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22724
Arizona

Treasured Landscapes: Hiking Organ Pipe and Saguaro National Park

Join experts in southern Arizona to hike among the signature cacti of Saguaro National Park and Organ Pipe. Experience stunning landscapes and a dazzling array of life.
Rating (4.92)
Program No. 22724RJ
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,499
Arizona

Treasured Landscapes: Hiking Organ Pipe and Saguaro National Park

Join experts in southern Arizona to hike among the signature cacti of Saguaro National Park and Organ Pipe. Experience stunning landscapes and a dazzling array of life.
Length
7 days
Starts at
1,499
Length
7 days
Rating (4.92)
Starts at
1,499
Program No. 22724RJ

Your well-being is our #1 priority

To make your experience as safe as possible, we require all participants to be fully vaccinated. See our Safety Roadmap

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Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
climate
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itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Nov 7 - Nov 13, 2022
Starting at
1,499
Nov 13 - Nov 19, 2022
Starting at
1,499
Nov 19 - Nov 25, 2022
Starting at
1,499
Itinerary Note

Enjoy a special Thanksgiving dinner at the Sonoran Desert Conference Center.

Jan 23 - Jan 29, 2023
Starting at
1,699
Jan 29 - Feb 4, 2023
Starting at
1,699
Feb 13 - Feb 19, 2023
Starting at
1,699
Feb 19 - Feb 25, 2023
Starting at
1,699
Nov 6 - Nov 12, 2023
Starting at
1,699
Nov 12 - Nov 18, 2023
Starting at
1,699
Nov 26 - Dec 2, 2023
Starting at
1,699
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Nov 7 - Nov 13, 2022
Starting at
1,799
Nov 13 - Nov 19, 2022
Starting at
1,799
Nov 19 - Nov 25, 2022
Starting at
1,799
Itinerary Note

Enjoy a special Thanksgiving dinner at the Sonoran Desert Conference Center.

Jan 23 - Jan 29, 2023
Starting at
2,109
Jan 29 - Feb 4, 2023
Starting at
2,109
Feb 13 - Feb 19, 2023
Starting at
2,109
Feb 19 - Feb 25, 2023
Starting at
2,109
Nov 6 - Nov 12, 2023
Starting at
2,109
Nov 12 - Nov 18, 2023
Starting at
2,109
Nov 26 - Dec 2, 2023
Starting at
2,109

At a Glance

The Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona is like a great sea of mighty cacti and windswept brush — its vast desert basins lap against isolated mountains that stand like lost islands. These swaths of desert may look barren to the untrained eye, but beneath that facade lay hidden oases and spectacular vistas teeming with life. Join local experts to explore Saguaro National Park and the magical lands of Ajo — one of Arizona’s hidden gems. Enjoy forays on the winding trails of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and discover an incredible diversity of life as you hike these majestic landscapes.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Spirited
Daily hikes of 3-7 miles over varied terrain. Elevation changes of 500–1,000 feet. Elevations above 3,000 feet.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Enjoy an introduction to the Sonoran Desert with a hike among the iconic cacti of Saguaro National Park.
  • Explore Ajo with four days of invigorating hikes in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the surrounding Ajo area.
  • Stay at the newly-designed Sonoran Desert Conference Center in the heart of Ajo and near the town’s historic, Spanish-style plaza.

