Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Car Camp
December 8-10, 2023

  Hike is full. 
This 330,000 acre monument was set aside in 1937 to preserve a pristine example of Sonoran Desert. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument preserves the northern-most natural habitat of the Organ Pipe Cactus, as well as amazing examples of desert plants, animals, geology, and human history. Visitors come ready to enjoy the trails and scenic drives, the star-lit nights and the sun-filled days!

Arizona highway 85 is the main entrance into the monument. The highway and the road into the campground are the only paved roads in the monument; all other roads are dirt and gravel, and some may require a high clearance, 4-wheel drive vehicle to explore - most noteably North Puerto Blanco Drive.

This car-camping trip description is certainly not final and may be subject to minor changes and adjustments as we get closer to Dec. The plan may also change during the trip itself depending on the weather or how things go. But for now, here is a brief summary of the Dec 2023 Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Car Camping trip.

We have reserved a Group Site for the evenings of Dec 8 – 10, 2023 (Friday to Sunday). The site is a tent-only site capable of handling up to 13 vehicles, 20 persons. The group sites are located just beyond (about 100 yards) the main campground in a small valley. There are restrooms and water facilities in the parking area. The Group sites are together, but away from the main campground and slightly downhill.

The weather should be wonderful with highs in the low 80s and lows in the 40s. Plan on very warm, sun drenched days, and very cool star filled nights. The desert area is very open and little shade outside of early morning and late afternoon.

The park is very serene and quiet, especially once out on the drives or trails. Several species of cacti including the namesake Organ Pipe inhabit the area. The hills surrounding the group sites are literally covered with Organ Pipe. A short easy hike along the Desert View Nature Trail along these hills gives an up-close view and information on the plants and their use by the native Indians. This will be the start of blooming season for many of the park's annuals and perennial plants. With enough rain we may even be treated to blooming windflowers and cacti. All are within the view of the sacred and majestic Ajo mountains to the east. OPCNM is a great park to enjoy the serenity of the desert, hike its many trails, or even get away and relax for a weekend!

There are many trails to hike as well as 2 beautiful scenic drive tours available. Cars have been known to take the drives but a truck or SUV is recommended as the roads go through desert washes in several areas.


Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (OPCNM): Located along the Arizona/Mexico border, bisected by state highway 85, OPCNM is considered the pristine example of the Sonoran Desert Region. More than 20 species of cactus are here including the Organ Pipe and Sonita, found nowhere else in the US.

Dec 8, on Day 1 - we will meet at the meeting location at 7:30 am and drive to the park.

We will meet at Kris Eggle Visitor Center at 10 am. First, we will do the Ajo Mountain Drive, it is a 21-mile (34 km) graded, one-way dirt road. The drive takes approximately 2 hours, and has been designed so that a passenger car, driven with caution, may be taken over it safely. Trailers, buses and RVs over 25 ft (8 m) are prohibited on the drive. While we are doing the scenery drive, we will hike Arch Canyon trail (2 miles) and /or Estes Canyon - Bull Pasture trail (4.1 miles). After the hike, we will check in and set up tents. It is almost a new moon; we will enjoy the dark sky with many bright stars or take any ranger lead evening program.

Dec 9, Day 2 - Today we have few options:

If we have enough high clearance vehicle, we will do the Puerto Bianco Drive (counter clock direction), and hike Senita Basin trail (3.1 miles), Dripping Spring Mine trail (1.3 mile).

If we do not have enough high clearance vehicle, we will just do the South Puerto Bianco drive and hike Senita trail (3.1 mile) or/and Victoria Mine trail (5.2 miles), Desert View trail.

Hike Baker-Milton Trail Loop (12 miles) Dates: Friday, Dec 8, thru Sunday, Dec 10.

Dec 10, Day 3 - Today we have few options, after packed before we leave:

Hike Victoria Mine (longer version of 8 miles). Hike Baker-Milton Trail Loop (12 miles)

For those who did not do the Puerto Bianco will do the drive first before pack.

Meet: 7:30 AM on Friday, March 12 at Einstein Bagels on SE corner of 48th St. and Ray Road in Ahwatukee.

Trip Leader: Email the leader to confirm.
  Hike is full. 
Cost: $7 per vehicle entrance fee. $100 for two nights, which will be split among those camping on that site. .

Directions: We'll take I-10 East to Maricopa Road; southwest on Maricopa Road through Maricopa along Highway 347. South on 347 12 miles, then west on Highway 84, 5 miles to I-8. I-8 west 40 miles to Highway 85 and the town of Gila Bend. Highway 85 south 80 miles to OPCNM entrance on right.

Weather: Ajo (Go/no-go decision will be made on Dec ??).
520-387-6849 x 7302

From The Visitor Center
•  Palo Verde Trail (pet friendly).
•  Visitor Center Nature Trail (accessible)

From the Twin Peaks Campground
•  Palo Verde Trail (pet friendly).
•  Desert View Trail.
•  Campground perimeter trail (pet friendly).
•  Victoria Mine Trail, please stay on the trail.

From the North Puerto Blanco Drive
•  Pinkley Peak ("front" side only)

From the Ajo Mountain Drive
•  Estes Canyon Trail (Ajo Mountain area).
•  Bull Pasture Trail (Ajo Mountain area).
•  Arch Canyon Trail (Ajo Mountain area).

From Highway 85
•  Alamo Canyon Trail (trailhead down a dirt road between mile markers 65 and 66)
•  Grass Canyon Trail (park at the Ajo Mountain Wayside Exhibit at mile marker 63)

The Old Sonoyta/Ajo Highway is open (from the Ajo Mountain Drive).

Updated on August 14, 2023