spots that looked greener than I expected due to all of this year’s December rains, especially where water naturally collects.


Another view of the buttes. From a distance they looked like they would crumble if you stepped on them, but we did see people climbing up to the tops.


The Saguaro Cacti here were smaller than those we saw elsewhere, but they were still very atmospheric.


A nice thing about this hike is that you can feel you are some distance from the city, then arrive at more of an urban panorama.

The Phoenix area contains massive urban to exurban sprawl, but there are still places close by that have a hint of wildness.


23 Comments on “An Easy Desert Walk in Phoenix”

    • We saw a rabbit, and I saw two critters that were either large rabbits or small deer – I realize that’s weird, but they did go by very fast, and both rabbits and deer kind of leap in a similar way…

  1. Years ago, my husband, his parents and I flew to Phoenix and drove to Sedona. As a gardener, I remember thinking this is unlike anything I had ever seen and how it looked like another planet (Coming from Indiana). Your photos are making me remember that trip fondly. Those buttes look like giant ant hills and the people on them tiny ants! Loving your photos and stories.

  2. Wow that is scenic! Next time we are in AZ in the cool season we’ll try that trail. Thanks for sharing your walk.

    One reason there will be significant space between desert plants is that some of them put out an extensive root system that rapidly sucks up any rain that might fall, preventing other plants from surviving in their root zone.

  3. Those palms are the native desert fan palm or California fan palm, Washingtonia filifera. The specimen in the water does not look too happy about it. They are my all time favorite palm, and the only palm that is native to California, but do not do very well here where the weather is milder. They prefer warm and dry summers, and a bit of a chill in winter.

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