General Notes

Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Bruce Banker
Bruce Banker is a graduate of Northern Arizona University, where he studied natural sciences and geology. He lives in Flagstaff and has worked for the National Park Service as a naturalist on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Chaco Canyon National Historic Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Bruce also serves as an outdoor educator for the Grand Canyon Field Institute. Bruce has taken students to many of the far-flung corners of the Southwest and has a few good stories to share.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Mike Masek
Mike Masek View biography
Mike Masek is a wilderness skills instructor, herbalist and ethnobotanist living in Flagstaff, Ariz. In addition to his current work with Road Scholar, he is adjunct faculty at Northern Arizona University where he teaches traditional uses of native plants and outdoor survival skills. He also teaches programs at the National Parks and Coconino Community College. He has spent a lifetime exploring the canyons and deserts of the American Southwest and loves to share these treasures with others.
Profile Image of Bruce Banker
Bruce Banker View biography
Bruce Banker is a graduate of Northern Arizona University, where he studied natural sciences and geology. He lives in Flagstaff and has worked for the National Park Service as a naturalist on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Chaco Canyon National Historic Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Bruce also serves as an outdoor educator for the Grand Canyon Field Institute. Bruce has taken students to many of the far-flung corners of the Southwest and has a few good stories to share.
Profile Image of Mike Young
Mike Young View biography
Mike Young has lived in Arizona for 40 years, and taught math and geology at Yavapai College prior to his work with Road Scholar. To convey the Arizona landscape, Mike uses a broad range of topics including botany, natural history, and geomorphology. He has worked as a commercial boatman, designed and constructed his own home, and conducted field exercises throughout the intermountain West. He is an accomplished hike leader who inspires hikers of all skill levels.
Profile Image of Kristin Hooten
Kristin Hooten View biography
Kristin Hooten has spent the majority of her life in the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona. She earned a bachelor's degree in Parks and Recreation Management with an emphasis in Outdoor Education and Leadership from Northern Arizona University. Kristin has worked in the outdoor industry in different capacities and enjoys her ongoing education with the surrounding region. When not in the office or field, she is found enjoying the great outdoors either on a paddleboard or in her camper.
Profile Image of Thomas Combrink
Thomas Combrink View biography
Thomas Combrink was born in South Africa and, as a child, lived in Zambia and Zimbabwe where his father was a British government land surveyor. In the bush with his parents, he gained an appreciation and love for the natural world. Thomas earned degrees from Texas A&M (Park & Recreation Resource Management) and Michigan State University (Agricultural Economics). He retired from Northern Arizona University with research in applied economics and tourism. Living in Flagstaff for 32 years, he has explored much of the Colorado Plateau.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Book of Answers
by David Wentworth Lazaroff
What exactly is a desert? How can I attract hummingbirds? Are cactus spines poisonous? Is a javelina a pig? This book provides detailed answers to 42 questions that the staff at the Desert Museum are most often asked. Supplemented with nearly 100 illustrations, this 200 page book is broken down into three sections: getting to know the desert, the desert as one's backyard, and enjoying the desert. Seven useful appendixes cover a range of topics including hummingbird gardening, venomous bites and stings, climate, and additional sources of information about desert life. A fun way to learn how wild and fascinating our deserts really are! 192 pg.
Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis
by Glennon, Robert
In the middle of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas casinos use billions of gallons of water for fountains, pirate lagoons, wave machines, and indoor canals. Meanwhile, the town of Orme, Tennessee, must truck in water from Alabama because it has literally run out. Robert Glennon captures the irony—and tragedy—of America’s water crisis in a book that is both frightening and wickedly comical. Unquenchable reveals the heady extravagances and everyday inefficiencies that are sucking the nation dry.
The Secret Knowledge of Water
by Childs, Craig
Deserts are environments that can be inhospitable even to seasoned explorers. Craig Childs has spent years in the deserts of the American West, and his treks through arid lands in search of water reveal the natural world at its most extreme. This book is a very personal narrative about discovering not only the essence of water sources in arid lands but about the very soul of the place that contain these hidden treasures. A delightful read.
Roadside Geology of Arizona
by Chronic, Halka
The 18th printing of this book in the Roadside Geology Series offers a mini-course in geology, focusing on what can be seen from Arizona highways. Although written especially for those with little or no geologic training, there's plenty here for the professional geologist as well--a great introduction to Arizona and its past. Geologic terms are defined where first used and again in the glossary. Inside the front cover is a legend to geological symbols and abbreviations commonly used by geologists. 321pp
Birds of Arizona Field Guide
by Stan Tekiela
Learn about and identify birds using Stan Tekiela's state-by-state field guides. The full-page, color photos are incomparable and include insets of winter plumage, color morphs and more. Plus, with the easy-to-use format, you don't need to know a bird's name or classification in order to easily find it in the book. Using this field guide is a real pleasure. It's a great way for anyone to learn about the birds in your state.
A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert
by Patricia Wentworth Comus (Editor)
"Once in a generation, a guide to understanding a major North American landscape comes along. This book is such a touchstone, sure to become a classic. The emphasis here is on biodiversity, mutualism, co-evolution, and, especially, ethno-relationships—the long history of connection between desert peoples and their homeland, on both sides of the border.
Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey
Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, the noted author's most enduring nonfiction work, is an account of Abbey's seasons as a ranger at Arches National Park outside Moab, Utah. Abbey reflects on the nature of the Colorado Plateau desert, on the condition of our remaining wilderness, and on the future of a civilization that cannot reconcile itself to living in the natural world.
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7 days
6 nights
17 meals
6 B 5 L 6 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Tucson. AZ
D
Hilton Garden Inn Tucson Airport

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the meeting room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions in our private meeting room. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions. Transportation will be provided primarily by passenger vans, unless otherwise specified. Throughout the program, our naturalist Group Leader will cover subjects including geology, geography, human, and natural history as we hike in one group with a hike leader in the front and a sweep towards the rear. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may be changed due to local conditions/circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In the hotel conference room, we’ll have a Welcome Dinner buffet featuring salad, a main entree, side dishes, and dessert, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase from the hotel lounge.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night's rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Hiking Saguaro National Park – Rincon District
Tucson. AZ
B,L,D
Hilton Garden Inn Tucson Airport

