Live Long & Prosper

Shadden Publishing

Exploring Phoenix: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Posted by on Apr 12, 2018

Exploring Phoenix: Boyce Thompson Arboretum


Sixty miles due east

A river runs through it.

Well, really a creek,

But as a creek, it’s a Queen

Bending sand into shape,

Coloring it green.

Needing escape,

I decided to visit.

Loaded the beast

And much water with it.

Dogs are welcome leashed.

Sometimes it really pays to use a little of your leisure time as a local tourist.  Arizona state parks are great places to visit although they might not be the first tourist venues selected. We just don’t travel to those amazing spots though, even within a short drive. Perhaps we think of “vacation” as a distant place. Unless, of course, the place happens to be on a visitor’s wish list while they are touring Arizona because it is a distant place.

Penny (my dog) has come along on some of the best adventures. Believe it or not, dogs can become bored. They need adventure, too.  At 40 lbs, she’s handy to have around on lonely roads and strange hotels. So, we packed up and made the short trip to Boyce Thompson Arboretum at mile marker #223 near Superior, AZ, an old copper mining town. The first time I had been to the park was in January. My sister and her husband were visiting and being outdoor people, their list included some very nice but not too rugged hiking paths including this park. Superior is a bit elevated so it’s also a little cooler, in general than Phoenix. And, although beautiful even in its wintry drab, the guide informed us of the visual feast of blooming cacti and succulents in the Spring, so I resolved to return.

With the valley edging toward 95 degrees plus or minus, April seemed an excellent time to see the rare and beautiful at peak. Bryce Thompson takes pride in being dog friendly, supplying extra water bowls near the fountains and encouraging the well-behaved.

There weren’t many restrictions on hiking with your dog or just sitting enjoying the scenery. I’m not sure whether she took in the magnificence around us, but she liked people-watching.



This park is always changing. Some of the changes are natural due to seasons and climate and how the plants adapt to whatever they get. The staff is also free to make changes that please the patrons and educate the public.

It is also something of a nursery and cactus are sold to eager visitors.  One woman with two children in tow bought several and I wondered what would be done with those as she was visiting from Washington state and had a long drive home. But, each chooses their own souvenir of course and these sales certainly prevent tourists from attempting to pluck out trophies on their own.

A border collie, my dog particularly enjoyed the Australian Outback area exhibit that included a shepherd’s cabin. One can imagine the shearing and such going into high gear. There is also a working windmill that was used long ago to draw water. If you sit and rest a bit in some of the adjacent areas (benches are spread liberally about), you can hear the eerie creaking of the blades. The displays around the park include several devoted to education about other deserts of the world.

In January, we saw javelina and quail are not unusual but, this time I didn’t see any wildlife except for bees and hummingbirds. My dog was too curious and restless for birdwatching even if I’d brought my binoculars. That is a popular activity in the park and guides lead small groups on those adventures. The old Thompson mansion is still to be seen from the trail and various attempts have been made to restore various parts of it.

Most of the park is accessible to disabled visitors and the staff even keeps a couple of wheelchairs at the ready to loan while one enjoys the trails. The trails are packed earth for the most part although the parking lots and area in the immediate vicinity of the entry gate and gift shop is paved.  The trails are clearly marked where they become too steep for a wheelchair.

The picnic area is accessible through the employee parking lot but a first-time visitor might not know this. It’s always a good idea to call first anyway. The picnic area is shaded and perfect for enjoying a packed lunch. Grills are available but, once again, it’s best to call ahead if that’s your plan because charcoal may not be allowed on windy days.

You won’t want to miss the Demonstration Garden. It’s a lovely and easy walk through models and specialty beds of cactus, roses, and other beloved plants. You can get all kinds of creative ideas about what works in a small backyard or large compound.


Other special exhibits include a children’s display and education area attractive to parents as well.

We don’t observe daylight savings time in Arizona. There comes a point when no one wants to save the daylight any more than they want to maintain lawns.

The hours of the park change accordingly and at the end of April, expect to enjoy it earlier in the day, open at 6 a.m. and closed at 3 p.m.  I stayed only a few hours on this trip. The air was pleasant, the sun brilliant and there were plenty of shady spots scattered throughout.  The packed earth absorbed the heat of the day and it was pretty hot on the paws.

But, Penny tells me she wants to go back too.

If You Go:

Near Highway 60 Milepost #223 as you approach the historic copper mining town of Superior, about one hour’s drive due east of Phoenix on the Superstition Freeway. Summer Hours: during May, June, July, August and SEPTEMBER the Arboretum is open daily from 6:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Paid admissions are accepted until 2:00 p.m The day’s final visitors admitted at Two O’Clock so those final arrivals still have one full hour to enjoy the gardens and trails — and the park closes promptly at 3:00 p.m. Winter hours: From OCTOBER-through-April admission is taken daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (every day except December 25) and during Fall, Winter and Spring months the Arboretum closes promptly at 5:00 p.m. Adult Admission is $12.50 for adults, $5 for ages 5 to 12; children under age five are admitted free. 520.689.2811



1 Comment

  1. Nice tour of the arboretum.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.