On New Year’s Day Judy and I went to the Sonoran Preserve, a 10,000 acre natural area just northwest of Phoenix. We chose the Apache Wash Trail for our hike, because it was nice and flat and considered fairly easy.


The preserve is ringed by low mountains. It was late afternoon with a mix of sun and clouds. The light kept shifting, producing dramatically different views.


I think this is called Teddy Bear Cholla. It looks nice and fuzzy but we were warned that its thorns were particularly vicious.


See what I mean about the light? The sun shines on the foreground while the mountains lie in the shadow of rain clouds.


I thought that this was an interesting plant with its little furry fruits.


The Apache Wash is a dry river bed that floods when the rains are strong enough. The extra moisture in the area allows grass to grow thickly in spots. It was mostly dormant, but there were also tufts of fresh green, thanks to the recent rains.


The trail crosses the dry bed. When the water flows, it’s best to stay out of the way.


Here’s a view up the Apache Wash from standing in the middle.


The banks are lined with hedge-like growths of Palo Verde.


Close up of a Saguaro Cactus.


Saguaros glowing in the late afternoon sun.


A closer look. Those holes are the entrances to nests excavated by woodpeckers.


It was a good day for walking, with mild temperatures and just enough cloud cover. If you go, you should be aware that there are no benches, bathrooms, or water fountains beyond the trail head.


This Saguaro Cactus looked like it was doing some power walking.

The Sonoran Preserve feels more remote than Papago Park, but it is still an easy drive from the middle of Phoenix. For us it provided a fulfilling eyeful of desert landscape.


41 Comments on “The Phoenix Sonoran Preserve”

  1. Thanks for letting us know about these gardens in Phoenix. Just wanted to let you know there are several excellent gardens in Tucson. We just moved here in August from Everett, WA and have really enjoyed the gardens here. I highly recommend you and your wife visit Tohono Chul Park (I’m training to be a docent there), Tucson Botanical Garden, Sonoran Desert Museum and the Mission Garden. There’s also a large Master Gardener Demonstration Garden and even a Japanese garden.
    Hope you can visit Tucson next time you’re in AZ.


  2. In the second photo, the large cactus behind the teddy bear cholla is what my friends in the hill country call ‘walking stick’ cactus; it’s also a cholla. When one dies, the ‘skeleton’ looks like this. I’ve seen everything from lamp bases to earrings made from the skeletons. They’re really cool.

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