Activity note: Driving approx. 21 miles to trailhead; approximately 3/4 hour one way. Hiking up to 7 miles; about 6 hours; well-established but rocky Park Service trails. At 2.8 miles Bridal Wreath Falls will be our first destination, which entails an elevation gain of approx. 1,100 feet from the Douglas Springs trailhead. Hiking distances: Trailhead to Bridal Wreath Falls round trip 5.6 miles. Trailhead to Bridal Wreath Falls returning to Trailhead via Three Tanks and Wildhorse Trails 6.9 miles.

Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant, the hot buffet will include eggs, breakfast meats and potatoes, toast, a variety of pastries, cereals, and fruit, plus milk, juice, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll begin by loading our vehicles and transferring to Saguaro National Park’s Rincon Mountain District, which contains some of the most outstanding Saguaro cactus specimens in the southwest. We will begin our hike at the Douglas Springs Trailhead. As we hike, we’ll link together a combination of national park trails (Douglas Springs, Three Tanks, and Wildhorse) and cover a variety of terrain including out-wash plains, foothills and desert dry washes. In addition to brief trail side natural history and geology talks given by our Group Leader, we will identify many desert plants encountered and relate Sonoran Desert themes to the group. Our destination for the morning will be Bridal Wreath Falls. Water that flows over the falls is an intermittent and seasonal affair dependent on rainfall or snow melt from the higher elevations. The setting of the Falls is pleasant all year round with an abundance of bird life and stone terraces surrounded by towering Saguaro Cactus mixed with higher desert vegetation.

Lunch: Lunch will be planned at Bridal Wreath Fall (weather permitting). We'll enjoy a sack lunch containing a sandwich, fruit, chips, and cookie.

Afternoon: After lunch we continue our hike. For those that choose, we will offer a shorter mileage return back to the Douglas Springs Trailhead with a group leader by hiking the same route that the group hiked in on. Total hike mileage for the day with this option is 5.6 miles For those that may be looking for more hiking distance and physical output we will also offer a longer arcing route (linking the Three Tanks Trail and Wildhorse trail) back to the Douglas Spring Trailhead. Total mileage for the day with this option is 6.9 miles After completing our hike in the late afternoon, we’ll return to the hotel with some time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At a local Mexican restaurant, we’ll choose from a wide variety of plated entrees on a select menu. Chips and salsa, soft drinks, coffee, tea, and water are included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: After dinner, our Group Leader will discuss tomorrow's activities and timing before returning to the hotel. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
3
Half-Day Hike in Tucson Mountain Park, To Ajo, Desert Botany
Ajo, AZ
B,L,D
Sonoran Desert Conference Center

Activity note: Driving approx. 20 miles to morning hike; about 1/2 hour. Hiking approx. 2.5 miles; about 2 hours; sandy dry wash, rocky trail. Afternoon drive of approx. 130 miles from Tucson to Ajo; about 2.5 hours.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel and loading our vans, we’ll begin with a transfer to the Tucson Mountain Park for a half-day hike on the King Canyon Trail as it showcases a lovely riparian habitat along a desert wash. We’ll enjoy views and see ancient petroglyphs along with Basin and Range geology, as well as evidence of Civilian Conservation Corps era structures.

Lunch: Sack lunches in the field.

Afternoon: Upon returning to our vehicles we will take a short rest break before transferring to Ajo where we will arrive for a late afternoon check-in at Sonoran Desert Inn & Conference Center (SDCC). Before checking into our rooms, the group will receive a warm welcome and thorough introduction to the facility by our host.

Dinner: At the SDCC, we’ll enjoy a delicious buffet meal, with coffee, tea, water. Feel free to bring beverages of your own.

Evening: After dinner, relax after a full day. Feel free to to linger around the fire pit awhile or put your feet up and rest up for tomorrow's hike.

DAY
4
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Hike
Ajo, AZ
B,L,D
Sonoran Desert Conference Center

Activity note: Driving approx. 80 miles; about 2 hours roundtrip, with stop. Hiking approx. 5 miles roundtrip; about 3 hours; well-established rocky trails.

Breakfast: At the SDCC, we’ll have a breakfast buffet with choices including eggs, oatmeal and yogurt with a variety of toppings, assorted cold cereals, breads, jams and fruit, plus coffee, tea, juice, water. After breakfast, we will assemble our own lunches of fruit, veggies, chips, cookies, and other snacks as desired. Sandwiches will be made to order by a conference center chef.

Morning: Heading out from the hotel, we’ll make our way to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Visitor Center and obtain entrance permits for the group. Today will be an "Instructor's Choice" hike day. Hiking locations will include one or more of the following areas of the park. Senita Basin: which has a network of hiking trails through a botanical wonderland that is host to all three columnar cactus found in the United States – Saguaro, Organ Pipe and Senita – growing side by side in this sheltered locale. Alamo Canyon Trail: located along a major drainage of the Ajo Mountains, this hike features desert bird species, historic ranching structures, riparian habitat and towering rock faces. During the day, we will plan a visit to the southern boundary of Organ Pipe National Monument, which is also the international boundary with Mexico. During our stop we’ll take a short walk to a portion of the "wall"/fence that is in place to separate Sonoita Mexico and the U.S. A current topic of interest, this will be an opportunity to see for one's self the reality of the edifice.

Lunch: Along the trail, we’ll stop at a pleasant spot to enjoy the sack lunches we prepared after breakfast.

Afternoon: Upon the completion of our hike in the mid-afternoon, we’ll return to our accommodations.

Dinner: In the SDCC dining room, we’ll enjoy a fresh homemade dinner prepared by a local Ajo family served family style. Coffee, tea, and water included. Feel free to bring beverages of your own.

Evening: Gathering in the meeting room with a local expert, we’ll settle in for an informative presentation relating to Ajo and the surrounding area such as local arts, native cultures or other topics of interest.

DAY
5
Crater Range Hike, Ajo Free Time
Ajo, AZ
B,L,D
Sonoran Desert Conference Center

Activity note: Driving approx. 10 miles to trailhead; about 1/2 hour roundtrip. Hiking approx. 3 miles; about 2.5 hours; relatively level terrain, some opportunities for rock scrambling to a ridgeline with sweeping views.

Breakfast: SDCC buffet.

Morning: After loading the vans and beginning our transfer, we’ll stop at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center to view a n introductory video to the area. We’ll then continue with a short drive to the Crater Range where we will begin a unique hiking experience among rugged, pygmy-like mountain peaks. As we walk, we’ll discuss and keep our eyes peeled for ancient cultural features such as petroglyphs, wildlife sightings and tracks, intriguing geological phenomena, and perhaps early season wild flowers.

Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: We’ll return to the conference center in the early afternoon after our hike. The remainder of the afternoon will be free for independent exploration. Our Group Leader will pass out brochures that outline activities in the Historic District of Ajo. You may wish to take some time to explore the Ajo Plaza and galleries, or take the shuttle to the Historical Museum where docents will be available to answer questions. Alternatively, you may just want to relax and put your feet up for a well-deserved rest.

Dinner: At the SDCC, we will be having an inspirational buffet meal to experience locally sourced food – many of the ingredients coming from the on-site garden at the conference center. Be prepared to stretch your culinary boundaries and try something new with fresh, contemporary fare.

Evening: Gathering in the meeting room with a local expert, we’ll settle in for an informative presentation relating to Ajo and the surrounding area such as local arts, native cultures or other topics of interest.

DAY
6
Organ Pipe Cactus NM – Estes Canyon, Bull Pasture Hike
Ajo, AZ
B,L,D
Sonoran Desert Conference Center

Activity note: Driving approx. 40 miles to trailhead; about 2.5 hours roundtrip, with a stop. Hiking up to 5 miles roundtrip; about 4 hours; well-established rocky trail, multiple switchbacks, approx. 900-foot elevation change, some off-trail walking.

Breakfast: SDCC buffet.

Morning: Setting out from the conference center, we’ll stop briefly at the Visitor Center for permits on the scenic Ajo Mountain Drive along the way to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. After a photo stop at the Arch Overlook, we will arrive at the Estes Canyon and Bull Pasture trailhead for our hike. As we head up the trail, we will have our first opportunity to come face to face with an Organ Pipe Cactus and discuss its relationship to this rugged portion of the Sonoran Desert.

Lunch: Sack lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: We’ll return to Ajo in the mid-afternoon and take some time to freshen up before a pre-dinner get together in the SDCC courtyard where we will sit around a campfire. Share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Dinner: At SDCC, we will enjoy a delicious celebratory farewell buffet dinner catered by a local Ajo family and featuring traditional Mexican dishes including some specialties that are not often seen in a typical restaurant. Coffee, tea, water included; feel free to bring your own beverages.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
7
Transfer to Tucson, Program Concludes
Tucson. AZ
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 7:45 a.m. for transfer to Tucson; expected arrival time at the airport by about 11:00 a.m. Driving approx. 135 miles from Ajo to Tucson; about 3 hours.

Breakfast: SDCC buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll transfer for drop-offs at the airport in Tucson, followed by the starting hotel. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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